Drive for Detroit: Playoff Week 3 Review

November 13, 2017

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

A longtime observer of Michigan high school football had a hard time remembering a playoff weekend with as many close finishes as fans enjoyed Friday and Saturday.

Start with the games in 11-player Division 1, where all four were decided by fourth-quarter scores or stops, and nail-biters dominated a weekend that saw 32 teams move on to 11-Player Regional Finals and the four finalists for 8-player championships book trips to Marquette’s Superior Dome.

We start with a brief glance below at all four 8-Player Semifinals and then move into all 32 11-player games. The MHSAA Playoffs are sponsored by the Michigan Army National Guard, and “Drive for Detroit” is sponsored by MI Student Aid.   

8-Player Division 1

Central Lake 54, Stephenson 20

The Trojans (12-0) rode a ravenous rushing attack in a snowstorm to earn its first MHSAA championship game berth while also tying its program record for wins in a season. Central Lake plodded to more than 400 yards against a Stephenson defense that had given up only 16.7 points per game entering the day. The Eagles finished 9-3. Click for more from the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

Deckerville 52, Bellevue 18

Deckerville rattled off 44 straight points to earn a second straight trip to the MHSAA Finals. Bellevue led 12-8 early before the Eagles (11-1) went on their run against another otherwise-stellar defense – the Broncos (10-2) were giving up only 9.5 points per game entering the day and this season set a program record for wins. Click for more from the Huron Daily Tribune.

8-Player Division 2

Crystal Falls Forest Park 36, Pickford 34

Forest Park will add to its 13 championship game appearances as an 11-player program with its first in 8-player after handing Pickford its lone loss this season. The Trojans (10-2) last made a championship game in 2009 and moved to 8-player a year ago. They put up the most points Pickford (11-1) gave up in a game this season by 12. The Panthers fell in their second straight Semifinal but moved to 27-7 in three years of 8-player. Click for more from the Iron Mountain Daily News.

Portland St. Patrick 33, Kinde-North Huron 14

The Shamrocks are 53-12 since moving to 8-player in 2012, and in their first Semifinal since that first season finally broke through to earn a first championship game berth since 1997. St. Patrick (11-1) scored 21 points during the fourth quarter to pull away against a North Huron program that also was playing in its second 8-Player Semifinal and finished 10-2. Click for more from the Lansing State Journal.

11-Player Division 1

West Bloomfield 28, Utica Eisenhower 25

Quarterback Bryce Veasley scored the winning touchdown with under a minute to play to send West Bloomfield (10-2) to its first MHSAA Semifinal in football. The Lakers edged an Eisenhower program much more familiar with this stage of the playoffs; the Eagles were playing for a third Regional title this decade and made the Semifinals a year ago. Eisenhower (11-1) had given up more than 20 points in a game to only one other opponent this fall. Click for more from the Oakland Press.

Other Regional Finals:

Clarkston 29, Holland West Ottawa 22 – The Wolves (10-2) scored 23 unanswered fourth-quarter points to win their second Regional title in four seasons and end West Ottawa’s winningest football season at 10-2.

Detroit Catholic Central 27, Canton 26 – The Shamrocks (8-4) stopped a Canton two-point conversion attempt with 34 seconds to play to win their fifth Regional title this decade while handing the Chiefs (10-2) their first loss since opening night.

Detroit Cass Tech 32, Clinton Township Chippewa Valley 26 – In maybe the most dramatic finish of all this weekend, Chippewa Valley (10-2) took the lead with 1:25 to play and Cass Tech (9-2) took it back as the clock ticked under 10 seconds to win an eighth straight Regional title. 

11-Player Division 2

Livonia Franklin 31, Flushing 29

Franklin (10-2) clinched its second Regional title in three seasons on kicker Brad Gibson’s 27-yard field goal with 13 seconds to play. Flushing had taken the lead just more than a minute before with a two-point conversion after a late score. Flushing was playing for its first Regional title and finished 9-3, tying its most successful season (2014) since 1997. Click for more from the Observer & Eccentric.

