Colon Finishes Perfect Season with 1st Title

November 23, 2019

By Ryan Stieg
Special for Second Half

MARQUETTE – It was a long trip for the Colon football team, driving all the way from near the Ohio border to the Upper Peninsula for the MHSAA Division 1 8-Player Final

But the Magi made the journey worthwhile.

Behind solid defensive play and the running of fullback Brandon Crawford – who finished with 205 rushing yards – Colon defeated Suttons Bay 26-14 to win its first Finals championship.

Colon head coach Robbie Hattan credited his defense and some thorough conditioning for pushing the Magi over the top. They intercepted four passes and returned one pick for a touchdown. 

“In the regular season, our first team defense didn’t give up a point,” he said. “So we get to the playoffs and obviously, when you get to the playoffs, you play at a different level. So we gave up 12 points, 12 points, seven points. Our defense has been the strength of our team.”

“We condition so much,” he said. “During camp, we have different military branches come in to push our kids. We had the Navy SEALs, we had the Army Rangers, Air Force Special Ops. These kids were putting in the work. We figured it out, and we ran 168 miles this season. It’s nuts how much we’ve ran, but we do that and the kids know it. We call it Monday run day. So Monday practices are no fun, but they reaped the rewards tonight and we still had legs in the fourth.”

Even though Suttons Bay’s trip up north fell short, head coach Garrick Opie praised his team for giving everything it had right to the end.

“The great thing about my team and the great thing about our kids, they don’t give up and they never have,” he said. “I think we’ve seen games like Gaylord St. Mary’s and other games being won in the last minute, and I think we still think that way until the last second.

“The one thing that I said to our team was I wanted each player to leave with an empty tank, and they did. So that’s all I can ask for. They did phenomenal.”

Trying to maintain a slim one-point lead at the start of the third quarter, the Magi (13-0) made a huge play defensively. With the ball deep in Suttons Bay territory, Crawford intercepted a screen pass from his defensive lineman spot and ran it into the end zone. After the extra point, the Magi led 14-6. 

After forcing a Colon punt, the Northmen answered on their third possession of the quarter. Quarterback Bryce Opie scrambled away from pressure and hit Hugh Periard with a 47-yard pass to the Colon 37. Later, on 4th-and-inches at the Magi 14, Opie sneaked up the middle to the 10. Two plays after that, he scored on a four-yard run. He also picked up the 2-point conversion, and the game was tied 14-14.

Before the end of the quarter, Colon used its rushing attack to march down the field. Crawford plowed his way from the Suttons Bay 43 to the 15, and three plays later quarterback Phillip Alva punched the ball into the end zone from the 1. However, a bad snap on the extra point forced the Magi to pass, and the throw was intercepted in the end zone. 

Suttons Bay (12-1) wasn’t shaken though. A 31-yard run from Camryn Knaub helped the Northmen to the Colon 6. But on fourth down, Opie’s pass fell incomplete ,and Colon took over on downs. Just two plays later, Crawford rumbled down the Magi sideline for a 94-yard touchdown. The conversion failed and Colon led by 12 with 7:36 left.

Suttons Bay had one last real chance to get back in the game after blocking a Colon punt with about six minutes remaining, but Jonathan West ended the rally with another interception.

“They just kept trying to push me out of bounds and didn’t really try to tackle me, so I just kept my feet going,” Crawford said of his touchdown. “I think that and the interception by Jonathan were the turning point. Those really helped us.”

“Brandon is a heck of a football player,” Hattan said. “That kid is going to be playing college football someday. He loves having the ball in his hands in big situations. We know we can rely on him, and he really took care of business today.”

While the second half was a little more explosive, the first half was fairly quiet offensively. Colon got on the scoreboard first on its second possession of the game, on a Crawford 24-yard run. With the extra point, Colon led 7-0 with 7:31 to go in the first quarter.

After forcing a Magi punt early in the second quarter, the Northmen started to generate some offense. Opie picked up a first down on a run from the Suttons Bay 49 to the Colon 38, and two plays late a costly Magi penalty moved the ball to the 23. On the next play, Opie threw a pass into double coverage in the corner of the end zone, but Lucas Mikesell adjusted and made a leaping catch behind both Magi defenders for a touchdown. The extra point was blocked though, and Suttons Bay trailed 7-6 with 8:26 left in the half – and the score stayed the same heading into the break.

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) Colon’s Brandon Crawford reaches for the end zone while a Suttons Bay defender attempts to prevent the score Saturday. (Middle) Suttons Bay quarterback Bryce Opie works to avoid Justin Miller’s rush. (Photos by Cara Kamps.)

Lawrence's Schuman Sets Example for Well-Rounded Success

By Pam Shebest
Special for MHSAA.com

December 14, 2022

LAWRENCE — If redshirting was a thing in high school, at least two coaches at Lawrence would stick that label on senior John Schuman.

Southwest Corridor“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.

John GuilleanGuillean 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.”

Great anticipation

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.

Derek GriblerGribler 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 ShebestPam 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 pamkzoo@aol.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.)