By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
One MHSAA Playoffs week is done, with four to go. Here’s some of what we’ve seen so far:
• We had the fifth-highest scoring game in MHSAA history, where the losing team scored at least 40 points, and two more that saw teams combine to blow past 100 points. Another game passed 90, and a handful more saw more than 80 points put on the board.
• We will have at least two new champions. Central Lake in 8-Player Division 1 didn’t qualify for this postseason, and five-time reigning Division 5 champion Grand Rapids West Catholic was eliminated over the weekend.
So with those as a start, this week – as with most first weeks of the MHSAA Playoffs – was filled with rematches from the regular season, a few upsets and many more wins to set up bigger games in the next round. Read on for a few notes on four of the most intriguing results from each division.
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HEADLINER: East Kentwood 31, Brighton 28 The Falcons (9-1) came back from an early 14-point deficit to earn their first playoff win since 2014. East Kentwood’s field goal was the only score of the second half. Brighton finished 7-3 but with two losses by a combined eight points. Click for more from FOX 17.
East Kentwood 31, Brighton 28 https://t.co/q7MduWtajQ
— FOX 17 Blitz (@FOX17Blitz) October 28, 2018
More shoutouts: Rockford 18, Traverse City West 13 The Rams (6-4) hit the road to defeat the Big North Conference champion Titans (7-3). Macomb Dakota 21, Romeo 17 The Cougars (8-2) beat Romeo (6-4) for the second time this fall by seven or fewer points, this time to set up a rematch with rival Clinton Township Chippewa Valley. Dearborn Fordson 24, Grosse Pointe South 17 The Tractors (9-1) scored 21 unanswered fourth-quarter points, and their 24 total were the second most given up this season by the Blue Devils (8-2).
HEADLINER: Okemos 31, Jackson 22 The Chiefs (7-3) have reached their highest win total and won their first playoff game both since 2011 under first-year coach Mike Krumm. This victory also ended a dream season for Jackson (9-1), which won its first league title in more than 70 years and (research pending) may have achieved its first perfect regular season. Click for more from State Champs Sports Network.
— STATE CHAMPS! (@statechampsnet) October 27, 2018
More shoutouts: South Lyon 31, Dexter 24 (OT) The Lions (10-0) held on to extend their winningest season since 2004 with their first playoff win since 2011, ending Dexter’s first playoff season ever at 6-4. Jenison 64, Traverse City Central 43 The Wildcats (7-3) emerged from this offensively-charged matchup with their first playoff win since 2001 and despite Central (7-3) scoring its second-most points in a game this season. Temperance Bedford 55, Dearborn Heights Crestwood 21 The Mules (6-4) continued their surge after a 2-4 start, ending the winningest season for Crestwood (8-2) since 1991.
HEADLINER: Detroit Martin Luther King 7, River Rouge 6 These two entered the playoffs both averaging more than 40 points per game. But the Crusaders (8-2) bounced back from giving up 42 to Cass Tech in Week 9 by holding River Rouge (8-2) to single digits – not just for the second time this year, but the second time in four seasons. The Panthers’ defense, for its part, gave up only 24 points over its final eight game after a 40-7 loss to Cass in the season opener. Click for more from MLive-Detroit.
— STATE CHAMPS! (@statechampsnet) October 27, 2018
More shoutouts: Parma Western 21, Mattawan 14 (OT) The Panthers (9-1) held on to celebrate the first playoff win in program history. Mattawan finished 5-5 but with three straight losses by seven points or fewer. Battle Creek Central 25, Middleville Thornapple Kellogg 24 The Bearcats (7-3) earned their first playoff win since 2004, coming back after the Trojans (7-3) got off to a fast start. Muskegon 42, East Grand Rapids 35 The Big Reds (10-0) held on in one of their few close games of this season and a rematch of their 49-21 Week 3 win over the Pioneers (6-4).
HEADLINER: Chelsea 28, Grosse Ile 21 The Bulldogs (7-3) didn’t make the loudest noise this season coming out of a Southeastern Conference White that saw Jackson and Dexter both receive statewide acclaim for their best seasons ever. But Chelsea earned its moment with this upset of the previously-unbeaten Red Devils (9-1). Click for more from the Sun Times News.
More shoutouts: Paw Paw 14, Three Rivers 7 After being shut out by Three Rivers 26-0 in Week 5, Paw Paw (8-2) beat the Wildcats (8-2) for the first time since 2014 and scored on them for the first time since 2015. Escanaba 27, Ludington 20 The Eskymos (8-2) will play for a third straight District title thanks to a late score against the Orioles (7-3). North Branch 44, Croswell-Lexington 41 The Broncos (8-2) earned their first playoff win since 2006, coming back to beat the Pioneers (6-4) after falling to them 45-26 only two weeks earlier.
HEADLINER: Clare 42, Manistee 28 The Jack Pine Conference co-champ earned a District Final rematch with Reed City by ending Manistee’s best season of the playoff era at 9-1. The Pioneers (9-1) tied the most points given up this season by the Chippewas, who rebounded from 2-7 a year ago. Click for more from the Mount Pleasant Morning Sun and see below for highlights from MI Sports Now.
— MISportsNow (@MISportsNow) October 27, 2018
More shoutouts: Hudsonville Unity Christian 41, Grand Rapids West Catholic 22 The Crusaders (8-2) ended West Catholic’s opportunity to extend its Division 5 title reign to six seasons, handing the Falcons (5-5) their earliest playoff departure since 2005. Hopkins 46, Berrien Springs 6 In a clash of league champions, Ottawa-Kent Conference Silver winner Hopkins (9-1) impressed against Berrien-Cass-St. Joseph Conference Red champ Berrien Springs (7-3). Lansing Catholic 22, Olivet 21 Quarterback Josh Kramer scored and then threw the game-winning two-point conversion pass with 47 seconds to play as Lansing Catholic (9-1) edged the Greater Lansing Activities Conference champion Eagles (8-2).
