Davison Earns 1st-Time Football Glory

November 30, 2019

By Tom Kendra
Special for Second Half

DETROIT – Davison senior wide receiver Latrell Fordham strolled into the postgame press conference with his left arm in a sling, and an enormous smile on his face.

Fordham played a huge role in Davison’s 35-25 victory over Brighton in the MHSAA Division 1 Final on Saturday at Ford Field – before landing awkwardly and fracturing his left elbow late in the second quarter.

“It hurts a lot, and I need surgery, but winning a state championship overrides all of that,” said Fordham, a 6-foot-3 Ball State commit who had four catches for 88 yards before his injury, including an electrifying 74-yard sprint along the Davison sideline that helped his team assume control in the second quarter.

Davison (12-2) won the first football Finals championship in school history and the first title for a Saginaw Valley League school since 1999 Saginaw High, which was led by Charles Rogers and also featured LaMarr Woodley.

The Cardinals, who had won their first four playoff games in come-from-behind fashion powered by their running game, shifted gears completely Saturday.

Davison never trailed and pulled away behind an impressive passing attack, as 6-3 junior quarterback Brendan Sullivan completed 14-of-19 passes for 290 yards. He connected with six receivers.

Brighton coach Brian Lemons said after the game that his team was committed to shutting down the run, which made it susceptible through the air.

“We had to pick our poison,” said Lemons, whose team stunned top-ranked Belleville 22-19 in the Semifinals to earn its first Finals appearance. “We had some single coverage, and they did a great job of connecting in those situations.”

Sullivan opened the scoring on a one-yard plunge in the first quarter set up by a crucial two-yard, fourth-down completion to Fordham and a 14-yard pass to Harrison Terry on the next play. Terry led all receivers with six catches for 94 yards.

After a Brighton field goal narrowed the lead to 7-3 in the second quarter, second-year Davison coach Jake Weingartz seized on an opportunity to go for a home run.

“We had trips (three receivers) to one side and Latrell by himself on the other side,” explained Weingartz. “He had single coverage and the safety shaded to the trips side. We had to take a shot. We’re not going to beat our head against the wall and try to run against a loaded front.”

Fordham took off on a straight go route along the Davison sideline and Sullivan delivered a strike, which Fordham caught in stride as he sprinted the rest of the way for a 74-yard score and 14-3 lead.

“We were waiting for the right moment, and on that play we had the matchup we wanted,” explained Fordham, who expects to miss a good portion of basketball season, but hopes to be back by March. “Brendan made a perfect throw. I just had to grab it and take it to the house.”

That play brought the huge crowd from Davison to its feet and seemingly opened the floodgates. The Cardinals scored on a one-yard run by Carter Cryderman before halftime and a 10-yard scramble run by Sullivan early in the third quarter to take a seemingly comfortable 28-3 lead.

Brighton (11-3) showed no quit, however, led by dual-threat senior quarterback Colby Newburg and junior running back Nicholas Nemecek.

The Bulldogs scored 16 points in a row – on a one-yard run by Nemecek and a 27-yard pass from Newburg to Nemecek (along with a pair of 2-point conversions) – to close to within 28-19 with four minutes remaining, bringing the orange-clad Brighton fans to life.

Newburg, a 6-0, 190-pound senior, completed 16-of-28 passes for 249 yards and two touchdowns, and also ran 22 times for 83 yards.

“All I can say is that I’m super proud of everybody,” said Newburg. “We fought to the end.”

With Brighton back within striking distance, Sullivan took his turn in the quarterback shootout.

He connected with senior Caleb Smith on a 63-yard pass down to the 1-yard line, which Cryderman took in on the next play to push the lead back to 35-19.

Even then, Brighton was still not done, as Newburg completed six passes on the next drive, including a three-yard TD connection with Austin Lin with 43 seconds remaining. It wasn’t until the ensuing 2-point conversion pass fell incomplete that the game was decided.

Davison finished with a slight 441-425 edge in total yardage, but it was the efficiency of Sullivan through the air which proved to be the difference.

“I told my coach to trust me in this game,” said Sullivan, who stepped up as a junior on the biggest stage. “I want the ball in my hands in those pressure situations.”

The game featured two schools making their first appearances in the Finals, which is becoming more and more rare after 45 years of MHSAA Playoffs, which began in 1975.

That first-time excitement was apparent as both communities turned out in droves at Ford Field, Brighton in orange and Davison in gold.

Adding to the excitement was the fact neither team was expected to make a long playoff run after finishing second in their respective conferences – Davison in the Saginaw Valley League Red (behind Lapeer) and Brighton in the Kensington Lakes Activities Association West (behind Plymouth).

Davison senior linebacker Logan Pasco was all over the field with a game-high 16 tackles, while Smith had nine tackles and defensive end Harry Unger made seven stops. Ian Hummel led Brighton with eight tackles, and Cole Riddle and Carson Billig each made six.

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) Davison celebrates its first MHSAA Football Finals championship Saturday at Ford Field. (Middle) Brighton’s Ruben Salinas (1) keeps his eyes on a pass as Davison’s JayLen Murray Flowers works to deflect it.

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.)