By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
Revenge is a dish best served during the playoffs.
And a number of MHSAA title hopefuls enjoyed their shares of the buffet this weekend.
Six of nine playoff divisions saw a team win either an 11-player District championship or 8-player Regional title by avenging a loss from earlier this season. Others avenged losses from playoff runs past – or in a few cases, years of just missing against rivals.
All games at this level of the tournament are big, of course, and below are just a sampling of results that stuck out most from the second round.
Clarkston 31, Davison 14
Clarkston (9-2) handed Davison its first and only loss this season on the power of a rushing game that tallied 303 yards and nearly 9.5 per carry. Davison (10-1) scored the game’s first touchdown in the first quarter, but didn’t reach the end zone again until quarterback Brenden McRill ran for his second score midway through the fourth. The District Final was the Cardinals’ first since 2008. Click for more from the Oakland Press.
Grandville 20, Rockford 9 – The Bulldogs (10-1) broke a 14-game losing streak to the Rams (7-4), who had beaten Grandville 7-6 in Week 6 and in the playoffs three times over the last 11 seasons.
Saline 37, Canton 31 – The Yellowjackets (11-0) came back from a 10-0 deficit as quarterback Zach Schwartzenberger threw two touchdown passes and ran for a third score to get Saline ahead of the Chiefs (8-3).
Detroit Cass Tech 24, Dearborn 7 – Dearborn (9-2) succeeded in holding Cass Tech (11-0) to its season low in points, but also scored its fewest since Week 5 of 2015.
Fenton 49, Midland Dow 42
Fenton scored last, with 2:10 to play, on quarterback Josh Czarnota’s second touchdown pass to go with four touchdown runs as the Tigers (9-2) won their first District title since 2011. Czarnota threw for 264 yards and ran for 166 in a dual with Dow quarterback Bruce Mann, who tossed four touchdown passes with 238 yards and also ran for 127 yards and two scores. The Chargers finished 9-2. Click for more from the Flint Journal.
Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central 27, Portage Central 13 – The Rangers (9-2) added a District title to their best season since 1995, and after finishing 2-7 each of the last two; Portage Central finished 9-2, one win better than a year ago.
Birmingham Groves 24, Birmingham Brother Rice 0 – These neighbors don’t play often; that said, Groves (10-1) earned its first win over the Warriors since 1963 as Rice (7-4) had won their last eight meetings.
Temperance Bedford 39, Livonia Franklin 22 – The Mules (9-2) are another who have shined after a middling go in 2015; they have as many wins this fall as the last two seasons combined and eliminated a Franklin team that made the Semifinals last season and finished this one 7-4.
Chelsea 27, Coldwater 20
This rematch of last season’s Division 3 Semifinal was much closer than Chelsea’s 35-7 victory a year ago. The Bulldogs (11-0) won their third straight District title this time by scoring a touchdown with six seconds left to break a 20-20 tie – and with the win earned a Regional matchup with also-undefeated Edwardsburg. Coldwater finished 8-3. Click for more from the Ann Arbor News.
Byron Center 55, Grand Rapids Christian 28 – The Bulldogs (10-1) got to 10 wins for the first time since 2000 with a second District title in four seasons; Grand Rapids Christian finished its best season in four at 9-2.
Muskegon 28, East Grand Rapids 10 – The Big Reds (10-1) won their fifth straight District title by ending a seven-game winning streak for the Pioneers (8-3).
Allen Park 34, Romulus 0 – The Jaguars (11-0) tied their most wins since 2004 in ending the winningest season for Romulus (9-2) since 2000.
Hudsonville Unity Christian 35, Benton Harbor 34 (OT)
Unity Christian (9-2) continued the best season of its 14-year history while ending another incredible run by the Tigers. Benton Harbor followed up last season’s first-ever playoff run and 6-5 finish (after a combined 0-18 the previous two years) with a program-best 10-1 record this fall. Both teams scored in overtime, but the Crusaders stopped the Tigers’ conversion run attempt to win a second straight District title. Click for more from WZZM.
Lake Odessa Lakewood 36, Lansing Sexton 28 – These teams combined for more than 750 yards of total offense, but Lakewood (10-1) reached 10 wins for the first time by holding on despite two touchdown passes by Jackson Barnes over the final 10 minutes that kept Sexton (7-4) in the mix.
Detroit Country Day 45, Marysville 7 – Country Day (11-0) got touchdowns from six players, including one on defense after an interception to hand Marysville (10-1) its lone loss.
Adrian 28, Milan 13 – The Maples (7-4) made good on an at-large bid by claiming a District title against the team that beat them on opening night, 27-13; Milan finished 9-2 and has totaled at least nine wins four of the last five seasons.
Grand Rapids West Catholic 10, Portland 7
Offense was at a premium during this matchup of teams that previously combined to average 74 points per game this fall. But West Catholic kicker Liam Putz found a score when it mattered most, drilling a 31-yard field goal with four seconds to play to send the reigning champion Falcons (9-2) onward and end the Raiders’ season at 10-1. Click for more from WZZM.
Ithaca 47, Muskegon Oakridge 6 – It’s fair to call this a statement win for the Yellowjackets (11-0), as Oakridge (9-2) arguably was their strongest opponent to date; it’s also accurate to note that Ithaca suddenly has a 25-game winning streak.