Other Regional Finals:

Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central 28, Traverse City Central 10 – Forest Hills Central (12-0) won its first football Regional title since 1995 with 28 unanswered points over the second and third quarters; Traverse City Central (8-4) was playing for its first Regional title since 1991.

Detroit Martin Luther King 55, Ypsilanti Lincoln 14 – The Crusaders (11-1) won their third straight Regional title and fifth in seven years while finishing the most successful playoff run ever for Lincoln (9-3), which hadn’t lost since an 0-2 start.

Warren DeLaSalle 14, Oak Park 7 – A last-minute touchdown gave DeLaSalle (10-2) its first Regional title since 2014 as both teams scored their fewest points since opening night; Oak Park (9-3) tied its most successful season after also going 9-3 in 2012. 

11-Player Division 3

Riverview 36, Dearborn Divine Child 31

The Riverview dream season continues, this time after a close win over one of last season’s Division 3 semifinalists. The Pirates (11-1) won their first Regional title since 2002, with the reminder again that they went only 2-7 a year ago. Riverview led by 12 heading into the fourth quarter and held off Divine Child (10-2) during a late comeback attempt. Click for more from the Southgate News-Herald.

Other Regional Finals:

Muskegon 49, DeWitt 0 – The Big Reds (12-0) were great on offense as usual, but defensively this was the most impressive of their six shutouts this fall; DeWitt (10-2) was averaging 39 points per game entering the day.

Battle Creek Harper Creek 16, East Lansing 13 – The Beavers (12-0) scored all 16 of their points during the fourth quarter to clinch their first Regional title since 2012 and hand East Lansing (9-3) its first defeat this season since Week 3; the Trojans finished their best season since 2011.

Farmington Hills Harrison 34, Linden 21 – The Hawks (9-3) added to their inspired run with a first Regional title since 2014; Linden (9-3) was playing for its first Regional title but did finish its winningest season since 2012. 

11-Player Division 4

River Rouge 21, Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood 14

The Panthers (10-2) reached 10 victories for the fourth straight season and fifth in six seasons by clinching this third straight Regional title. River Rouge never broke away but did go ahead to stay midway through the fourth quarter to seal its closest win of the season (the two losses were by nine and seven). Cranbrook Kingswood (10-2) did cap its winningest season in program history. Click for more from the Southgate News-Herald.

Other Regional Finals:

Escanaba 39, Williamston 21 – The Eskymos (10-2) began pulling away during the first half on the way to their first Regional title since 1981; for Williamston (7-5), it was the only loss this season by more than seven points.

Grand Rapids Catholic Central 42, Belding 3 – GRCC (12-0) rode another giant dose of running back Nolan Fugate to its 18th straight win; Belding (9-3) ended its most successful season since 1998.

Edwardsburg 52, Lansing Sexton 30 –The Eddies (11-1) won their second straight Regional title with their fifth game over 50 points this season; Sexton (8-4) did become the first team to top 30 against Edwardsburg this fall.

11-Player Division 5

Grand Rapids West Catholic 28, Portland 26

The latest of frequent playoff meetings between these annual contenders turned out to be another classic as West Catholic (10-2) stopped a late two-point conversion attempt to secure the win – after also beating Portland by three last season on the way to winning the Division 5 title. The Raiders (10-2) fought back from two touchdowns down in the fourth quarter. Click for more from the Grand Rapids Press.

Other Regional Finals:

Reed City 46, Menominee 34 – The Coyotes (11-1) closed this weekend’s action in Saturday’s final game by claiming their first Regional title against a Menominee team playing in its ninth straight Regional Final; the Maroons, last season’s Division 5 runners-up, finished 8-4.

Saginaw Swan Valley 48, Muskegon Oakridge 14 – The Vikings (11-1) will play in their third Semifinal in nine years as Alex Fries threw three touchdown passes and ran for a fourth score; Oakridge (9-3) was playing for its first Regional title since 2013.

Frankenmuth 17, Algonac 7 – The Eagles (12-0) won their second straight Regional title and set a program record for wins by outlasting the Blue Water Area Conference champion Muskrats (10-2) in a defensive struggle; Frankenmuth held Algonac to 161 yards. 

