By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
Born into a multiple-generation U.S. Military family, Eddie Ostipow understood early the honor in serving one’s country.
His father, Mike, did so in Vietnam. Grandfather Alex Ostipow – now 90 – was part of the D-Day Invasion of France during World War II, then taken as a prisoner of war during the Battle of the Bulge in Belgium, and earned three purple hearts while deployed from 1942-46.
Tonight, as the Orioles’ football coach leads his team against Eaton Rapids, both will take the field with him – symbolically at first, and then down from the stands with a larger group of veterans and active-duty soldiers who will be honored for their contributions to this country.
Mike and Alex Ostipow's names are among those that will be worn on both teams’ jerseys as part of their “Victory for Veterans” game to benefit the Veterans of Foreign Wars National Home for Children based in Eaton Rapids.
Funds raised from the purchase of those jerseys and other donations all will benefit the National Home, which was built in 1925 and provides a variety of services to military members and their families, including housing when a family member is deployed. Total, the schools raised roughly $6,300 for the home, which receives all of its funding through donations.
“The kids don’t always understand what those people sacrificed for the freedom we have to even play football on Friday nights,” Ostipow said. “It’s close to me. (And) for me, selfishly, I’ll be able to honor my grandfather.”
Kickoff is 7 p.m. Both teams will wear camouflage jerseys featuring the names of military personnel that were purchased with donations of $100. Charlotte players were given the opportunity to wear the names of family members. For those who did not have names to wear, jerseys were sponsored by teachers and other members of the community.
Charlotte 2002 graduates Nick Cantin and Matt Lamoreaux will serve as honorary captains – Cantin is in the Air Force and Lamoreaux serves in the Navy. After the game, players from both teams will present their jerseys to the service members or their families who they honored.
This cause was a natural for the Orioles. On the Friday before Memorial Day each spring, Charlotte hosts a school-wide round table of veterans, who speak candidly with students about their war experiences. And this opportunity allowed both communities to donate to an effort close to home – both schools are in Eaton County, and Eaton Rapids is only 11 miles from Charlotte.
Ostipow had heard of the home previously – in fact, his grandmother had visited the facility while his grandfather was deployed. But until he began researching for tonight’s event, he didn’t realize the variety of services it provides.
His student teacher, former Eaton Rapids quarterback Matt Marriott, is the son of one of the home’s facility managers. After a series of meetings with Marriott's dad, representatives from the home and Eaton Rapids’ administration and coaches, the plan was hatched.
The Orioles received a bonus when their local National Guard recruiter heard about the effort, and the Guard paid for $2,500 of the $2,800 it would have cost to print the Orioles’ jerseys. That meant $2,500 more that Charlotte could donate to the home.
Click to learn more about the VFW National Home for Children.
LAWRENCE — If redshirting was a thing in high school, at least two coaches at Lawrence would stick that label on senior John Schuman.
“We don’t want to lose this kid ever,” said Derek Gribler, the Tigers’ first-year varsity football and baseball coach.
“If we could put a red shirt on this kid every year, we would.”
Athletic director John Guillean, who also coaches varsity basketball, agreed.
“He is what we strive to have all our student-athletes achieve: high GPAs, multi-sport athletes, good, overall well-rounded human beings,” Guillean said.
Schuman has participated in five of the seven boys sports Lawrence sponsors.
As a freshman and sophomore, Schuman played football, wrestled, ran track and played baseball.
He had wrestled since he was 4, and went from the 119-pound weight class as a freshman to 145 the following year. That sophomore season he qualified for his Individual Regional. But as a junior, he traded wrestling for basketball.
“My older brother wrestled at Lawrence, so I would come to practices,” he said. “I quit for a couple years (in middle school) because I liked basketball, too. It was hard to do both. Obviously, in high school, I still struggled with choosing,” he added, laughing.
Guillean is thrilled Schuman made the switch.
“He’s 6-(foot-)4, he’s super athletic, defensively he’s a hawk, offensively he can put the ball in the bucket. But really, aside from his skills, just that positive attitude and that positive outlook, not just in a game, but in life in general, is invaluable,” the coach said.