Frankenmuth 49, Freeland 14 – Only two weeks ago, Frankenmuth (10-1) fell 7-3 to the Falcons (10-1); last year Freeland beat the Eagles twice in the same scenario.
Reed City 34, Remus Chippewa Hills 28 – The Coyotes (11-0) have had five 10-win seasons over the last six, but 10 was the max – until Reed City broke through with a second victory over Chippewa Hills (9-2) this season by six points or fewer.
Jackson Lumen Christi 37, Schoolcraft 34 (OT)
Abe Johnson’s 13-yard field goal in overtime clinched Lumen Christi’s third straight District title, this one over a pre-playoff title favorite in the Eagles (10-1). The Titans (9-2) are hoping to win their first MHSAA championship since 2009, and took a major step after managing to slightly slow a Schoolcraft offense that came in averaging 46 points per game and had scored fewer than 40 only once. Click for more from the Jackson Citizen-Patriot.
Napoleon 42, Grass Lake 21 – The Pirates (9-2) avenged a Week 2 loss to Cascades Conference rival Grass Lake (9-2) to advance to the third round of the playoffs for the first time.
Calumet 6, Negaunee 0 – The Miners (10-1) also were a popular championship favorite heading into the playoffs with their closest game coming from … Calumet (10-1), which fell to Negaunee 14-6 in Week 2.
Detroit Central Collegiate 26, Warren Michigan Collegiate 22 – The Trail Blazers (7-4) won their first District title since 2010, ending the best season for the Charter School Conference champion Cougars (9-2) since 2011.
Pewamo-Westphalia 25, Saugatuck 19
Few games in any division could match the star power generated by P-W running back Jared Smith and Saugatuck quarterback Blake Dunn, who combined as juniors to run for just shy of 6,000 yards. Smith ran for 222 yards and two scores Saturday to help the Pirates (11-0) hold on against the previously undefeated Indians (10-1) for their sixth straight District title. Click for more from the Ionia Sentinel-Standard.
Detroit Loyola 46, Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett 7 – The Bulldogs (9-2) eliminated a league champion for the second straight round, following up last week’s victory over Madison Heights Madison with this one over Michigan Independent Athletic Conference winner Liggett (10-1).
Concord 48, Homer 32 – The Yellowjackets (9-2) could’ve fallen victim to revenge, but stretched out the margin a little after beating Homer (8-3) only 28-26 in Week 2.
Ubly 24, Unionville-Sebewaing 16 – The story was similar for Ubly (11-0), which kept its best season since 2010 going with another win over opening-night opponent USA (9-2).
Norway 40, Lake Linden-Hubbell 16
Opportunities for upset get fewer later in the tournament, but this may fall into that category based on past history. Norway (9-2) continued to forget last year’s 2-7 finish and five straight sub-.500 seasons with a first District title since 2006, earning it against a Lakes team that finished the regular season undefeated for the second season in a row and at 10-1 posted its most wins since 2009. Click for more from the Houghton Daily Mining Gazette.
Royal Oak Shrine 49, Clarkston Everest Collegiate 25 – The Knights (9-2) started their four-game winning streak last month against Everest Collegiate and won their first District title since 2008 with a second win over the Mountaineers (8-3).
Climax-Scotts 28, Mendon 14 – For the second straight season, undefeated Climax-Scotts (11-0) downed playoff rival Mendon (8-3), this time for a second straight District title.
Frankfort 38, Lincoln Alcona 34 – The Panthers (11-0) have had only a few scares this season, and needed a touchdown during the final minute to avoid falling to the Tigers (9-2).
Powers North Central 60, Crystal Falls Forest Park 50
Forest Park (9-2) made the margin in this growing Upper Peninsula rivalry even closer in this season’s rematch, but the Jets still pulled away. North Central (11-0) had beaten the Trojans by 18 in Week 2, but scored twice during the fourth quarter to keep its perfect record as an 8-player program intact at 24-0. The teams combined for 1,022 yards of total offense, and the stars shone brightly; Jets quarterback Jason Whitens threw for 286 yards and four touchdowns and ran for 114 yards and four more scores, while Forest Park running back Dan Nocerini capped his high school career with 50 carries for 260 yards and five touchdowns on the ground. Click for more from the Escanaba Daily Press.
Other Regional Finals:
Pickford 30, Engadine 28 – The Panthers (10-1) earned a 10th win for the first time since 1991, avenging a 10-point loss to Engadine in Week 3 by handing the Eagles (10-1) their lone defeat.
Wyoming Tri-unity Christian 28, Portland St. Patrick 10 – The Defenders’ first playoff run now includes handing St. Patrick (10-1) its only loss while improving to 11-0.
Deckerville 58, New Haven Merritt 12 – The Eagles (10-0) arguably have been even more dominant than North Central, and only seemed to be getting stronger in handing Merritt (10-1) its first loss.
PHOTO: Fenton (orange helmet) bulled through a tough matchup with Midland Dow to advance in Division 2. (Click to see more from HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)
LAWRENCE — If redshirting was a thing in high school, at least two coaches at Lawrence would stick that label on senior John Schuman.
“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.
Guillean 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.”
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.
Gribler 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 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 email@example.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.)