By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
The first MHSAA football finalists of this fall will celebrate this weekend, as four 8-player Semifinals will determine which teams move on to Marquette’s Superior Dome a week from Saturday.
And 64 11-player teams have completed half of the “Drive for Detroit,” with this weekend’s Regional Finals setting up next weekend’s Semifinals and opportunities to visit Ford Field for extended Thanksgiving.
Below are the matchups in all 10 divisions this weekend, with a quick look at one from each 11-player bracket and all four 8-player Semifinals. We suggest seeing them live, of course. But we have more opportunities to watch online as well.
This week’s FOX Sports Detroit Prep Zone matchups are Dearborn Fordson at Clinton Township Chippewa Valley and Clarkston at Lapeer in Division 1, and Warren DeLaSalle at Port Huron Northern in Division 2. Those all will stream free of charge on FOXSportsDetroit.com and on the FOX Sports app. At least five more games will be viewable on MHSAA.tv, either live with subscription or free after 72 hours.
Games are Friday unless noted. “Drive for Detroit” is powered by MI Student Aid.
Dearborn Fordson (10-1) at Clinton Township Chippewa Valley (11-0)
The Tractors showed they’re capable of beating anyone with last week’s 41-14 stunner of Detroit Cass Tech. Fordson is scoring 38 points per game while playing seven against playoff teams, and is a three-point Week 6 loss to Belleville from being undefeated. Chippewa Valley is the next giant up, coming off a 51-10 rematch win over Macomb Dakota and giving up only 15 points per game despite also playing seven against playoff qualifiers.
Other Regional Finals: FRIDAY Clarkston (9-2) at Lapeer (11-0), West Bloomfield (9-2) at Belleville (11-0). SATURDAY Rockford (7-4) at Saline (10-1).
Portage Northern (9-2) at Muskegon Mona Shores (10-1)
The Huskies have won seven straight games and last week celebrated their first District title. The defense has shined; Northern is giving up 12 points per game and allowed more than 21 once, in a Week 4 loss to East Lansing. The Sailors beat Jenison last week for the second time this season, extending the margin from seven points in the first meeting to 39 in the rematch. Averaging 44 points per game, they may present the toughest offensive challenge the Huskies have faced.
Other Regional Finals: FRIDAY Livonia Franklin (7-4) at Birmingham Groves (9-2), Midland (8-3) at Walled Lake Western (8-3), Warren DeLaSalle (9-2) at Port Huron Northern (10-1).
Cedar Springs (10-1) vs. Muskegon (11-0) at Grand Haven
After eliminating Ottawa-Kent Conference Gold co-champs East Grand Rapids and Grand Rapids Christian the last two weeks, Muskegon takes on O-K White winner Cedar Springs. The Red Hawks last week won their first District title since 2000 and boast a defense giving up 10.5 points per game. The opportunity to make history in this one is even greater – the reigning Division 3 champ Big Reds have won 25 straight games and scored at least 42 points nine weeks running.
Other Regional Finals: FRIDAY Parma Western (10-1) at Zeeland East (10-1), Detroit Martin Luther King (9-2) at Allen Park (9-2). SATURDAY Farmington (8-3) vs. DeWitt (11-0) at Lansing Catholic.
Escanaba (9-2) at Grand Rapids Catholic Central (10-1), Saturday
Grand Rapids Catholic Central has fared well against the Eskymos the last two seasons, winning their 2016 Regional Final 34-0 and last season’s Semifinal 24-0 on the way to claiming Division 4 championships both years. But Escanaba can find encouragement in a couple of places. The 24 points in last year’s meeting were the fewest GRCC scored in the playoffs. And four of the Escanaba offense’s six highest-scoring games this fall have come over the last five weeks.
Other Regional Finals: FRIDAY St. Clair (9-2) at Williamston (9-2). SATURDAY Holland Christian (8-3) at Edwardsburg (11-0), Chelsea (8-3) at Farmington Hills Harrison (8-3).
Reed City (11-0) at Saginaw Swan Valley (11-0), Saturday
Reed City is playing in a Regional Final for the fourth time in five seasons, and as an undefeated team for the second time in three. Adding to that familiarity with the big stage is a familiar foe – Swan Valley defeated the Coyotes last year 29-14 in a Semifinal. Reed City has lost only three regular season games this decade, but there’s definitely something different this fall – notably a defense that is giving up 6.2 points per game. That unit will be key against a Vikings team scoring 43 points per and giving up only 8.9.
Other Regional Finals: FRIDAY Detroit Denby (9-2) at Marine City (9-2). SATURDAY Hudsonville Unity Christian (9-2) vs. Kalamazoo United (11-0) at Vicksburg, Frankenmuth (9-2) at Portland (11-0).
