By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
Upsets and comebacks, broken win streaks and broken hearts mending were among the storylines most prevalent from another highlight-filled first weekend of Michigan high school football.
Two reigning MHSAA champions – Romeo and Ishpeming – fell in their first games after ending last season at Ford Field. Another 2015 champ, Detroit Martin Luther King, returned to the field this fall victorious but without coach Dale Harvel, who died unexpectedly in July. He was with his players however, his name across all of their backs.
Each week during the regular season and playoffs, we’ll look back at the games from every region of our state and 8-player and discuss which results could have the biggest impacts as we move ahead. Games are organized regionally by hometown of the winning team.
And now, our season debut.
Bay & Thumb
Algonac 7, Marine City 2
Odd score, but it was a pretty impressive defensive display by an Algonac unit that had five shutouts a year ago. Last season’s 19-18 opening-night win over powerhouse Marine City seemed to spur the Muskrats to their best finish ever, and they’ll be hoping for the same momentum after scoring the game’s lone touchdown midway through the third quarter. Click for more from the Port Huron Times Herald.
Byron 29, Montrose 27 – The Eagles ended last season with a 55-18 Pre-District playoff loss to the Rams, but came back for what’s believed to be the school’s first win over Montrose.
Bay City Central 13, Swartz Creek 12 – The Wolves became the 12th team in Michigan high school football history to win 500 games, running their record since 1922 to 500-321-31.
Midland Dow 41, Mount Pleasant 14 – The Chargers ran off 10 straight wins after opening last season with a 14-point loss to the Oilers, and appear ready to keep that run going.
Almont 35, Saginaw Michigan Lutheran Seminary 26 – The Raiders couldn’t have prepped better for next week’s matchup with Algonac than by beating a Seminary team that’s gone a combined 21-4 over the last two seasons.
Macomb Dakota 35, Orchard Lake St. Mary’s 28
Dakota earned new coach Greg Baur arguably the most impressive win of opening weekend as it downed the two-time reigning Division 3 champion Eaglets. Dakota quarterback Brett Droski connected with receiver Jaylen Hall on two long scores as the Cougars came back from an early deficit. A year ago, Dakota opened by downing then-reigning Division 1 champ Clarkston. Click for more from the Macomb Daily.
Oxford 27, Romeo 26 – Especially after going 3-6 a year ago, knocking off the reigning Division 1 champion was Oxford’s best win in a few seasons (and its second over Romeo in three.)
Dearborn Fordson 40, Canton 35 – The Tractors avenged an opening-night loss to the Chiefs last season by rallying from 21 points down at Wayne State.
Clarkston 28, Lapeer 7 – JT King ran for two of Clarkston’s four rushing touchdowns as it handed Lapeer the first regular-season loss of the Lightning’s now three-season history.
Utica Eisenhower 28, Plymouth 7 – Eisenhower earned some momentum to take into this week's Macomb Area Conference Red tilt against league favorite Dakota by downing a playoff team from last season.
Ithaca 31, Clare 28
Ithaca hasn’t had a scare during the regular season in a long time – and the Yellowjackets kept their regular-season winning streak alive at 56 straight. Ithaca had beaten Clare by four touchdowns just a year ago, but this time the reigning Division 6 champion had to survive a comeback attempt by the Pioneers. Click to read more from the Mount Pleasant Morning Sun.
East Lansing 42, St. Johns 7 – The Trojans broke a two-year opening-night losing streak to the Redwings as reigning Lower Peninsula Division 1 110 hurdles champion Kentre Patterson showed why he might be the Lansing area’s most exciting player this fall.
Brighton 14, Detroit East English 8 – The Bulldogs took a two-score lead into the fourth quarter and held on in a Michigan Stadium matchup of teams that both won nine games a year ago.
DeWitt 42, Linden 14 – The Panthers ran their opening-night winning streak against the Eagles to three after also beating Linden during the 2012 and 2013 playoffs.
Pewamo-Westphalia 30, Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central 20 – Add another couple of hundred yards to Jared Smith’s pursuit of the all-time career rushing record as he leads the reigning Division 7 runner-up Pirates.
Northern Lower Peninsula
Traverse City West 42, Midland 14
The Titans got a start on reversing last season’s sub-.500 finish by nearly reversing the score of last season’s opening-night 42-11 loss to the Chemics. West stacked up 391 total yards including 271 rushing on 45 carries and jumped out to a 21-0 lead and 35-7 advantage by halftime. The Titans were 4-5 in 2015, while Midland finished 7-3. Click for more from the Traverse City Record-Eagle.
Cadillac 40, Big Rapids 6 – Cadillac’s first sub-.500 season since 2008 last fall started with a three-point loss to Big Rapids, but the Vikings put up points more like their one-loss teams of 2014 and 2013 in this victory.
Gaylord 41, Boyne City 32 – With Gaylord showing a few more new faces in key places, this result might have been a bit of a surprise – and was an impressive win for the Blue Devils against a Ramblers team that won 10 games a year ago.
Onekama 18, Hillman 0 – The Portagers are coming off two straight playoff appearances, but it’s still strong that they handed Hillman the latter’s first shutout since 2012.
