By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
Welcome to the encore.
This week, we’ve got one of the state’s most heated rivalries, two meetings of undefeated teams, and plenty of matchups fans have been anticipating to decide District titles in 11-player and Regional championships in the 8-player divisions.
We’d love for you to check out one (or more) of the 72 games being played across the state this weekend. We also have eight being broadcast either on Prep Zone by FOX Sports Detroit or MHSAA.tv. The MHSAA playoff scoreboard page is home to results and next week’s games as they’re determined. The MHSAA Playoffs are sponsored by the Michigan Army National Guard, and “Drive for Detroit” is sponsored by MI Student Aid.
11-Player Division 1
Canton (9-1) at Belleville (10-0), Friday
The Chiefs eliminated one popular championship contender last week in downing Saline 42-12, and now get an opportunity against another of similar regard in the undefeated Tigers. Belleville has tied its most wins ever, with 10 for the first time since 1995, giving up 8.3 points per game. Canton will counter with an offense averaging 42 points per game; the Chiefs haven’t scored fewer than 35 since losing to Muskegon Mona Shores on opening night.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Rochester Adams (9-1) at Utica Eisenhower (10-0), West Bloomfield (8-2) at Waterford Mott (9-1), Rockford (7-3) at Holland West Ottawa (9-1), SATURDAY Clarkston (8-2) at Davison (9-1).
11-Player Division 2
Traverse City Central (7-3) vs. Traverse City West (9-1) at Thirlby Field, Friday
One of the state’s best rivalries will write another chapter on the home field they share. West defeated Central 29-27 in their first meeting this season, in Week 3. Central won both of last year’s meetings, by two during the regular season and one in the playoffs as the teams met in the postseason for the first time. Central’s record doesn’t lend it enough credit; since falling to West the first time the Trojans have taken nonleague losses to playoff teams Portage Central and Birmingham Brother Rice, and then stunned Midland 21-13 on the road last week. West has kept churning too, downing Benton Harbor and bouncing back from a Week 9 loss to Coldwater (both opponents also playoff bound) to beat Midland Dow by 30 in their playoff opener.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Muskegon Mona Shores (9-1) at Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central (10-0), Livonia Franklin (8-2) at Livonia Churchill (8-2), Flushing (8-2) at Fenton (9-1), Detroit East English (9-1) at Detroit Martin Luther King (9-1).
11-Player Division 3
Cedar Springs (7-3) at DeWitt (9-1), Friday
Cedar Springs opened the playoffs last week with arguably the biggest upset win in the state, downing undefeated East Grand Rapids at EGR. The Red Hawks won’t sneak up on anyone else. They’ve set a record with 401 points this season and even put up 44 in a loss to Grand Rapids Christian, but will be challenged by a DeWitt defense giving up only 10.3 points per game. The Panthers also lost to Grand Rapids Christian this year, in Week 1, but avenged that loss with a 42-10 victory over the Eagles in their playoff opener. No opponent has gotten within 24 points of DeWitt since Division 1 playoff qualifier Grand Ledge in Week 2.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Stevensville Lakeshore (9-1) at Battle Creek Harper Creek (10-0), Riverview (9-1) at Gibraltar Carlson (9-1), Haslett (8-2) at East Lansing (8-2), Farmington Hills Harrison (7-3) at Warren Woods-Tower (8-2).
11-Player Division 4
Grand Rapids Catholic Central (10-0) at Wyoming Kelloggsville (10-0), Friday
These teams both are averaging nearly 42 points per game behind two of the state’s most powerful rushing attacks. That would seem to point to the other side of the ball; both defenses are giving up a little more than two touchdowns per game. But GRCC’s biggest wins (over Comstock Park and Grand Rapids West Catholic) were in close games where the scores got big, and it could be that kind of back-and-forth offensive display in this one as well with both offenses so loaded.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Three Rivers (8-2) at Edwardsburg (9-1), River Rouge (8-2) at Chelsea (9-1), Alma (8-2) at Escanaba (8-2), SATURDAY Detroit Mumford (7-3) at Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood (9-1).
