By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
After an opening weekend highlighted by showcases in the Detroit and Ann Arbor areas, Michigan high school football fans should look west, north and really far north for the most colossal matchups of Week 2.
Arguably the top teams in the Lansing and Grand Rapids areas and all of 8-player football will face off as the most intriguing games of this week’s Drive for Detroit, powered by MI Student Aid. A number of leagues also begin play, with matchups in at least three conferences likely playing a part in which favorite eventually is crowned champion.
Check out our previews below – and visit the MHSAA.com Score Center tonight and all weekend for scores as they are reported and links to updated schedules and standings.
Bay & Thumb
Almont (1-0) at Algonac (1-0)
The water should be boiling for this Blue Water Area Conference opener. Rewind to Week 6 of last season, when upstart Algonac broke reigning league champ Almont’s 16-game BWAC winning streak with a 21-7 victory. Algonac went on share the league title with Richmond (with Almont a win short of also sharing), then beat Almont again, 13-0, in their Division 5 District Final. Both earned impressive victories last week, Algonac over Marine City and Almont over Saginaw Michigan Lutheran Seminary.
Others that caught my eye: Chesaning (1-0) at Freeland (1-0), Midland Dow (1-0) at Bay City Central (1-0), Harbor Beach (1-0) at Beaverton (1-0), Flint Powers Catholic (0-1) at Saginaw Heritage (1-0).
Allen Park (1-0) at Wyandotte Roosevelt (1-0)
Allen Park shared the Downriver League championship last season by winning its final seven regular-season games after falling to Roosevelt 23-14 in Week 2. The Bears, meanwhile, ended up missing out on any share of the league title by going on to lose two games by a combined four points. Roosevelt has won seven of eight meetings against Allen Park – including once in the playoffs – since the two became league foes in 2009.
Others that caught my eye: Walled Lake Western (1-0) at Canton (0-1), Utica Eisenhower (1-0) at Macomb Dakota (1-0), Clinton Township Chippewa Valley (1-0) at Romeo (0-1), Orchard Lake St. Mary’s (0-1) at Detroit Loyola (1-0) on Friday.
DeWitt (1-0) at Grand Ledge (0-1)
Lansing-area fans have been anticipating this matchup not just since schedules were announced for this season, but for many years. These two have been the most successful programs in the Capital Area Activities Conference for most over the last two decades and nearly are neighbors, although Grand Ledge has about 700 more students. The Comets made the Division 1 Semifinals a year ago; DeWitt’s most recent of five MHSAA Finals appearances came in 2013. Both are led by standout quarterbacks – DeWitt by Will Nagel and the Comets by Nolan Bird – although playmakers JD Ross and Antonio Rush, respectively, could be the difference-makers for those teams on offense. DeWitt dominated at Linden last week, while Grand Ledge fell a score short at Hudsonville.
Others that caught my eye: Lansing Catholic (1-0) at Lansing Everett (0-1), Dansville (1-0) at Pewamo-Westphalia (1-0), Hillsdale (1-0) at Portland (1-0), Davison (1-0) at Mount Pleasant (0-1) on Friday.
Northern Lower Peninsula
Maple City Glen Lake (1-0) at Traverse City St. Francis (1-0) on Friday
St. Francis is fresh off a trip to the Upper Peninsula and a 40-14 win over frequent playoff team Marquette. Glen Lake certainly is a more familiar opponent – the teams were in the same division of the Northern Michigan Football Conference during the league’s first two seasons, although they are in different divisions this fall. Glen Lake made headway in its two matchups with St. Francis last season, coming off a 41-7 Week 7 loss to fall only 21-3 in a Division 6 playoff opener. A four-touchdown win over Kingsley last week should be a good sign of things to come for the Lakers.
Others that caught my eye: Charlevoix (1-0) at Boyne City (0-1), Lincoln Alcona (0-1) at Hillman (0-1), Whittemore-Prescott (1-0) at Tawas (1-0), Central Lake (1-0) at Frankfort (1-0).
Edwardsburg (1-0) at Vicksburg (1-0)
Although Edwardsburg won this matchup 58-25 a year ago, the fact remains that Vicksburg is still the only team to hand the Eddies a regular-season loss over the last three seasons – winning 16-14 in 2014. That’s enough to make this intriguing. But add in a solid 17-7 win for the Bulldogs over Dowagiac last week, and it appears they’re up to the task of challenging the Wolverine Conference frontrunners again.