Tawas 35, Lincoln Alcona 30 – Alcona bounced back from an down season in 2014 to return to the playoffs a year ago, and Tawas looks like a possibility to copy with a big win coming off last year’s 2-7 finish.
Southeast & Border
Grass Lake 32, Stockbridge 18
Grass Lake is seeking its 12th straight playoff appearance this fall, so it’s not like the Warriors haven’t won their share of big games over the years. But they still made quite a defensive stand, holding down a Stockbridge offense that has scored more than 400 points each of the last two seasons and is returning its quarterback and a top receiver this fall. Click for more from the Jackson Citizen-Patriot.
Clinton 48, Manchester 12 – The 115th meeting between these two was not nearly as close as the 114th, which also was won by Clinton, but by only a point.
Morenci 34, Pittsford 7 – If one game is an indication, the Bulldogs are coming in on a roll again with a second straight opening-night win over a Pittsford team coming off the playoffs.
Adrian Lenawee Christian 35, Britton Deerfield 34 – Returning after the best finish in 2015 of its eight-year history, Lenawee Christian hung on to get off to another good start.
Tecumseh 15, Harper Woods Chandler Park 14 – The Indians got a much-needed opening win heading into one of the most loaded schedules from this corner of the state.
Benton Harbor 28, Marshall 7
The good times continue to roll for Benton Harbor. Last season was history-making as the Tigers secured their first playoff berth, but this win over Marshall actually made Benton Harbor 1-0 for the first time since 2011 – and came against a playoff team from a year ago. Click for more from the St. Joseph Herald-Palladium.
Gobles 14, Delton Kellogg 13 (OT) – The Tigers made it two straight one-point opening-night wins in a row over Delton, this one secured with a two-point conversion in overtime.
Coldwater 33, Jackson 22 – These two both have come back from one-win seasons to make the playoffs over the last few years, but the Cardinals are still a little ahead of the Vikings as both surge forward.
Vicksburg 17, Dowagiac 7 – In a Wolverine Conference where teams play nine league games, this one right out of the gate could be a decider or at least influence the final championship result.
Stevensville Lakeshore 30, Battle Creek Central 13 – This win could prove especially important as Lakeshore goes for its 19th straight playoff appearance but faces what will likely be one of the strongest league schedules in Michigan, again.
Iron Mountain 35, Ishpeming 24
After absorbing two losses – opening night and playoffs – to Ishpeming a year ago, Iron Mountain started the climb back against its longtime Week 1 foe by breaking the Hematites’ 27-game regular-season winning streak that dated back to 2012. The Mountaineers hadn’t beaten Ishpeming since opening night 2011, and Ishpeming – the reigning Division 7 champion – didn't lose at all in 13 tries in 2015. Click for more from the Iron Mountain Daily News.
Menominee 31, Marinette, Wis. 14 – The 110th meeting in the longest interstate rivalry involving a Michigan team moved the Maroons’ all-time edge to 53-50-7 in the series.
Sault Ste. Marie 13, Cheboygan 7 (OT) – Sault Ste. Marie is 1-0 after opening night for the first time since 2007 with its third win over the last four tries against Cheboygan.
Gwinn 36, Gladstone 16 – The Modeltowners won on opening night for only the third time over the last decade and with their most points in a game since Week 7 of 2014.
Lake Linden-Hubbell 28, Hancock 26 – The Lakes didn’t come close to having a regular-season scare going 9-0 in 2015, but stopped a two-point conversion late to survive this one.
Grand Rapids Catholic Central 27, East Grand Rapids 6
GRCC debuted Cougar stadium by breaking a three-year losing streak to opening-night rival East Grand Rapids. The Cougars scored twice on defense and a third time after an interception to put away the Pioneers, who like GRCC also won nine games last season. Click for more from the Grand Rapids Press.
Muskegon 51, Ann Arbor Pioneer 14 – Muskegon quarterback Kalil Pimpleton might be the player most people statewide want to see; he ran for two scores, threw two touchdown passes and caught one at Michigan Stadium.
Caledonia 55, Fenton 52 – The Scots gained the lead for good midway through the fourth quarter after the teams were tied at halftime at Grand Valley State University.
Hudsonville 21, Grand Ledge 14 – Holding off a Comets team that went 12-1 a year ago was a great way for the Eagles to start off a new season.
East Kentwood 31, Farmington Hills Harrison 24 – The Falcons added a second-straight seven-point opening-night win over Harrison, this time at Michigan Stadium.
Crystal Falls Forest Park 64, Rapid River 22
No team that’s made the switch from 11 to 8-player has brought as much championship success as three-time MHSAA title winner Forest Park did in making the move this fall. Its debut against annual power Rapid River could be a scary sign for opponents of what’s to come. Click for more from the Iron Mountain Daily News.
Pickford 56, Bellaire 6 – The Panthers did make the playoffs last season in their first of 8-player, but with a 37-26 loss to Bellaire, a regular contender in the Bridge Alliance race.
Camden-Frontier 86, Elyria Open Door Christian, Ohio 8 – The Redskins won for the first time since Week 8 of 2013, giving them immediate satisfaction in their first game of 8-player football.
PHOTO: Detroit Martin Luther King players wear jerseys showing the last name of late coach Dale Harvel during their Week 1 win over Southfield Arts & Technology. (Photo courtesy of Detroit Public School League.)
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.)