'D' Propels Centreville to 1st Finals Win

By Paul Costanzo
Special for MHSAA.com

January 22, 2021

DETROIT – It didn’t take long Friday for the Centreville defense to prove its season statistics were no fluke. 

The Bulldogs stuffed Ubly on a 4th-and-short at midfield on the first possession of the MHSAA Division 8 Football Final, setting the tone for a dominant performance in their 22-0 victory at Ford Field. 

“The defense played hard today,” Centreville senior defensive end and fullback Jared Spencer said. “I think we went all out – our seniors went all out just because it was our last game. Our first time making it to state, so I just think our defense, we were ready for the game.” 

The title is the first for the Bulldogs (11-0), who had never won a District title in the sport prior to this season. While it didn’t look like it to those observing, coach Jerry Schultz said the nerves were certainly there pregame. 

“If they’re going to say (they weren’t nervous), then they’re lying,” said Schultz, who is in his first year leading the program. “I could see it on their faces that they were nervous, especially this morning. That’s why we got on the field so early … we went and ran routes, I wanted them to just throw the ball around. As we told them, it’s 100 yards. Even I walked out here – I've never been here before, I’m actually a Packer fan – but just walking out here, it’s awesome.”  

The 11 wins are a school record, despite the regular season being shortened by three games. The program was in the postseason for the third straight year, but just the seventh in school history. 

“All the offseason work in the weight room and all the conditioning – everything that we had done since we were freshmen, it’s the best feeling to have to come in as a senior (and win) with this group of guys,” senior quarterback and safety Sam Todd said. “So, coming out on top as a senior, it doesn’t get better than that.” 

Centreville was dominant throughout the year, with only two of the 10 games it played – its Semifinal was won by forfeit over Clarkston Everest Collegiate – being decided by single digits. That effort was led by a defense that had seven shutouts and allowed 29 points on the season. 

“Just buying into the defense,” Spencer said when asked to explain the success. “It’s been the same defense since (defensive coordinator Trevor Haas) has been here. We’ve had the same players since freshman year, so I think we just had that bond to keep it tight.” 

The Bulldogs held Ubly (9-3) to 142 yards of total offense, but 103 of those came on second half possessions when they had already built a 22-0 lead. Ubly was held to 24 yards in the first half, and didn’t record a first down until there was 3:54 to play in the third quarter. 

Jacob Spencer led the Bulldogs defense with 10 tackles, while Ethan Brownridge had seven. Tristan McElroy had an interception in the end zone, which ended Ubly’s best drive of the day. 

“One thing that they do is they have that angle front,” Ubly coach Eric Sweeney said. “Four years ago, (former Centreville coach) Tyler Langs coached at (Unionville-Sebewaing) and they’re still running his defense. So, it’s not something we haven’t seen, but we knew it was going to be tough because when you’re trying to run a trap and they’re angling those guys up front, you have to do some different things. They flew to the ball. Their linebackers came downfield. It was nothing we didn’t expect, but I kind of thought we’d block it better, but we didn’t. I thought they played incredible defense.” 

When the Centreville defense wasn’t on the field stifling the Bearcats, the offense was giving it plenty of rest. The Bulldogs’ ball-control attack chewed up clock, with nearly 30 minutes of possession to Ubly’s 18. They ran the ball 42 times for 156 yards, and made big plays in the passing game when needed, as Todd was 6-for-7 for 130 yards and a pair of touchdowns, both to junior receiver Tyler Swanwick.  

Todd also led the Centreville rushing attack with 70 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries.  

“I think our biggest problem like I was saying before, we like to play ball-control offense, and that’s what they did,” Sweeney said. “When they needed a big play, they got it. When we only run 10 plays in the first half, that’s not ball-control offense. Personally, I thought our defense played very well, but our defense never got rest, because we played bad offense. We knew (Todd) was an excellent football player. There were no surprises there.” 

Todd’s first score came on a 1-yard run midway through the second quarter. The fourth-down play was nearly blown up in the backfield, but Jared Spencer had a big block to help his quarterback get the edge. 

Swanwick made a pair of big plays on the second scoring drive, catching a deflected pass for a 31-yard gain, setting his team up at the 20-yard line with nine seconds to play in the half. On the next play, Todd found his top target with a well-thrown jump ball in the end zone, and the Bulldogs took a 16-0 lead into the half. 

The Bulldogs all but put the game away with their first drive of the third quarter, eating up 7:46 on the clock, and finishing the drive off with a 12-yard pass from Todd to Swanwick. 

Carson Heleski led the Bearcats in his final game, recording 16 tackles, including 1.5 for loss. He also had a team-high 67 rushing yards.

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) Centreville defenders swarm around Ubly running back Mark Hellig during Friday’s Division 8 Final. (Middle) Centreville’s Tyler Swanwick pulls in one of his two touchdown catches. (Click for more from Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)

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.)