Drive for Detroit: 11-Player Semis Review

November 25, 2019

By Geoff Kimmerly
Special for Second Half

Buckle up. We’re headed for the home stretch.

The final 16 contenders for this season’s MHSAA 11-player football championships were set over the weekend, and Detroit on Friday and Saturday will be the final stop to conclude another memorable season.

Below we discuss all 16 Semifinals just a bit, with more detailed previews of the championship games coming out Wednesday. We’ll also include this past weekend’s 8-Player Finals – congratulations to first-time champions Colon and Pickford! – when we wrap up our review of the MHSAA Football Finals as a whole next week.

“Drive for Detroit” is powered by MI Student Aid

Division 1

Brighton 22, Belleville 19

The Bulldogs (11-2) will play in their first MHSAA Final in football, while Belleville ended its season in the Semifinals for the second-straight year. Brighton scored with under a minute left to earn the first championship game trip, and also held Belleville (12-1) to its fewest points scored this season. Click for more from the Livingston Daily Press & Argus.

Davison 34, Sterling Heights Stevenson 27 (OT)

The Cardinals (11-2) also will play in their first MHSAA football championship game after outlasting Stevenson. Davison, playing its first Semifinal since 2008, trailed throughout but caught up before the end of regulation and then made a stop in overtime to finish the comeback. The Titans (8-5) had made the playoffs as an additional qualifier before reaching their first Semifinal since 2009. Click for more from the Flint Journal.

Division 2

Muskegon Mona Shores 57, Walled Lake Western 56

The reigning Division 2 runner-up Sailors (11-2) booked their return to Ford Field with a touchdown with 17 seconds to play followed by a go-ahead 2-point conversion instead of kicking an extra point – making back-up quarterback Brady Rose one of the biggest stars of the weekend. Walled Lake Western (11-2) was playing in its fourth Semifinal this decade and tied its most points scored in a game this fall. Click for more from the Muskegon Chronicle.

Detroit Martin Luther King 60, Birmingham Seaholm 17

The Crusaders (11-2) will play for a second-straight MHSAA Finals championship to follow up last season’s won in Division 3. The reached 60 points for the first time since Week 5 of 2017 and held Seaholm (9-4) to nearly 20 points before its average. The Maples were playing in their first Semifinal since 1997. Click for more from MLive-Detroit.

Division 3

Muskegon 28, DeWitt 21

The Big Reds (13-0) outlasted DeWitt in their only playoff games decided by fewer than 38 points, and one of only two games they played decided by single digits this fall. Last season’s Division 3 runner-up, Muskegon went ahead to stay with just more than two minutes remaining and held off a final rally by the Panthers (10-3), who were playing in their fifth Semifinal this decade. Click for more from the Muskegon Chronicle.

River Rouge 14, Chelsea 7

The Panthers (12-1) likewise received their toughest challenge of the playoffs, as Chelsea gave them one of only three games decided by single digits this season. River Rouge scored both of its touchdowns during the fourth quarter after Chelsea (12-1) led for a quarter and a half. The Bulldogs were trying for their second-straight trip to the Finals after finishing Division 4 runner-up a year ago. Click for more from the Detroit News.

Division 4

Grand Rapids Catholic Central 56, Hudsonville Unity Christian 17

The Cougars (12-1) will play for their third Division 4 championship in four years after eliminating last season’s Division 5 title winner, Unity (9-4). It was the seventh time these teams met in the playoffs this decade, and fifth time the result went GRCC’s way. The Cougars scored their most points this season in earning the trip to Detroit. Click for more from the Grand Rapids Press.

Detroit Country Day 21, Flint Powers Catholic 0

Country Day (13-0) will return to Ford Field for the first time since 2016 (when it also faced GRCC) after posting its fourth shutout this season. It’s easy to marvel at the Yellowjackets’ defense, which is now giving up just 5.2 points per game. Powers (10-3) was playing in its third Semifinal this decade and capped its best run since 2015. Click for more from the Oakland Press.

Division 5

Lansing Catholic 28, Kingsley 14

The Cougars (12-1) are known for offense, but headed to Ford Field for the first time since 2014 as much thanks to a defensive effort that held Kingsley (12-1) nearly 32 points below its season average. Lansing Catholic is giving up only 13 points per game. Click for more from the Lansing State Journal.

Almont 36, Detroit Denby 8

In its third Semifinal this decade, Almont (13-0) advanced to its first football championship game also with another outstanding defensive performance. The Raiders lowered their points-given-up average to 10 with their best showing of the playoffs, halting Denby’s longest playoff run and most successful season at 10-3.

Division 6

Maple City Glen Lake 31, Montague 30 (OT)

The Lakers (12-1) are headed to their second MHSAA Final in four seasons thanks to a mighty comeback against last season’s Division 6 runner-up. Glen Lake trailed by 14 with under five minutes left in regulation, but pushed the game to overtime with a touchdown pass on the last play of the fourth quarter. Montague (10-3) finished with three losses this fall by a combined 13 points. Click for more from the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central 17, Onsted 14

St. Mary will play in its third Final this decade and first since winning Division 6 in 2014 thanks to Wyatt Bergmoser’s 20-yard field goal on the game’s final play. The Falcons (11-1) held off an Onsted team that finished 10-3 and rallied after a 2-2 start to reach the Semifinals for the first time since 1993. The close win for SMCC came after its last two playoff runs ended in Regional Final losses by two and one point. Click for more from the Monroe News.

Division 7

Pewamo-Westphalia 43, Iron Mountain 7

Friday night at the Superior Dome at Northern Michigan University saw two undefeated teams meet and P-W (13-0) earn its fourth trip to Ford Field over the last five seasons. After giving up 35 points to reigning champ New Lothrop in a one-point win the week before, the Pirates’ defense bounced back to hold the Mountaineers (12-1) to their season low. Click for more from the Lansing State Journal.

Jackson Lumen Christi 27, Cass City 0

Lumen Christi scored one point less than Cass City had given up over the last 10 weeks combined, finding enough openings against one of the state’s most accomplished defenses to reach a fourth-straight Final. The Titans (12-0) also posted their second shutout of the fall, like P-W bouncing back on that side of the ball after giving up 30 in a Regional Final. Cass City finished 11-2 in reaching the Semifinals for the first time. Click for more from the Jackson Citizen-Patriot.

Division 8

Beal City 21, Ubly 20

The Aggies (12-1) came back from an early 14-0 deficit to edge Ubly and reach the MHSAA Finals for the first time since back-to-back trips in 2012 and 2013. The Bearcats went for the win after a last-minute score, but Beal City made a stop on the conversion and again after Ubly (10-3) recovered the ensuing onside kick. Click for more from the Mount Pleasant Morning Sun.

Reading 62, Fowler 18

The reigning champ has earned an opportunity to repeat, as Reading (12-1) put up 60 points for the third time this season and held the Eagles scoreless during the second half. Fowler, playing in its first Semifinal since 2011, finished with its best record since that fall at 11-2. Click for more from the Hillsdale Daily News.

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PHOTO: Detroit King's Terence Maize (99) wraps up Birmingham Seaholm's Chaz Strecker during the Crusaders' Division 2 Semifinal win Saturday. (Photo by Terry Lyons.)

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.)