By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
Three reigning champions were eliminated this weekend, six undefeated teams fell, and October came to and end with the MHSAA football playoff field halved to 136 teams still alive for nine titles.
Divisions 1, 2 and 6 will have new winners this month. And a few teams that looked like contenders also are done after the first round and a series of upsets that made headlines across the state.
See below for some of the most unexpected and heaviest-hitting results from the first week in all eight 11-player divisions and the 8-player bracket.
Novi 31, West Bloomfield 28
After four straight losing seasons and an 0-3 start this fall, Novi (6-4) made the playoffs for the first time since 2008 with an at-large bid – and then dealt undefeated West Bloomfield (9-1) its only loss in arguably the biggest upset in the state this weekend. The teams combined for five touchdowns during the fourth quarter, but West Bloomfield never could completely catch up to the Wildcats. Click for more from the Oakland Press.
Rockford 24, Grandville 6 – The Rams (7-3) won the rematch of Ottawa-Kent Conference Red co-champions after also beating Grandville (6-4) in Week 4.
Romeo 28, Clarkston 14 – The Bulldogs (9-1) bounced back from a tough three-point loss to Utica Eisenhower in Week 9 to eliminate the reigning champion Wolves (7-3).
Ann Arbor Pioneer 22, Belleville 7 – Pioneer (7-3) ended a two-game losing streak by handing Belleville (8-2) its first loss since opening night.
Utica Eisenhower 23, Clinton Township Chippewa Valley 20 (2 OT) – Eisenhower (7-3) kept surging with its fourth straight win, first in the playoffs since 2012 and second in four weeks over Chippewa Valley (7-3).
Detroit East English 25, Warren DeLaSalle 21
East English (8-2) has made the playoffs all four seasons as a program after emerging from the former Detroit Crockett, which made the playoffs its final 12 seasons and the MHSAA Semifinals twice. So the Bulldogs have had their share of success – but this might be the best win of the new program’s history, as they eliminated the reigning Division 2 champion and after falling to DeLaSalle (6-4) by only seven in last year’s District Final. Click for more from MLive-Detroit.
Muskegon 40, Traverse City Central 14 – The Big Reds (8-2) took the long trip up north and handed Traverse City Central (9-1) its first and only loss, earning a rematch with rival Mona Shores this week.
Byron Center 34, Portage Central 21 – The Bulldogs (8-2) have made three straight playoffs and won two playoff games only two years ago, but it’s still fair to say they were underdogs on the road at Portage Central (8-2).
Birmingham Groves 10, Farmington Hills Harrison 0 – Groves (10-0) reached 10 wins for the first time in program history with its sixth shutout this season, ending Harrison’s at 7-3.
Jackson 42, Livonia Churchill 35 – After making the playoffs for the first time since 2009, Jackson (8-2) won its first playoff game since 1999 in ending Churchill’s season at 5-5.
East Grand Rapids 27, Grand Rapids Christian 14
After watching a 26-0 lead on Grand Rapids Christian fade in their first matchup this season, in Week 6, the Pioneers (7-3) finished this time against their O-K White rival. East Grand Rapids will play in a District Final for the first time since 2011. Grand Rapids Christian, which beat EGR 39-33 in that first game, ended at 5-5. Click for more from the Grand Rapids Press.
Vicksburg 16, Marshall 8 – The Bulldogs (8-2) quietly have built a five-game winning streak, adding to it with a road win at Marshall (7-3).
Trenton 34, New Boston Huron 21 – The Trojans (9-1) equaled their best record since 2003 by avenging last season’s District Final loss to Huron (5-5).
Coldwater 31, Parma Western 7 – Coldwater (10-0), which made the playoffs for the first time three seasons ago, earned its first playoff win by downing Western (6-4), which was playing in its first playoff game.
Redford Thurston 48, Warren Fitzgerald 14 – One of the rare at-large qualifiers with a home game, Thurston (6-4) justified it with a first-round win for the second straight season; Fitzgerald finished its second straight at 6-4.
Benton Harbor 28, Dowagiac 7
We’ve nearly run out of neat ways to crunch the numbers for the Tigers (6-4), who are enjoying their best season and whose six wins this fall are more than they won over the previous eight combined. Benton Harbor’s first playoff game resulted in its first victory – and the chance to next take on annual championship contender Zeeland West. Dowagiac isn’t to be forgotten, however; the Chieftains (6-4) bounced back from finishing 3-6 in 2014. Click for more from the Kalamazoo Gazette.
Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood 35, St. Clair Shores South Lake 14 – The Cranes (9-1) equaled their best record since 2004 and ended the best season for South Lake (8-2) since 2011; the Cavaliers improved from 2-7 a year ago.
Comstock Park 38, Saginaw Swan Valley 35 – Quarterback Pat Naughton threw four touchdown passes and Monterio Smith caught two and ran for a third score as Comstock Park (8-2) came back early and then held off the Vikings (6-4).
Detroit Denby 36, Detroit Collegiate Prep 6 – Denby (6-4) claimed its first playoff win since 2007 by handing the first loss this season to Collegiate Prep (9-1), the Detroit Public School League Division II champion.
Lake Fenton 29, Corunna 27 – Lake Fenton’s most recent loss was by seven to Corunna in Week 8, but the Blue Devils (6-4) went on the road to take the rematch from the Cavaliers (8-2).
Ida 35, Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard 23
The Bluestreaks built on their first undefeated regular season since 1971 with a second straight playoff win over Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard (5-5). Ida (10-0) also set a program record for wins despite giving up the most points in a game this season; the Bluestreaks gave up only 64 total during the first nine weeks. They scored three times during the third quarter to pull away. Click for more from the Monroe Evening News.