Montague (9-2) at Schoolcraft (9-2)
The Eagles are playing for their first trip to the Semifinals since 2001, and have been in the mix making the Regional Final in 2013 and suffering their only losses of the season in District Finals in 2012 and 2016. Schoolcraft has played eight games against playoff teams this fall and still is averaging 45 points per game. Montague, playing in its second straight Regional Final, is averaging 44 points per contest with seven against playoff teams – and losses to only undefeated Division 5 contenders Reed City and Portland. Schoolcraft’s defeats also came to Division 5 playoff teams; Kalamazoo United is still alive.
Other Regional Finals: FRIDAY Kingsley at Traverse City St. Francis (11-0), Blissfield (7-4) at Jackson Lumen Christi (10-0). SATURDAY Montrose (9-2) at Flint Hamady (11-0).
Pewamo-Westphalia (11-0) vs. New Lothrop (10-1) at Chesaning
An interesting note about P-W’s back-to-back Division 7 championship runs the last two seasons: Of six playoff games not including Semifinals, only three were played at home. The Pirates had to win District and Regional titles on the road last season, and beat the Hornets 35-14 to clinch the former. New Lothrop beat the first (Cass City) and second-place (Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port Laker) teams from the Greater Thumb Conference West the last two weeks to set up this rematch.
Other Regional Finals: FRIDAY Roscommon (10-1) at Lake City (11-0), Riverview Gabriel Richard (7-4) at Madison Heights Madison (11-0). SATURDAY Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central (9-2) at Cassopolis (11-0).
Breckenridge (11-0) at Ishpeming (11-0), Saturday
The Huskies will head north seeking their first Regional title and hoping a defense giving up just 4.3 points per game can lock down an Ishpeming offense scoring 42. Breckenridge also made the Regional Final last season, in Division 7, losing to Lake City by just two points. The Hematites shut out 2017 semifinalist Iron River West Iron County for the second time in five weeks to win the District title.
Other Regional Finals: FRIDAY Flint Beecher (8-3) at Harbor Beach (10-1). SATURDAY Mendon (7-4) at Holton (7-4), Detroit Southeastern (8-3) vs. Reading (11-0) at Hillsdale High School.
8-Player Division 1
AuGres-Sims (11-0) at Pickford (11-0), Saturday
Before last week, these teams stacked up even more similarly than their records might indicate – Pickford’s six-point win over Suttons Bay in their Regional Final was its first close game since Week 3, and AuGres-Sims hasn’t allowed an opponent to get closer than 38 points all fall. Quarterback Caden Zeien has thrown for 1,928 yards and 34 touchdowns with only one interception for AuGres-Sims (plus run for 673 yards and 10 TDs), while his Pickford counterpart James Storey has thrown for 1,527 yards and 28 touchdowns and run for 782 yards and 15 scores. The Panthers also made the Semifinals the last two years and this will be their fifth time total trying to make the MHSAA Finals for the first time. For the Wolverines, this Semifinal is a first.
Colon (10-1) at Morrice (11-0)
Morrice is coming off its first Regional title since 1996 – although the Orioles did give up their first points since mid-September last week to Wyoming Tri-unity Christian in a 44-14 win. They are allowing 5.4 per game points overall while gaining nearly 360 yards in total offense. Colon’s lone defeat was to Tri-unity, 22-14 three weeks ago, but the Magi rebounded quickly to make their first Semifinal. Quarterback Hunter Nowak leads the Orioles' attack with 1,757 yards and 30 touchdowns rushing and 517 yards passing. Colon boasts a pair of 1,000 backs in Brandon Crawford (1,607 yards, 21 TDs) and quarterback Philip Alva (1,035/16 rushing, 461/8 passing).
8-Player Division 2
Cedarville (7-4) at Rapid River (8-3)
Three of seven Great Lakes Conference East teams are still alive for MHSAA championships, and these two met in Week 7 with Rapid River claiming a 28-20 win to help lock up third place in the league. Rapid River downed reigning 8-player Division 2 champ Crystal Falls Forest Park last week and will be aware of the possibilities of a rematch disappointment – the Rockets opened these playoffs by beating Engadine by two after losing to the Eagles by 18 only two weeks prior. Cedarville is rolling again, having won its two playoff games by a combined 88-6 score, and led by quarterback Tristan Masuga (1,730 yards/21 TDs passing).
Portland St. Patrick (7-4) at Onekama (9-2), Saturday
The Shamrocks seemed all but forgotten a month ago and tied for fifth in the Southern Central Athletic Association A. But with four straight wins they’re back in the Semifinals for the second straight season and looking to get back to Superior Dome after finishing runner-up in Division 2 a year ago. Onekama, meanwhile, will be playing in its first Semifinal to continue an impressive five-year climb. The Portagers are giving up only 7.4 points per game and lost this fall only to Division 1 playoff teams Tri-unity and Suttons Bay – by a combined seven points. They've run for nearly 1,900 yards over nine games (two wins were forfeits) with Aaron Powers averaging 11.5 yards per carry and Ben Acton 8.9.
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PHOTO: A Reed City ball carrier breaks through an opening during the Coyotes’ 38-7 District Final win over Clare last week. (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.)