By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
After rain soaked many of this fall’s football openers, just about anything would be considered returning to business as usual this weekend.
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Bay & Thumb
Ithaca (1-0) at Millington (0-1)
These two have met in the Division 6 playoffs two of the last five seasons, with Millington winning 50-33 in the opener last year to end the Yellowjackets’ shortest postseason since not making the playoffs at all in 2008. Now the teams are in the same league – the Tri-Valley Conference West I – and Millington will try to hand Ithaca just its second regular-season defeat this decade.
Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Freeland (1-0) at Essexville Garber (1-0), Midland (1-0) at Flint Carman-Ainsworth (0-1), Standish-Sterling (1-0) at Frankenmuth (1-0), Lapeer (0-1) at Midland Dow (0-1).
Muskegon (1-0) at Detroit Martin Luther King (0-1)
This is a rematch of last season’s Division 3 championship game, won by King 41-25. And while rosters certainly have changed, an impressive group of the headliners are back for this second meeting including Big Reds’ quarterback Cameron Martinez and King running back Peny Boone. Few teams statewide this fall have loaded up the early schedule like these two – Muskegon downed two-time reigning Division 2 champion Warren De La Salle Collegiate 41-7 last week, while King fell 24-22 against Division 1 power Detroit Catholic Central.
Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Toledo Whitmer, Ohio (1-0) at Detroit Catholic Central (1-0), Birmingham Groves (1-0) at West Bloomfield (1-0), Southfield Arts & Technology (1-0) at Lake Orion (1-0), Detroit Mumford (1-0) at Detroit Country Day (1-0).
DeWitt (1-0) at Portland (1-0)
These remain two of the Lansing area’s elite, and they’ll play for the first time since 2014. The Panthers opened with a solid 31-26 road win at Traverse City Central and are prepping for their second season in the Capital Area Activities Conference Blue – while hoping to extend a 13-year league title streak. Portland won big over Ovid-Elsie last week and has claimed five straight CAAC White titles. But this matchup should will pay off toward bigger goals as well. Both have realistic aims to play in November as the Raiders finished Division 5 runners-up last season and DeWitt made the Division 3 Semifinals.
Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Grandville (1-0) at East Lansing (1-0), Lansing Everett (0-1) at Lansing Eastern (1-0), Montrose (1-0) at Ovid-Elsie (0-1), Grand Rapids West Catholic (0-1) at Lansing Catholic (1-0).
Northern Lower Peninsula
Maple City Glen Lake (1-0) at Traverse City St. Francis (1-0), Saturday
St. Francis has won the last eight meetings between these two, including a pair in the playoffs since Glen Lake's most recent victory in the series in 2012. But the Lakers are coming off a 19-point win over Millington (mentioned above), with their 26-point first half a positive sign after last season's decreased offensive output. St. Francis will be ready, of course, after extending its winning streak over opening-night opponent Marquette to five with a 14-point win.
Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Harbor Springs (1-0) at Frankfort (0-1), McBain (0-1) at Roscommon (0-1), Boyne City (0-1) at Charlevoix (1-0), Escanaba (1-0) at Petoskey (0-1).
Southeast & Border
Parma Western (1-0) at Jackson Lumen Christi (1-0)
The reigning Division 6 champion Titans extended their state-leading winning streak to 24 with a two-point win over Kalamazoo United last week. The Panthers also opened with a two-point win, over Whitehall, after setting a program record for victories finishing 10-2 last season despite losing 34-7 to Lumen in Week 2. Western's lone win in this rivalry came in 1976, according to michigan-football.com. But the Panthers should relish this opportunity to take another big step.
Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Carleton Airport (1-0) at Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central (1-0), Sand Creek (1-0) at Adrian Lenawee Christian (1-0), Erie Mason (1-0) at Britton Deerfield (1-0), Leslie (1-0) at Brooklyn Columbia Central (1-0).
Stevensville Lakeshore (1-0) at Portage Northern (1-0)
This might be one of the most competitive yet little-hyped annual matchups in the state. Before Northern's 17-0 win a year ago, the previous seven meetings all were decided by eight points or fewer. Both put up 40+ points last week, but if recent history holds neither team will approach that level of offensive output. History also tells us the winner likely will contend for the Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference West title.
Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Mendon (1-0) at Cassopolis (1-0), Marshall (0-1) at Battle Creek Harper Creek (1-0), Berrien Springs (1-0) at Constantine (1-0), Mattawan (1-0) at Battle Creek Lakeview (1-0).
Ishpeming Westwood (1-0) at Iron Mountain (1-0)
This also will have an early but heavy influence on a league title race, as Westwood finished second and Iron Mountain third in the Western Peninsula Athletic Conference Copper in 2018 after Westwood won their meeting 34-7. The winner this time very well could push reigning champion Calumet for first place again, and the Patriots get the Copper Kings next week.
Keep an eye on these as well: FRIDAY Calumet (1-0) at Negaunee (0-1), Gaylord (1-0) at Gladstone (1-0), Traverse City Central (0-1) at Marquette (0-1) SATURDAY Ishpeming (1-0) at Lake Linden-Hubbell (1-0).
Lowell (1-0) at Rockford (1-0)
Last season's 36-0 Rockford win contributed to Lowell's uncharacteristic 1-8 finish, but it's likely this game will return to relevancy tonight. The Red Arrows opened with a 19-6 win over Detroit Loyola and the Rams started with a 24-14 victory over Grand Rapids Christian, those successes quickly reinforcing expectations for this season for both traditional powerhouses.
Keep an eye on these as well: FRIDAY Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central (1-0) at Holland West Ottawa (0-1), Watervliet (0-1) at Saugatuck (1-0), Grand Rapids Christian (0-1) at Zeeland West (1-0), Holt (1-0) at Hudsonville (1-0).
St. Joseph Lake Michigan Catholic (1-0) at Bridgman (1-0)
As a number of notable programs have moved from 11-player to 8 over the last few seasons, curiosity has grown about how those teams might shift the balance of power. Both of these teams made the move this fall (Lake Michigan Catholic had played a handful of 8-player games previously), and both put up at least 56 points in big wins last week. Both also have been frequent 11-player playoff qualifiers this decade.
Keep an eye on these as well: FRIDAY Hale (1-0) at Hillman (1-0), Pickford (1-0) at Engadine (1-0), Powers North Central (1-0) at Rapid River (0-1), Wyoming Tri-unity Christian (0-1) at Martin (1-0).
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PHOTO: Clare, here on defense, opened with an impressive 35-0 shutout of Alma last week. (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 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.)