Drive Complete: 2018 Finals in Review

November 26, 2018

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

There was much anticipation entering the 2018 MHSAA Football Finals, beginning two weeks ago at the Superior Dome at Northern Michigan University and finishing Saturday at Detroit’s Ford Field.

They didn’t disappoint.

This season’s crowning weekends saw five first-time champions, two repeat title winners, two rise to the top for the first time in a while, and to end it all another re-emerging champion topple a 2017 winner in arguably the most awaited game of the entire series.

Second Half covered all 10 championship games last weekend at Ford Field and two weekends ago at the Superior Dome, with quick recaps and links (click on the game scores) to those stories below followed by notations of performances entered into the MHSAA Finals record book and a report on some of the biggest and best stories to emerge from the 2018 Finals.

Finals in Review

11-Player Division 1: Clinton Township Chippewa Valley 31, Clarkston 30

A year after Clarkston edged West Bloomfield by a point to win Division 1, Chippewa Valley claimed its first MHSAA title since 2001 by the same margin over the Wolves. The Big Reds stopped a go-ahead 2-point conversion try by Clarkston with 23 seconds to play to seal the win after previously leading by 14 points three times over the final three quarters.

11-Player Division 2: Warren DeLaSalle 29, Muskegon Mona Shores 16

The Pilots’ lockdown defense proved to have the upper hand against an explosive Mona Shores offense, as DeLaSalle broke away for its second straight Division 2 title after the teams were tied at halftime. Pilots coach Mike Giannone not only is the only coach to win football championships at two schools, but also became the first to win back-to-back at two (after also leading Macomb Dakota to Division 1 titles in 2006 and 2007).

11-Player Division 3: Detroit Martin Luther King 41, Muskegon 25

King finished this season’s Finals by avenging a three-point Week 2 loss to the 2017 champion. The Crusaders didn’t slow Muskegon’s record-setting rushing attack, but outgained the Big Reds in total yardage 400-315 as quarterbacks Dequan Finn and Cameron Martinez showed why they were two of the state’s best this fall.

11-Player Division 4: Edwardsburg 28, Chelsea 7

After falling short against Grand Rapids Catholic Central in 2017, Edwardsburg returned to its second Finals and won its first championship. The Eddies succeeded as they had all season; the offense ran for 382 yards and all four scores, while the defense got its season points allowed average to 9.9 per game after holding Chelsea to its fewest since 2014.

11-Player Division 5: Hudsonville Unity Christian 42, Portland 7

These Crusaders also won their first championship, in their first Finals appearance, finishing a playoff run that saw them defeat three teams ranked among the top six at the end of the regular season. Unity Christian got out to a 28-0 lead and finished with 279 yards rushing while holding the Raiders’ vaunted run attack to only 95.

11-Player Division 6: Jackson Lumen Christi 42, Montague 28

Lumen Christi added a first-time accomplishment to its long history of successes, clinching a three-peat for the first time by holding Montague to 14 points over the game’s first 45 minutes. The Titans ran for 348 yards and senior Nick Thomas gained 249 and scored twice on the ground to go with his team-high 10 tackles and two sacks.

11-Player Division 7: New Lothrop 50, Madison Heights Madison 44

This was not only the highest-scoring Final of the weekend, but of all-time. Neither team had been to a Finals since 2006, and Madison was seeking its first championship. But New Lothrop held on for its second title as quarterbacks Avery Moore and Austin Brown matched scores through much of the second half.

11-Player Division 8: Reading 39, Breckenridge 20

One of these teams was going to end up a first-time and undefeated champion, and Reading led off the 2018 Finals on Friday with the historic accomplishment in large part because of its dominance in the run game. The Rangers gained 296 yards on the ground and held the Huskies to a mere 24 and 198 yards of total offense.

8-Player Division 1: Morrice 44, Pickford 16

This also was going to produce a first-time and undefeated champion regardless of victor. After Pickford scored first, Morrice locked up its first title with 30 unanswered points over the next two quarters. Orioles quarterback Hunter Nowak capped his career with three rushing and one passing touchdown to go with 199 yards on the ground.

8-Player Division 2: Rapid River 30, Onekama 18

In its third 8-Player Finals try, Rapid River came away with its first MHSAA football title. The Rockets held on to the ball for an incredible 33½ minutes by extending drives with 10 third-down and four fourth-down conversions. Onekama was playing in its first Football Final, capping its second season of 8-player after a successful recent run with 11 on the field.

Record Report

Lumen Christi moved up to tied for fifth with its 13th Finals appearance. Muskegon (11th) and King (sixth) also moved up the list, and Warren DeLaSalle joined it by playing in its fifth championship game. Lumen Christi is tied for fourth all-time with 11 championships and became the 10th program to win three or more consecutively.