Last season, Schuman earned honorable mention all-league honors in the Berrien-Cass-St. Joseph Conference, averaging 9.1 points and 9.1 rebounds per game.
Lawrence left the BCS for the Southwest 10 Conference this year, joining Bangor, Bloomingdale, Hartford, Decatur, Comstock, Marcellus, Mendon, Centreville, White Pigeon and Cassopolis. Schuman and senior Tim Coombs will co-captain the Tigers, with Guillean rotating in a third captain.
At a school of fewer than 200 students, Schuman will help lead a varsity team with just nine – joined by seniors Andy Bowen and Gabe Gonzalez, juniors Christian Smith, Noel Saldana, Ben McCaw and Zander Payment, and sophomore Jose Hernandez, who will see time with the junior varsity as well using the fifth-quarter rule.
“I attribute a lot of (last year’s successful transition) to my coach, helping me get ready because it wasn’t so pretty,” the senior said. “But we got into it, got going, and my teammates helped me out a lot.”
Gribler is one coach already looking ahead to spring sports after seeing what Schuman did during football season.
In spite of missing 2½ games with an injury, the wide receiver caught 50 receptions for 870 yards and 11 touchdowns.
“I just like the ability to run free, get to hit people, let out some anger,” Schuman laughed.
Gribler said the senior is “an insane athlete.
“On top of his athletic ability, how smart he is in the classroom (3.88 GPA), he helped mold the culture we wanted this year for football. He got our underclassmen the way we wanted them. He was a big asset in many ways.”
Schuman earned all-conference honors for his on-field performance in football as well.
“I would say that my main sport is football,” the senior said. “That’s the one I like the most, spend the most time on.”
In the spring, Schuman competed in both track and baseball, earning all-conference honors in both.
“Doing both is tough,” he said. “I have to say my coaches make it a lot easier for me. They help me a lot and give me the ability to do both, so I really appreciate that.
“Throughout the week you’re traveling every day, it seems like. Baseball twice a week and track, but it’s worth it.”
Schuman’s commitment is so strong that he made a special effort not to let his teammates down last spring.
“He qualified for state in the long jump and did his jumps up in Grand Rapids, then he drove all the way to Kalamazoo to play in the District baseball game,” Guillean said. “That speaks volumes about who this kid is. He did his jumps at 9 a.m. (but did not advance) and made it back to Kalamazoo for a 12:15 game.”
Big shoes to fill
As the youngest of four children of Mark and Gretchen Schuman, the senior was following a family tradition in sports.
Oldest brother Matthew played football, basketball and baseball as well as competed in pole vault and wrestling.
Middle bother Christopher competed in football, wrestling and baseball.
Sister Stephanie played basketball, volleyball and softball.
“I like to say they blazed a pretty good trail for me at this high school,” Schuman said.
As for feeling pressure to live up to his siblings, “I used to when I was younger, but now I feel like I’ve made my own way and done enough things to be proud of that I’m happy with it.”
His own way led him to achieve something none of the others did.
He was named the Tigers’ Male Athlete of the Year, just the third junior to earn the boys honor over the last 25 years.
“I was very honored to win that as a junior,” Schuman said. “There were good athletes in the grade above me. I guess hard work pays off.”
Guillean said while Schuman is “darn good at every sport here,” an athlete does not have to be a “top dog” in every sport.
“Learn how to take a back seat,” he said. “Learn how to be a role player. That will make you a better teammate and a well-rounded human being.
“Johnny has that work ethic, in the classroom, on the field, on the court, on the track. It doesn’t go unnoticed and, obviously, he’s reaping the benefits now.”
Pam Shebest served as a sportswriter at the Kalamazoo Gazette from 1985-2009 after 11 years part-time with the Gazette while teaching French and English at White Pigeon High School. She can be reached at email@example.com with story ideas for Calhoun, Kalamazoo and Van Buren counties.
PHOTOS (Top) Lawrence’s John Schuman has participated in five varsity sports during his first 3½ years of high school. (Middle) Lawrence athletic director John Guillean. (Below) Lawrence football and baseball coach Derek Gribler. (Action photos courtesy of John Schuman; head shots by Pam Shebest.)