Buchanan 34, Hillsdale 31 – The Bucks' first perfect regular season since 1988 has turned into its first 10-0 start ever after its third win in a month decided by three points or fewer, this time against a Hillsdale team (6-4) in its 15th straight playoffs.
Almont 10, Marine City 3 – The Raiders (8-2) have bounced back nicely from back-to-back losses in Weeks 7 and 8, this time downing Marine City (6-4) in the playoffs for the second straight season.
Dearborn Heights Robichaud 50, Brooklyn Columbia Central 37 – Robichaud (8-2) reached 50 points for the second time this season to get its first playoff win since 2012, while Columbia Central ended at 8-2 after three straight losing seasons.
Kingsford 25, Harrison 0 – The Flivvers bounced back from a sub-.500 record last season and then a loss in Week 9 to claim a playoff win for the first time since 2012 and with their first shutout of this fall – which also was the first time Harrison (7-3) was shut out since Week 1 of 2013.
Clinton 14, Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central 10
Clinton (10-0) was one of two undefeated teams that had road games this weekend, and the Redskins responded by eliminating the reigning champion. Monroe St. Mary (8-2) had dominated most of its competition this fall, aside from a Week 9 loss to Division 5 contender Lansing Catholic. But Clinton drove 93 yards for the go-ahead score on the legs of Matt Sexton, who gained 100 yards total on the winning possession. Click for more from the Monroe Evening News.
Calumet 24, Negaunee 14 – The Copper Kings (8-2) earned their first win over Negaunee since 1955 and after five losses over the last four seasons to the Miners (7-3).
Sanford Meridian 44, Millington 38 – The Mustangs (10-0) also set a program record for wins and earned the opportunity to face another undefeated team, Ithaca, this week while ending Millington’s 12th straight playoff season at 8-2.
Laingsburg 23, Burton Bendle 15 – The Wolfpack (7-3) moved past six wins for the first time since 2009 by edging a Bendle team that went from 3-6 a year ago to 8-2 this fall.
Constantine 31, Schoolcraft 28 (OT) – In arguably the other biggest stunner of the first week of the playoffs, at-large qualifier Constantine (6-4) went on the road and downed rival Schoolcraft (9-1), handing the Eagles their first loss after falling to them 42-24 only two weeks ago.
Saugatuck 42, Hesperia 7
These two played the only playoff game between undefeated teams during the first week, with the Indians (10-0) earning their first postseason victory since the 2010 run to the Division 8 Final. Hesperia made one of the most impressive turnarounds in MHSAA football history this fall, going from 1-8 last season to 9-1 before falling Friday. Click for more from the Holland Sentinel.
McBain 34, Whittemore-Prescott 22 – Highland Conference co-champ McBain (7-3) won this battle of league winners, edging the first-place Cardinals (5-5) from the North Star League Big Dipper.
Cass City 34, Ubly 6 – The Red Hawks (8-2) have their most wins in a decade after ending the best season for Ubly (7-3) since 2011.
Flint Beecher 30, Flint Hamady 28 – The Buccaneers (7-2) took the lead for good in the fourth quarter in their first matchup with Hamady (7-3) since a District Final in 2012.
Riverview Gabriel Richard 30, Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett 27 – A 42-yard field goal by Zach Loewengruber on the game’s final play gave Gabriel Richard (7-3) its first playoff win and ended Liggett’s season at 6-4.
Climax-Scotts 8, Mendon 6
Climax Scotts (10-0) held on for its first win over Mendon (5-5) since 1977, after 30 straight losses. Climax-Scotts scored on the first possession of the game and made a two-point conversion, and stopped Mendon’s conversion attempt after its lone score. The Panthers have made the playoffs 13 straight seasons, and now will try for a second Regional Final in eight tries; Mendon had eliminated them from the playoffs the past four seasons. Click for more from the Battle Creek Enquirer.
Crystal Falls Forest Park 24, Lake Linden-Hubbell 0 – The Trojans (6-3) must have figured out a few things between falling to Lake Linden-Hubbell 34-28 only a week earlier and then handing the Lakes (9-1) their first and only loss.
Bark River-Harris 22, Munising 6 – Three weeks after falling to Munising by seven, Bark River-Harris (8-2) advanced to a District Final for the second straight season by downing the reigning Division 8 runner-up Mustangs (7-3).
Johannesburg-Lewiston 35, Hillman 8 – The Cardinals (9-1) won their ninth game for the third time in four seasons by downing North Star League Little Dipper champion Tigers (6-4), and now get another shot at Ski Valley Conference winner St. Ignace after finishing a win behind the Saints in the league standings.
Ottawa Lake Whiteford 20, Petersburg-Summerfield 14 – Revenge surely was sweet for Whiteford (8-2), which fell to Petersburg-Summerfield (7-3) by 20 in their Week 4 Tri-County Conference matchup.
Rapid River 36, Engadine 29
A Week 5 loss to Engadine started a string of three losses in four games for Rapid River (7-3), but the Rockets have avenged the first defeat and earned the opportunity to avenge a second against Powers North Central. Engadine (7-3) was held to fewer than 40 points for the first time since Week 3. Click for more from RRN Sports.
Cedarville 48, Owendale-Gagetown 28 – The reigning 8-player runner-up Trojans (8-2) have won four straight and delivered O-G (9-1) its first and only loss.
Lawrence 54, Waldron 52 – The Spartans (8-2) played the reigning champion impressively close, but Lawrence (8-2) emerged with another opportunity against rival Battle Creek St. Philip this week after falling to St. Philip two weeks ago.
PHOTO: Midland Dow, in green, faced rival Midland for the second straight week and won for the second straight as well, 42-7. (Click for 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 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.)