By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
The postseason in any sport is a time mostly for celebrating success, as teams achieve first-time milestones or finish by bringing home the ultimate MHSAA prize.
Sadly, every week also means the end to seasons and high school careers. Two more 2017 champions saw their repeat attempts conclude this weekend, and a handful of title favorites just a few weeks ago also saw their runs halted.
We glance below at many of those storylines from the second round of the MHSAA Playoffs – noting as always that any football team making it to early November should be proud, whenever its run is done. “Drive for Detroit” is powered by MI Student Aid.
HEADLINER: Dearborn Fordson 41, Detroit Cass Tech 14 That Fordson won surely stunned some statewide, and especially by this margin. But the Tractors (10-1) entered the playoffs last month with just one loss for the third straight season and fell to Cass Tech (10-1) by only five points in their 2017 District Final matchup. That said, this was the eighth playoff meeting over the last decade between these two – and the Technicians won the first seven. Click for more from the Detroit Free Press and see highlights below from The D Zone.
Video Highlights: #6 Fordson beat #1 Cass Tech 41-14 for the District Championship??
— The D Zone (@TheD_Zone) November 5, 2018
More shoutouts: Saline 42, East Kentwood 7 The Southeastern Conference Red champ Hornets (10-1) scored 21 points in the third quarter and got near-perfect passing from quarterback Andrew Arbaugh to down the Ottawa-Kent Conference Red champ Falcons (9-2). Clinton Township Chippewa Valley 51, Macomb Dakota 10 The Macomb Area Conference Red champion Big Reds (11-0) made this much more comfortable than when they edged league co-runner-up Dakota (8-3) by seven in Week 5. West Bloomfield 20, Detroit Catholic Central 17 (OT) Last season’s Division 1 runner-up Lakers moved to 9-2 by answering the overtime field goal by DCC (7-4) with a touchdown pass from CJ Harris to Lance Dixon.
HEADLINER: Warren DeLaSalle 35, Oak Park 7 The Pilots’ ability to shut down Oak Park again sticks out immediately – the Knights entered averaging 29 points per game, but DeLaSalle also defeated Oak Park (9-2) in their 2017 Regional Final 14-7 on the way to winning Division 2. With this victory, the Pilots (9-2) improved to a combined 21-4 over the last two seasons. Click for more from the Macomb Daily and see highlights below from State Champs Sports Network.
— STATE CHAMPS! (@statechampsnet) November 3, 2018
More shoutouts: Port Huron Northern 14, St. Clair Shores Lakeview 7 (OT) The Huskies (10-1) tied their program record for wins by getting past Lakeview (7-4) for the second time this fall. Birmingham Groves 38, Birmingham Brother Rice 24 The Falcons (9-2) avenged last season’s District-opening 24-21 loss to the Warriors (7-4), improving to 2-1 in their playoff matchups over the last three seasons. Walled Lake Western 35, South Lyon 14 South Lyon (10-1) won the Lakes Valley Conference in part with a 29-19 Week 8 win over Western, but Western (8-3) will play for its third Regional title in four years.
HEADLINER: Cedar Springs 44, Mount Pleasant 14 Overshadowed by the many Grand Rapids-area powers during the regular season, Cedar Springs couldn’t be missed this weekend. The Red Hawks (10-1) handed Mount Pleasant (10-1) its lone loss to claim their first District title since 2000, adding to the O-K White championship clinched earlier this fall. Cedar Springs has given up a combined 21 points over the last five weeks and now will get to challenge reigning champion Muskegon. Click for more from the Mount Pleasant Morning Sun and see highlights below from FOX 17.
— FOX 17 (@FOX17) November 3, 2018
More shoutouts: Zeeland East 42, Zeeland West 24 Getting by the rival Dux (8-3) for the second time in four weeks earned the Chix (10-1) their first District title since 2010. Parma Western 44, Battle Creek Central 21 The Panthers (10-1) reached double-digit wins and won a District title for the first time in their history, ending Central’s best finish since 2004 at 7-4. DeWitt 9, East Lansing 7 The Panthers (11-0) withstood their biggest scare this season and after winning 37-0 in their Week 5 meeting with the Trojans (9-2).
