By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
From Calumet at the top of the U.P. to Michigan’s southern border, tonight’s weather is forecast as ideal for high school football.
It’s only the third week of the season, of course, but we could look back at this as the week that decided some of the state’s most high-profile league titles – and previewed some of the most anticipated playoff matchups down the road.
Games below are tonight unless noted; there also are 11 games Saturday featuring Michigan teams. Check out the MHSAA Score Center for the full schedule and results as games are completed. MHSAA.tv will broadcast nine games tonight, including three noted below.
“Drive for Detroit” previews are powered by MI Student Aid.
Bay & Thumb
Saginaw Swan Valley (2-0) at Freeland (2-0)
The Vikings’ early schedule is loaded; they opened with a 21-12 win over Cedar Springs (7-4 last season) and last week won 56-20 over Frankenmuth (12-1 in 2017). Now the reigning Division 5 runner-up gets Tri-Valley Conference Central rival Freeland, which has made the playoffs 10 straight seasons and fell to Swan Valley only 21-14 a year ago. The Falcons are off to a nice start as well with a three-point victory over Marshall and 23-pointer over Carrollton that avenged last season’s District loss.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Davison (2-0) at Flint Carman-Ainsworth (2-0), Ubly (2-0) at Sandusky (2-0), Flint Hamady (2-0) at Flint Beecher (1-1), Carrollton (1-1) at Millington (1-1).
Farmington Hills Harrison (2-0) at Oak Park (2-0)
Many eyes are on Harrison as the 18-time MHSAA champion plays its final season before the school closes next spring. This matchup could determine if the Hawks are league champions one more time; last year, Harrison split the Oakland Activities Association White title with both Oak Park and Birmingham Groves. Oak Park beat Groves last week and Utica Eisenhower in Week 1 and will present the Hawks’ their first major challenge after back-to-back 41-0 victories. Harrison won last year’s meeting 17-14.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Clinton Township Chippewa Valley (2-0) at Utica Eisenhower (1-1), St. Clair (1-1) at Madison Heights Madison (2-0), Canton (1-1) at Plymouth (2-0), Sterling Heights Stevenson (2-0) at Romeo (1-1).
Grand Ledge (0-1) at East Lansing (2-0)
East Lansing is regarded as one of the intriguing teams emerging early from the capital area, especially after avenging a 2017 loss by defeating Dearborn Divine Child on the road last week. Grand Ledge had to replace a giant senior class this fall and opened with a loss to Hudsonville before a bye in Week 2 – but the Comets are still three-time reigning Capital Area Activities Conference Blue champions. East Lansing shared that title in 2016, and tonight could show itself to be the biggest obstacle to newcomer DeWitt becoming the next league champion.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Williamston (2-0) at Fowlerville (2-0), Lansing Sexton (0-2) at Portland (2-0), Harrison (1-1) at Clare (2-0), Leslie (1-1) at Lake Odessa Lakewood (1-1).
Northern Lower Peninsula
Alpena (2-0) at Gaylord (2-0)
These two have played in the Big North Conference together for nearly two decades, but it’s been a long time since this matchup potentially meant this much. Alpena is 2-0 for the first time since 2004 – the last time it won more than four games in a season – and got here in part with a Week 1 win over 2017 Division 4 semifinalist Escanaba. Gaylord opened at Lansing Sexton and came back with a win and then went to 2-0 last week by beating a Gladstone team that like the Big Reds also made the playoffs a year ago. Gaylord, which last made the postseason in 2015, has won four of the last five against the Wildcats.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Traverse City St. Francis (2-0) at Benzie Central (2-0), Kingsley (2-0) at Grayling (1-1), Lake City (2-0) at McBain (1-1), Beaverton (1-1) at Houghton Lake (1-1).
Southeast & Border
Ida (2-0) at Brooklyn Columbia Central (2-0)
A loss to Columbia Central foiled Ida’s attempt at a league title three-peat last season, and both were among four teams to represent the Lenawee County Athletic Association in the playoffs. Last week’s 28-22 win over reigning two-time Genesee Area Conference Red champion Lake Fenton was a good sign the Bluestreaks will be back in the mix. Columbia Central’s Week 1 shutout of reigning Cascades Conference co-champion Napoleon means the Eagles will be there too – with tonight playing a big part in how the rest of the LCAA race unfolds.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Reading (2-0) at Concord (2-0), Hudson (2-0) at Dundee (2-0), Coldwater (1-1) at Jackson Lumen Christi (2-0), Addison (1-1) at Michigan Center (2-0).
Portage Central (1-1) at Portage Northern (2-0)
Kalamazoo Central took some bite out of this rivalry matchup last week by handing Portage Central an unanticipated 30-14 defeat. But there’s still plenty of story here. Portage Northern has its own stadium for the first time after 53 years of playing home games at Portage Central, and is coming off avenging a 2017 loss by shutting out Stevensville Lakeshore last week. Central has beaten Northern in four straight, and ending that streak would be a memorable way for the Huskies to celebrate their new home.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Paw Paw (2-0) at Edwardsburg (2-0), Three Oaks River Valley (2-0) at Martin (1-1), Fennville (2-0) at Delton Kellogg (2-0), Mattawan (2-0) at St. Joseph (1-1).
Ishpeming Westwood (2-0) at Calumet (2-0)
The Patriots are making it difficult to focus elsewhere in the Upper Peninsula. They’ve followed up a school record nine wins in 2017 with a pair this fall including 34-7 last week over Iron Mountain. But Westwood should receive its toughest challenge yet from Calumet, a playoff team 12 of the last 13 seasons. This will be the first meeting between the teams; they also are in a league for the first time, as two of the contenders in the Western Peninsula Athletic Conference “large school” division.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Norway (2-0) at Ishpeming (2-0), Gladstone (1-1) at Menominee (0-2), Hancock (2-0) at Negaunee (0-2), SATURDAY Detroit Loyola (2-0) at Escanaba (1-1).
Holland West Ottawa (2-0) at Rockford (1-1)
West Ottawa’s record-setting 2017 included its first win over Rockford since 2002 and then a second defeat of the Rams in a Division 1 District Final. The Panthers are off to another great start, following last season’s 10 victories with two more against Stevensville Lakeshore and last week by a point over Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central. Rockford opened with a loss to Illinois power Wilmette Loyola, but bounced back in a big way with a 36-0 shutout of Lowell – no doubt picking up momentum to carry into this highly anticipated rematch.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Hudsonville (2-0) at Grand Haven (2-0), Zeeland East (2-0) at Grand Rapids Catholic Central (1-1), Manistee (2-0) at Ludington (2-0), Muskegon (2-0) at East Grand Rapids (1-1).
Pickford (2-0) at Crystal Falls Forest Park (1-1)
Pickford’s only loss last season came by two points to Forest Park in an 8-Player Division 2 Semifinal – Forest Park went on to win the championship game by 42. The Panthers have outscored their first two opponents by a combined 114-7 and meet a Forest Park team this time that was stunned by Eben Junction Superior Central in their opener but bounced back with a big win against Carney-Nadeau. These two aren’t in the same league, so this doesn’t mean anything to those hopes – but it definitely could be a preview of a postseason rematch of much significance.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Morrice (2-0) at Mayville (2-0), Camden-Frontier (2-0) at Portland St. Patrick (2-0), Battle Creek St. Philip (2-0) at Webberville (2-0), Bellaire (1-1) at Onekama (2-0).
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PHOTO: A Grand Blanc ball carrier works against the Saginaw Heritage defense during the Bobcats' 27-20 win last week over the Hawks. (Photo by Terry Lyons.)
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.)