11-Player Division 5
Clare (9-1) at Reed City (9-1), Friday
Reed City quietly has one of the most consistently successful programs in Michigan. One more win and the Coyotes will have 10 for the sixth time in seven seasons, and even as their 18-game regular-season winning streak ended on opening night against Montague – Reed City hasn’t lost since. Clare is similarly consistent, especially in Jack Pine Conference play, and also hasn’t lost since opening night (to Ithaca) to reach nine wins for the first time since 2012. Both have similarly sizable wins against playoff qualifier Remus Chippewa Hills – Clare’s last week to avenge a 2016 playoff loss – indicating this might be a tightly contested matchup.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Menominee (7-3) at Kingsford (8-1), Carrollton (7-3) at Saginaw Swan Valley (9-1), Lansing Catholic (8-2) at Portland (9-1), Marine City (8-2) at Frankenmuth (10-0).
11-Player Division 6
Kent City (10-0) at Montague (10-0), Friday
Few teams this season have as impressive a resume as Montague, which in addition to handing the lone losses to Reed City and Muskegon Catholic Central has six shutouts over its 10 games. The Wildcats now also have a chance to avenge last year’s one-point playoff opener loss to Kent City, which has built a likewise impressive body of work this fall. The 10 wins are a program record, and a District title would be the Eagles’ first in this sport.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Michigan City (9-1) at Jackson Lumen Christi (8-1), Detroit Central (8-2) at Warren Michigan Collegiate (10-0), Houghton Lake (7-3) at Millington (9-1), SATURDAY Maple City Glen Lake (7-2) vs. Traverse City St. Francis (9-1).
11-Player Division 7
Pewamo-Westphalia (9-1) at New Lothrop (10-0), Friday
The Hornets are hoping their annual regular-season success pays off this fall with a first MHSAA Finals trip since 2006. The Hornets are a combined 86-6 since the start of 2010 and only one of those losses came during the regular season – they’ve reached the Semifinals three times this decade but just missed taking that next step again. A game like the Week 1 win over Lake Fenton surely was meant to prepare the Hornets for matchups like this one with the reigning Division 7 champion Pirates, who despite graduating the second-leading rusher in MHSAA history is riding a nine-game winning streak and scoring 43 points per game versus last year’s 46.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Reading (8-2) at Cassopolis (9-1), Riverview Gabriel Richard (9-1) at Madison Heights Madison (10-0), Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port Laker (9-1) at Cass City (9-1), SATURDAY Ishpeming Westwood (9-1) at Lake City (10-0).
11-Player Division 8
Muskegon Catholic Central (8-1) at Mendon (10-0), Saturday
This might be the most anticipated small-school matchup in Michigan so far this season – the reigning four-time Division 8 champion against an 11-time MHSAA title winner now revived. The Hornets ran for 415 yards in last week’s 28-12 win over St. Joseph Lake Michigan Catholic, and that ability to hold onto the ball will be necessary against a Crusaders attack led by dynamic dual threat quarterback Cameron Martinez (see 2H feature Tuesday).
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Norway (9-1) at Iron River West Iron County (9-1), Harbor Beach (9-1) at Saginaw Nouvel (10-0), Climax-Scotts (8-2) at Pittsford (9-1), SATURDAY Frankfort (7-2) at Gaylord St. Mary (10-0).
8-Player Division 1
Morrice (9-1) at Deckerville (9-1), Friday
Morrice broke Deckerville’s 16-game regular-season winning streak with a 33-32 Week 5 win that announced the Orioles as MHSAA championship contenders – even though they were then beaten by Kingsford a week later. Morrice avenged that loss last week and now must avoid falling by the same fate to the reigning Finals runner-up Eagles, who have amped up the offense by scoring 250 of their 496 points this season over the last four weeks.
Other Regional Finals: FRIDAY Cedarville (8-2) at Stephenson (8-2), Suttons Bay (7-3) at Central Lake (10-0), Lawrence (5-5) at Bellevue (9-1).
8-Player Division 2
Onekama (9-1) at Pickford (10-0), Saturday
Perhaps the most impressive part of Pickford’s dominance this season has come on the defensive side of the ball. The Panthers are giving up only 9.6 points per game, which just doesn’t happen much in the wide-open 8-player game – and is half as many points as they gave up while reaching the Semifinals a year ago. Enter Onekama, averaging 51 points per game – only a few behind Pickford’s 56 and against a similarly competitive slate.
Other Regional Finals: FRIDAY Engadine (8-2) at Crystal Falls Forest Park (7-2), Bay City All Saints (7-3) at Kinde-North Huron (9-1), SATURDAY Flint International Academy (8-2) at Portland St. Patrick (9-1).
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PHOTO: Clare, here against Ithaca in Week 1, will play for a District title tonight against Reed City. (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.)