HEADLINER: Farmington Hills Harrison 13, Detroit Country Day 10 (OT) A bobbled field goal attempt turned into a backpedaling game-winning touchdown pass that extended Harrison’s final season another week. The Yellowjackets (7-3) had opened overtime with a field goal, and the Hawks (8-3) had lined up to try to tie the score. Click for more from the Oakland Press.
— STATE CHAMPS! (@statechampsnet) November 3, 2018
More shoutouts: Holland Christian 22, Grand Rapids South Christian 19 The Maroons (8-3) won their first District title since 2009, ending the Sailors’ run at 6-5. Escanaba 14, Alma 13 The Eskymos (9-2) will face reigning champion Grand Rapids Catholic Central for the third straight season after beating Alma (9-2) for a District title for the third straight year. Chelsea 35, Milan 14 The Bulldogs (8-3) won their fourth District title in five seasons, defeating Milan (8-3) for the second straight playoffs.
HEADLINER: Hudsonville Unity Christian 40, Muskegon Oakridge 37 The Crusaders (9-2), playing for their third District title in four seasons, came back from 27 points down to edge the Eagles (9-2) as the latter was looking to repeat as District champs. Unity went on a 32-2 second-half run, taking the lead with just more than three minutes to play. Click for more from the Grand Rapids Press and see highlights below from WZZM.
— 13 On Your Side (@wzzm13) November 3, 2018
More shoutouts: Marine City 41, Harper Woods 27 The Mariners (9-2) won their first District title since 2013 by piling up the most points Harper Woods (8-3) gave up this season. Kalamazoo United 46, Hopkins 35 The Titans, made up of students from Hackett and Kalamazoo Christian, won the first District title for either since Christian’s in 2008 by downing the O-K Silver champion Vikings (9-2). Frankenmuth 28, Almont 22 The Tri-Valley Conference East-winning Eagles (9-2) won this matchup of league champions, handing Blue Water Area Conference leader Almont (10-1) its lone loss.
HEADLINER: Traverse City St. Francis 42, Calumet 6 St. Francis (11-0) won this matchup of unbeatens to clinch a fifth straight District title and earn a rematch with rival Kingsley in the Regional Final. Calumet (10-1) capped its second 10-win season in three years but gave up a season-high in points while scoring a season-low six for the second straight week. Click for more from the Traverse City Record-Eagle and see highlights below from MI Sports Now.
— MISportsNow (@MISportsNow) November 3, 2018
More shoutouts: Blissfield 41, Brooklyn Columbia Central 40 In two weeks of playoffs, fourth-place Blissfield (7-4) has beaten both co-champions of the Lenawee County Athletic Association, this time avenging a Week 4 loss to the Golden Eagles (9-2). Flint Hamady 47, Ecorse 22 The Genesee Area Conference Blue-winning Hawks (11-0) added their first District title to their best run ever, eliminating Michigan Metro Athletic Conference Black champ Ecorse (8-3) Kingsley 44, Beaverton 14 The Stags (10-1) reached double-digit victories for the first time since winning the Division 6 title in 2005, ending Beaverton’s run at 8-3.
HEADLINER: Pewamo-Westphalia 42, Saugatuck 20 This rematch of last season’s Division 7 Final went the two-time champion’s way again. This was the fifth time in six seasons these teams met, and as expected Saugatuck’s offense gave the Pirates (11-0) one of its more significant challenges. But P-W also became the first team since Week 4 to score more than 40 points on the Indians (9-2). Click for more from the Ionia Sentinel-Standard.