HEADLINER: Millington 50, Ithaca 33 These teams met for the first time since 2014, when Ithaca won a District Final 35-0. This time, the Yellowjackets (8-2) were contained to their shortest season since not making the playoffs in 2008. Millington (7-3) will play for its third straight District title coming off its second game this season scoring 50 or more points, led by running back Jack Shreve’s 194 yards and three touchdowns rushing. Click for more from the Saginaw News and see highlights below from WEYI.
— NBC25 / FOX66 News (@nbc25fox66) October 27, 2018
More shoutouts: Delton Kellogg 86, Niles Brandywine 50 – These teams – both 7-3 – combined to score the fifth-most points in a game in MHSAA history where the losing team put up at least 40. Among record book-worthy performances, Shane Brown caught five touchdown passes for the Bobcats, but they couldn’t keep up with a Panthers’ offense averaging 41 points per game. Michigan Center 35, Grass Lake 6 The Cardinals (9-1) may have fallen short of the Cascades Conference championship because of a four-point loss to eventual title winner Grass Lake in Week 6, but they’ll move on to a District Final after this big rematch win. Blissfield 21, Hillsdale 10 The Royals (6-4) avenged a 10-point Week 6 loss to the Lenawee County Athletic Association co-champion Hornets (8-2), despite getting outgained in yardage 257-191.
HEADLINER: Saugatuck 49, Kent City 28 A live cable audience (FOX Sports Detroit) was able to enjoy this high-scoring matchup, which saw the reigning Division 7 runner-up Indians (9-1) pull away after the teams were tied 21-21 at halftime. Kent City (8-2) gave Saugatuck its closest game since a Week 4 loss to Schoolcraft. Click for more from the Holland Sentinel and see highlights below from WOOD TV.
— Jack Doles (@jackdoles) October 27, 2018
More shoutouts: Lake City 30, North Muskegon 28 The Trojans (10-0) kept their unbeaten season alive, but with their second two-point win this fall and second by seven or fewer points over the last two weeks. North Muskegon (5-5) scored the most points Lake City has given up this season. Allen Park Cabrini 7, Detroit Community 6 The Monarchs (6-4) held on after scoring during the first quarter for their first playoff win since 2007, in the first playoff game ever for Community (8-2). Centreville 16, Union City 14 The Bulldogs (9-1) reached nine wins for the first time at least in the playoff era, just holding off the Chargers (6-4).
HEADLINER: Reading 65, Pittsford 48 This was another one that will make the record books as these teams combined for 113 points. A fun fact is that Pittsford (7-3) scored more points than Reading had given up this entire season (40) heading into the night – but the Rangers (10-0) also upped their average to 52 per game with their highest output of this fall. Click for more from the Hillsdale Daily News.
More shoutouts: Harbor Beach 26, Saginaw Nouvel 6 The Pirates (9-1) avenged last season’s one-point District Final loss to Nouvel (6-4), which went on last year to finish Division 8 runner-up. Ubly 30, Saginaw Michigan Lutheran Seminary 28 The Cardinals (7-3) seemed like an intriguing contender in Division 8 with previous losses only to Division 6 teams, but Ubly (8-2) made the Division 7 Semifinals two years ago and might be ready for another run. Dansville 29, Sterling Heights Parkway Christian 20 The Aggies (7-3) couldn’t get past reigning Division 7 champion Pewamo-Westphalia in their league this fall, but Division 8 should be on the lookout after they handed Parkway (9-1) its only defeat.
8-Player Division 1
HEADLINER: Deckerville 54, Kingston 16 The Eagles (8-2) are off and running again, earning an opportunity to win a fifth straight Regional title by dispatching rival Kingston (8-2) for the second time this fall – and after winning the first meeting by only 18. Click for more from the Huron Daily Tribune.
More shoutouts: AuGres-Sims 58, Mayville 6 After 12 tries in 11-player, first-year 8-player AuGres-Sims (10-0) earned its first playoff win to end Mayville’s second straight 5-5 season. Bellevue 54, Battle Creek St. Philip 6 The second-place Broncos (9-1) earned a rematch with Southern Central Athletic Association A champion Colon after winning this second meeting with St. Philip (6-4) in four weeks. Colon 58, Camden-Frontier 14 The Magi (9-1) came back from a Week 9 loss to beat Camden-Frontier (5-5) for the second time this season.
8-Player Division 2
HEADLINER: Crystal Falls Forest Park 36, Powers North Central 24 The reigning champion Trojans (6-4) opened the playoffs with a win over Jets for the second straight season, but this one hardly was expected after North Central (8-2) won their first meeting 52-28 in Week 6. Click for more from the Iron Mountain Daily News.
More shoutouts: Rapid River 20, Engadine 18 The Rockets (7-3) had fallen 30-12 to Engadine (8-2) only two weeks earlier and also in last season’s playoff opener. Brethren 42, Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart 26 The West Michigan D League champion Bobcats (7-3) bounced back from a Week 9 loss to win their first playoff game since 1990 and end the Irish’s first season of 8-player at 7-3. Tekonsha 28, New Haven Merritt 22 (OT) The SCAA B champion Indians (6-4) earned their first playoff win in their second postseason game all-time, downing the Northern Central Thumb League White champion Mustangs (6-4).
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PHOTO: A Kent City ball carrier charges through a hole in the Saugatuck defense, but the Indians went on to win the Division 7 playoff opener that was broadcast live on FOX Sports Detroit. (Photo by John Johnson.)
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.)