DeLaSalle Hammers Home 1st Title

November 28, 2014

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

DETROIT – When his team fell to 3-3 to start October, Warren DeLaSalle football coach Paul Verska said he was the only one who believed the Pilots could still finish this fall at Ford Field. 

And he realized again before last week’s Semifinal against Southfield that his “loosey-goosey goofball group” was more than prepared for championship game pressure as his four captains danced to M.C. Hammer’s “Can’t Touch This” in the snow.

The final 30 seconds of the fourth quarter were not always kind to DeLaSalle this season; all three losses, over three straight weeks, came by seven or fewer points as their opponents took the lead during the final half-minute. 

“That kinda strengthened us as a team. We said we’ve pretty much got to go out and get it and not leave it behind the last 30 seconds or a minute,” Pilots senior quarterback Joey Garbarino said. “Me and the captains, pretty much the whole team, pretty much everyone knew. We knew what we could do.”

Over the last five weeks, DeLaSalle showed everyone else – and finished by earning the school’s first MHSAA football championship with a 44-8 win over Muskegon Mona Shores that probably still surprised plenty despite the Pilots’ recent body of work. 

DeLaSalle (10-3) gave up only 9.9 points per game during its closing eight-game winning streak and avenged one of those losses by eliminating reigning three-time champion Birmingham Brother Rice in the Regional Final. 

Mona Shores (12-2) averaged 39.5 points per game entering Friday and had run for more than 3,000 yards. But the Sailors managed only 99 on the ground and 201 total and didn’t score until the final four minutes of the third quarter. 

“I told our kids when we got here that it isn’t how many Ws you have, but who you play,” Verska said. “I said we have a tough schedule, and I know we’re physical. And I knew deep down in my heart we could be more physical than them. I knew they had some great athletes, but I thought if we pounded on them, pounded on them, pounded on them, they wouldn’t go four quarters with us toe to toe.”

The quarterback conversation this week focused on Mona Shores senior Tyree Jackson. The four-year starter carried the Sailors to their first playoff game last season and through most of this school-record postseason run, but watched the end of the team’s 25-24 Semifinal win over Farmington Hills Harrison from the sideline on crutches after sustaining an injury. A University of Buffalo recruit, Jackson threw 24 touchdown passes and ran for 14 scores this season. 

Garbarino hasn’t had nearly that buzz although he’s been plenty solid in succeeding a pair of quarterbacks now playing in the Big 10 – University of Michigan’s Shane Morris and Rutgers University’s Giovanni Rescigno.

Garbarino’s numbers this season were solid – 11 touchdowns passing, 10 rushing and just under 1,700 yards combined – but he saved the spectacular for Friday rushing 18 times for 85 yards and two scores and completing all seven of his passes for 89 yards and another score. 

“We call the plays in the huddle, and he tells them to man up and let’s go; we’re going to get the three, four, five, six yards, whatever it is,” Verska said. “If I wanted an H-back or a fullback or tight end, this would be my guy. If I wanted a linebacker, this would be my guy. But he sacrificed for the team and played quarterback, and it’s like another fullback running with the ball when he gets it.”

DeLaSalle’s primary back was excellent Friday as well. Sophomore Allen Stritzinger ran for 175 yards on 18 carries, including a 56-yard scoring burst just more than four minutes into the second quarter that helped the Pilots build a 20-0 lead. 

Senior Jake Townsley – also a standout goalkeeper on the District finalist soccer team – set an MHSAA Finals record with three field goals, from 41, 23 and 29 yards. Senior Alex Spicuzzi caught only one pass – but it was for a score. Junior linebacker Eric Rogers and senior defensive back Cooper Gammon had nine and eight tackles, respectively, as Mona Shores didn’t get past the Pilots’ 44-yard line until that scoring drive midway through the third quarter.

Jackson wouldn't say how much his injury limited him in the Final, but he battled on despite not being at 100 percent. He did complete 17 of 27 passes for 102 yards but ran for just 14. Senior running back DeOntay Moffett ran for 85 yards, but the Sailors didn’t hold onto the ball for more than 2½ minutes during a possession until, again, that scoring drive when they trailed 30-0. 

They also played without junior Hunter Broersma, a starter at receiver and defensive back who was ill and unable to suit up. Junior Tyler Trovinger, the back-up quarterback and a starting defensive back, did play despite also being injured last week and caught the lone scoring pass and made 10 tackles. Junior linebacker Dominique Shermeta had 12 tackles. 

“The coaching staff got here four years ago, and we had 66 kids in the program (grades) 9-12,” said Mona Shores coach Matt Koziak, who previously coached multiple levels at Muskegon High. “We go 1-8 the first year, and the kids easily could have been, ‘This is the same old thing.’ But they saw something and were able to work for something.

“I’ve been part of three state championships at Muskegon in one way or another … and this has been my favorite season. I’ll never forget these guys, ever.” 

DeLaSalle had made the Finals twice before, finishing runner-up in 2006 and 2008.

Click for full statistics.

PHOTOS: (Top) DeLaSalle running back Allen Stritzinger pushes ahead for yards as Mona Shores’ Austin Wingett (8) and Kentrell Eason (20) pursue. (Middle) Sailors quarterback Tyree Jackson prepares to unload a pass Friday. (Click for action photos and team photos from Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)


STRITZING GOES THE DISTANCE - Allen Stritzing rushed for 175 yards for Warren DeLaSalle in the Division 2 Final, 56 of it coming on this second quarter TD run.
Muskegon Mona Shores got on the scoreboard in the third quarter on this 12-yard pass from Tyree Jackson to Tyler Trovinger.

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Lawrence's Schuman Sets Example for Well-Rounded Success

By Pam Shebest
Special for

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 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.)