By Jason Schmitt
Special for Second Half
DETROIT – As the final seconds ran off the clock during the Division 4 championship game Friday night at Ford Field, it all began to set in for Detroit Country Day senior Danny MacLean.
He finally got to see his dad, Yellowjackets’ head coach Dan, win an MHSAA Football Finals championship.
“I’ve been here five times now, we hadn’t won a game at Ford Field,” the younger MacLean said. “I was always the ball boy, the water boy out on the field. Now, senior year, coming out here and getting one for that guy, it means the world to me. It’s the best feeling in the world.”
Country Day defeated first-time finalist Cadillac, 13-0, picking up its third-straight shutout in these playoffs. The Yellowjackets last won a Finals championship in 1999, that coming in MacLean’s second year as the head coach at the school. His teams fell a win short in 2007, 2008, 2012, 2016 and again in 2019.
“I thought I couldn’t win in Ford Field. I was like, ‘Can we get the Silverdome back?,’” MacLean joked after the game. “It is very good to be back (winning). This was wonderful to do this, especially with this group of kids in particular. I said it many times this week. I was a single guy when I started at Country Day 36 years ago, and (Danny) is my youngest child of five, and it’s just a joy.”
MacLean’s children – Jack, Maureen, Mike, Kathleen and Danny – all graduated (or will) from Country Day. Each of the three boys played football for the Yellowjackets.
“He’s built a family around (Country Day),” Danny said.
MacLean and fellow senior Nick Wachol spearheaded a dominant Yellowjackets defense, which limited the Vikings to just 166 total yards. MacLean and Wachol each finished with a team-leading nine tackles. Wachol had three tackles for a loss to go along with two sacks. MacLean had a key interception late in the second quarter, helping to keep Cadillac off the scoreboard just before halftime.
“We’ve been riding our defense all year,” Coach MacLean said. “They just have a tremendous amount of pride, and they just do their job. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my coaches. John Wilson, Steve Mann, who’s been with us a long time. Dave Furlong and Jake Topp, who was really instrumental tonight. He is more of an offensive guy in certain ways, but he designed that scheme to stop their option and the kids executed.”
Cadillac used five running backs in the game, along with junior quarterback Aden Gurden, who led the team with 14 carries. Junior Collin Johnston led the Vikings with 53 yards rushing, while sophomore Kaleb McKinley and Gurden added 39 and 37, respectively.
Coach Cody Mallory’s team moved the ball at times against Country Day’s stout defense, but couldn’t finish when it needed to.
“Their defense is very good; they’re very physical,” Mallory said. “I felt like this was the first time all year that we haven’t been able to move the ball. Even in our losses prior to this, we were able to get things going on offense. Country Day was extremely physical up front and very fast on the back end.”
Country Day opened its scoring with a pair of Graham Doman field goals in the second quarter. The first came with 11:09 to play in the half, as Cadillac’s defense turned the Yellowjackets away and forced them to settle for a 19-yard field goal. Same thing happened later in the second quarter, as the Vikings’ red-zone defense forced Country Day to kick a 26-yard field goal with 3:42 left before the break.
The Yellowjackets’ offense scored its lone touchdown of the game with a 12-play drive which took 6:33 off the clock to open the third quarter. Four Country Day players ran the ball, with freshman Gabe Winowich capping things off with a four-yard touchdown to give his team a 13-0 lead.
From there, the defense took over for the Yellowjackets. Cadillac had just six possessions in the game. The Vikings punted twice, turned the ball over on downs twice, threw the interception to MacLean, with the sixth possession ending at halftime. Senior Joe Miller collected eight tackles in the win, while juniors Caleb Mathis-Miller and Brandon Mann each added six.
Offensively, Country Day just wore Cadillac down. Junior Parker Yearego had 12 carries for 71 yards, and Mann had 11 more for 40 yards. In all, the Yellowjackets rushed the ball 36 times. Mann was also 11-for-14 passing for 106 yards.
“If you can keep the ball away from them, then they get frustrated,” MacLean said. “They like to bleed the clock. We kind of flipped the script on them. The key was our defense allowed us to get them off the field at times.”
While Country Day was making its ninth trip to the championship game, it was Cadillac’s first time playing for a title. Mallory was proud of the way his team battled Friday night and excited his program could proudly represent northern Michigan.
“I feel like football up north does get overlooked a bit,” Mallory said. “I’m really happy our conference had two teams go deep in the playoffs. That says a lot about where football is up there.”
Mallory said it was a great learning experience for his team.
“It takes failure for you to grow,” Mallory said. “While there were a lot of successes to get us to this point, in this game, we fell short and we’re going to have to grow.”
PHOTOS: (Top) Danny MacLean raises the trophy as Detroit Country Day celebrates its Division 4 championship Friday. (Middle) Country Day’s Caleb Mathis-Miller (48) helps drive Cadillac’s Collin Johnston out of bounds. (Click for more from Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.)