Three players made the list for longest kickoff return in a Final. New Lothrop’s Aidan Harrison ranks fourth after his 96-yard scoring sprint against Madison, while David Ellis raced 94 yards to the end zone for Chippewa Valley against Clarkston and Jacob Veale scored Portland’s only points against Unity Christian on a 91-yard return.

Tommy Schuster made the records with a perfect 13 of 13 passing for Chippewa Valley against Clarkston, becoming the first player with at least 12 attempts to complete all of his passes in an MHSAA Final.

As noted above, New Lothrop and Madison Heights Madison combined to score 94 points – breaking the previous record for highest-scoring Final of 91 by Belding and Detroit Country Day in the 1994 Class B championship game (a 50-41 Belding win). New Lothrop’s 50 points also tied for fourth most in an MHSAA Final.

That 94-point effort was a result in large part of work done by Madison quarterback Austin Brown and New Lothrop quarterback Avery Moore. Both made the records list with four rushing touchdowns in a Final and also for scoring 26 points (each had a 2-point conversion). Brown also was added for 298 passing yards, and his 403 of total offense tied for fifth. New Lothrop as a team was added for six rushing touchdowns, and Madison Heights Madison was added for total team passing yardage.

Reading’s Elijah Strine was added for becoming the first in Finals history to recover a fumble in the end zone for a touchdown.  

Edwardsburg became the latest to not punt in a championship game, and Chelsea punted only once in their Division 4 Final – their one combined punt tied for second-fewest in a Final.

Lumen Christi kicker Kevin Salazar connected on all six of his extra point attempts, and King’s Jerry Tucker made five of six (with the sixth attempt blocked). Both made the list for most extra points, Salazar tying for fourth most.

Lumen Christi running back Nick Thomas ran for 249 yards, the eighth most in a championship game. Muskegon quarterback Cameron Martinez also made the rushing list with 211 yards.

King quarterback Dequan Finn tied for fifth for touchdown passes with four against the Big Reds. Chelsea receiver Hunter Neff tied for fifth for receptions with 10 against the Eddies.

Morrice made the list for rushing yards as a team in the 8-Player Division 1 Final. The Orioles totaled 317 on 54 carries.

Rapid River made the 8-Player first downs list, moving the sticks 20 times in its Division 2 win.

Stories Behind the Scores

First-time champions: Five of this season’s 10 MHSAA football champions were first-time winners: Edwardsburg, Hudsonville Unity Christian, Reading, Morrice and Rapid River. That’s compared to only two first-time champs a year ago and one in 2016.

First time in a long time champions: Chippewa Valley’s title was its first since 2001, and New Lothrop won for the first time since 2006. Both had been building toward this moment, however. The Big Reds had made the playoffs all but three seasons since claiming the Division 2 title 17 years ago. New Lothrop has made the playoffs 19 straight seasons, and since winning Division 8 in 2006 had reached the Semifinals three times before this fall.

Closer Calls: In six games, teams were within 10 points of each other in the fourth quarter. Mona Shores pulled within five of DeLaSalle with 7:26 to play in Division 2 before the Pilots added a late touchdown. Muskegon pulled within 10 of King with 5:21 to play in Division 3 before the Crusaders scored again, and Onekama pulled within 10 of Rapid River in 8-Player Division 2 less than a minute into the fourth quarter before ultimately losing by 12. New Lothrop didn’t take the lead for good until 3:27 was left in Division 7, and as noted, Chippewa Valley escaped Clarkston by stopping a 2-point conversion try during the final minute in Division 1.

QB power: Elite quarterback play was on display all over the Finals. We talked a lot above about the heroics of Avery Moore and Austin Brown in Division 7 and Morrice's Hunter Nowak in 8-Player Division 1. In Division 3, Muskegon’s Cameron Martinez ran for 211 yards and two scores and threw a touchdown pass, while King’s Dequan Finn threw for 173 yards and four touchdowns and ran for 73 and a score. Tommy Schuster’s numbers for Chippewa Valley included the perfect passing for 205 yards and two touchdowns, and his Clarkston counterpart Jake Jensen ran for 121 yards and a score and completed 10-of-15 passes for 110 yards and a touchdown. Isaac TeSlaa led Unity Christian with 97 yards and two touchdowns on the round and completed 3 of 4 passes for 70 yards and a third score. Carter Staley kept his team in the Division 8 game with 14-of-19 passing for 177 yards and two touchdowns. Nolan Schultz ran for three touchdowns and a team-high 55 yards and completed 8-of-13 passes for 189 and a score for DeLaSalle.

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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.)