11-Player Division 6

Ithaca 33, Montague 23

Ithaca made a statement in a game pitting teams that have combined to win seven of the last nine Division 6 titles. Following quarterback Joey Bentley – 218 yards and four touchdowns rushing, one more touchdown passing – the Yellowjackets (12-0) led by 18 late before Montague added a final score. The Wildcats (11-1) did put up the most points Ithaca has given up this season – the Yellowjackets have now allowed only 101 over 12 games. Click for more from the Mount Pleasant Morning Sun.

Other Regional Finals:

Traverse City St. Francis 33, Millington 26 – The Gladiators (11-1) hung on to win their second Regional title in three seasons as Millington (10-2) put up the most points St. Francis has given up this season – although the Gladiators also became just the second to score more than 30 on the Cardinals.

Jackson Lumen Christi 44, Watervliet 22 – The reigning Division 6 champion Titans (10-1) locked down a Watervliet offense that had scored at least 36 points every game and averaged 52 per game during the Panthers’ 11-0 start.

Warren Michigan Collegiate 32, Blissfield 6 – The Cougars (12-0) won their second Regional title in 10 seasons as a program, ending Blissfield’s first winning season since 2012 and winningest since 2009 at 7-5. 

11-Player Division 7

Lake City 20, Breckenridge 18

Someone was going to celebrate a major accomplishment after this game. Lake City improved to 12-0, extending its program record for wins in claiming its first Regional title and with last year’s 2-7 finish becoming tougher to believe by the week. Breckenridge was 0-9 only three years ago and won its first playoff game just two weeks ago on the way to finishing 10-2 this fall. Click for more from the Cadillac News.

Other Regional Finals:

Pewamo-Westphalia 34, Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port Laker 0 – The Pirates’ fifth shutout this season moved them to 11-1 and landed them their sixth Regional title in seven seasons; Laker (10-2) did contain P-W to its third-fewest points this fall.

Saugatuck 7, Cassopolis 6 – A go-ahead score with under three minutes to play pushed Saugatuck (9-3) just past the Rangers (10-2) for its first Regional title since 2010; Cassopolis had guarded that lead since the first quarter.

Madison Heights Madison 22, Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central 20 – Madison (12-0) will play in its first Semifinal since 2007 after coming back from two touchdowns down during the second half; the Falcons finished 7-5 after a 1-3 start this fall. 

11-Player Division 8

Iron River West Iron County 35, Frankfort 20

West Iron’s first Regional title since 1977 came with a program record-setting 11th win as the Wykons haven’t lost since falling by two points on opening night. West Iron scored the first 22 points and locked down a Frankfort offense that had scored 45 per game entering the game. The Panthers finished 8-3 after making the Regional Finals for the third straight season. Click for more from the Iron Mountain Daily News.

Other Regional Finals:

Saginaw Nouvel 54, Lincoln Alcona 34 – Nouvel (12-0) picked the best time to score its most points in a game this season, coming off a District Final scare against Harbor Beach; the Panthers opened a 28-0 lead on the Tigers (9-3), who were playing in their first Regional Final.  

Mendon 14, Climax-Scotts 6 – A week after stunning reigning champion Muskegon Catholic Central, Mendon (12-0) had to hold off the Panthers (9-3) for 2½ quarters to earn its first Regional title since 2011.

Ottawa Lake Whiteford 60, Clarkston Everest Collegiate 20 – Last season’s Division 8 runner-up Bobcats (12-0) clearly are intent on getting back to Ford Field; they finished this one on a 44-6 run to end the longest tournament run in the five-year history of Everest Collegiate (9-3).

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PHOTO: Ithaca’s Devon Smith (51) closes in on a Montague ball carrier during Saturday’s Division 6 Regional Final. (Photo by Tim Reilly.)

Lawrence's Schuman Sets Example for Well-Rounded Success

By Pam Shebest
Special for MHSAA.com

December 14, 2022

LAWRENCE — If redshirting was a thing in high school, at least two coaches at Lawrence would stick that label on senior John Schuman.

Southwest Corridor“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.

John GuilleanGuillean 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.”

Great anticipation

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.

Derek GriblerGribler 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 ShebestPam 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 pamkzoo@aol.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.)