Others that caught my eye: Marshall (0-1) at Coldwater (1-0), Schoolcraft (1-0) at Watervliet (1-0), Niles (1-0) at Mattawan (0-1), Kalamazoo Central (0-1) at Stevensville Lakeshore (1-0).
Southeast & Border
Morenci (1-0) at Hudson (1-0)
An early key moment in Morenci’s turnaround over the last three seasons was a 2014 win over the rival Tigers, who had mostly dominated their annual game over the previous decade and a half. Morenci made it two straight on Hudson by winning 26-20 last year and is coming off a solid 34-7 win over 2015 playoff qualifier Pittsford. The Tigers are coming off their first sub-.500 finish last year since 2006 and have plenty to prove – and also to benefit from by winning this one with an increasingly tough Lenawee County Athletic Association schedule ahead.
Others that caught my eye: New Haven (1-0) at Ida (1-0), Milan (1-0) at Flat Rock (1-0) on Friday, New Boston Huron (1-0) at Carleton Airport (1-0) on Friday, Ypsilanti Community (0-0) at Monroe (0-1) on Friday.
Lowell (1-0) at Rockford (0-1) on Friday
After three seasons off, these Grand Rapids-area powers will face off again; Lowell won both the 2011 and 2012 meetings when the teams first brought this matchup back after nearly four decades. Aside from these being two of the best-known programs in the state, last week’s events should draw a few more statewide eyes west. Lowell, the reigning Division 2 runner-up thanks to a last-play touchdown in the 2015 Final by Detroit Martin Luther King, blazed out of the gates with a 36-19 win over Warren DeLaSalle. Rockford, meanwhile, was forced to forfeit to Saline last week because an illness sidelined a good portion of the team. The Rams made the Division 1 Regional Finals last fall.
Others that caught my eye: Benton Harbor (1-0) at Grand Rapids South Christian (1-0), at Hudsonville; St. Ignace (1-0) at Muskegon Catholic Central (1-0), Zeeland West (1-0) at Muskegon Mona Shores (1-0), Caledonia (1-0) at Grand Rapids Christian (1-0) on Friday
Negaunee (1-0) at Calumet (1-0)
Calumet is one of the most consistently solid teams on either peninsula, with seven or more wins nine of the last 11 seasons. And the Copper Kings broke through one of their toughest annual obstacles at the end of last fall, downing Negaunee 24-14 in a Division 6 playoff opener after losing all five of the teams’ recent meetings. Still, the Miners’ 7-3 finish last fall was similarly solid but a little deceptive – those three losses came over the final four weeks and by a combined 17 points. This could be a statement win for a team looking to take those next small steps back to elite.
Others that caught my eye: Petoskey (0-1) at Escanaba (1-0), Gwinn (1-0) at Iron Mountain (1-0), Bessemer Gogebic (1-0) at Bark River-Harris (1-0) on Friday, Newberry (1-0) at Munising (0-1) on Friday.
Powers North Central (1-0) at Crystal Falls Forest Park (1-0) on Friday
Forest Park, 11-player until this fall, has taken a deep dive immediately into 8-player football, opening up last week against annual power Rapid River (and winning 64-22) and now hosting reigning champion Powers North Central. The Jets opened last week just as explosively as they played all of last season, putting up 60 on Luck, Wis. This one could be telling in how the Western Eight Conference standings eventually shake out – and also indicate where Forest Park sits in relation to the 8-player elite.
Others that caught my eye: Posen (1-0) at Cedarville (1-0), Lawrence (1-0) at Morrice (1-0).
Second Half’s weekly “Drive for Detroit” previews are powered by MI Student Aid, a part of the Student Financial Services Bureau located within the Michigan Department of Treasury. MI Student Aid encourages students to pursue postsecondary education by providing access to student financial resources and information, including various student financial assistance programs to help make college more affordable for Michigan students. MI Student Aid administers the state’s 529 savings programs (MET/MESP) and eight additional aid programs within its Student Scholarships and Grants division. Click for more information and connect with MI Student Aid on Facebook and Twitter @mistudentaid.
PHOTO: Kalamazoo Central, here on offense against St. Joseph last week at Michigan Stadium, will face Stevensville Lakeshore seeking its first win this season. (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.)