— STATE CHAMPS! (@statechampsnet) November 3, 2018
More shoutouts: Madison Heights Madison 38, Detroit Loyola 0 The MAC Silver champ Eagles (11-0) earned their third straight shutout, stopping Loyola (7-4) as it sought to win its seventh District title in eight seasons. New Lothrop 44, Cass City 20 The Mid-Michigan Activities Conference champ Hornets (10-1) earned a playoff rematch with P-W by doubling up Greater Thumb Conference West champ Cass City (8-3). Cassopolis 35, Centreville 0 The Rangers (11-0) won the Southwest 10 Conference title with a 21-0 Week 9 victory over the Bulldogs (9-2), and this time held them to 147 yards.
HEADLINER: Reading 28, Ottawa Lake Whiteford 6 Reigning Division 8 champion Whiteford (10-1) hadn’t lost in two years, and hadn’t scored fewer than 36 points since falling in the 2016 championship game. This was arguably the most impressive of a great run of victories for the Rangers (11-0), who have beaten three league champions and a runner-up over the last month. Click for more from the Hillsdale Daily News and see highlights below from BCSN.
— BCSN (@BCSNsports) November 3, 2018
More shoutouts: Harbor Beecher 28, Ubly 26 (3OT) The GTC East co-champion Pirates (10-1) held off the revenge-minded Bearcats (8-3), who finished third in the league after also falling to Harbor Beach in Week 5. Flint Beecher 22, Clarkston Everest Collegiate 14 The Bucs (8-3) clinched their first District title since 2012 by edging the Catholic League C-D champion Mountaineers (9-2). Detroit Southeastern 24, Dansville 22 Southeastern (8-3) outscored Dansville (7-4) 16-0 in the second half to win its first football District title since 2009 and after six straight sub-.500 finishes heading into this fall.
8-Player Division 1
HEADLINER: AuGres-Sims 72, Deckerville 28 The Wolverines (11-0) added to their first season in 8-player and best run in football ever by beating reigning Division 1 runner-up Deckerville (8-3) to claim their first Regional title in the sport. AuGres-Sims countered giving up their most points in a game this season by going over 70 for the second time this fall. Click for more from the Huron Daily Tribune and see highlights below from WBKB.
— Larissa Liska (@LarissaLiska) November 4, 2018
Other Regional Final shoutouts: Pickford 48, Suttons Bay 42 The Panthers (11-0) survived their toughest challenge of this season, holding off Suttons Bay (9-2) with quarterback Jimmy Storey’s touchdown run with 37 seconds to play. Morrice 44, Wyoming Tri-unity Christian 14 The Orioles (11-0) won their first Regional title since 1996 by dealing the Defenders (10-1) their only loss this season. Colon 40, Bellevue 22 The Magi (10-1) are Regional champs for the first time thanks to a second win this season over the league rival Broncos (9-2).
8-Player Division 2
HEADLINER: Rapid River 40, Crystal Falls Forest Park 34 The reigning Division 2 champ Trojans (6-5) opened the playoffs by stunning Powers North Central, and Rapid River (8-3) followed up this week by downing Forest Park to make the Semifinals for the first time since 2013. Rapid River actually handed Forest Park one of its two defeats in 2017 as well. The Rockets will look next to make the Finals for the third time in eight seasons. Click for more from the Escanaba Daily Press.
More Regional shoutouts: Portland St. Patrick 20, Tekonsha 6 The reigning Division 2 runner-up Shamrocks (7-4) have rattled off four straight wins, this one over Southern Central Athletic Association B champ Tekonsha (6-5). Cedarville 44, Posen 0 The Trojans join Rapid River among three Great Lakes Conference East teams still alive after running their winning streak against Posen (8-3) to four straight. Onekama 52, Brethren 0 The Portagers (9-2) won their first Regional title by also downing a conference champion in the West Michigan D League’s Bobcats (7-4).
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PHOTO: Clinton Township Chippewa Valley remained undefeated with a second win over Macomb Dakota this season. (Click for more from C&G Newspapers.)
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.)