By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
Every football regular season there’s one week when it’s tough to tell heading in which matchups might eventually have the greatest impact on the season as a whole. That tough-to-forecast week then tends to end up as one of the most exciting of the entire fall.
This might be that week for 2019. There are some definite must-watch games across the state for Week 3 – but in a lot of places, we’re eager to see who emerges as leagues continue to get rolling and summer weather hangs on just a little bit longer.
Below are some pretty strong guesses at games you won’t want to miss from your part of Michigan. You’ll again be able to check out 20 games live on MHSAA.tv – including eight of the games listed below.
Games below are Friday unless noted. "Drive for Detroit" is sponsored by MI Student Aid.
Bay & Thumb
Flint Beecher (1-1) at Flint Hamady (2-0)
These neighbors have begun playing each other during the regular season again only recently, with Hamady winning both matchups as part of the Genesee Area Conference Blue schedule over the last two seasons. Hamady edged Beecher 24-18 in Week 3 last year on the way to winning the league title and both teams qualifying for the playoffs.
Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Saginaw Michigan Lutheran Seminary (2-0) at Saginaw Nouvel (2-0), Kalamazoo Central (1-1) at Flint Powers Catholic (2-0), Sandusky (1-1) at Ubly (2-0), Chesaning (2-0) at Montrose (2-0).
Rochester Adams (2-0) at Lake Orion (2-0)
The Dragons are one of the stories of the season so far, coming off back-to-back 0-2 starts the last two years with wins over highly-touted Lapeer and Southfield Arts & Technology to open this one. Lake Orion won those games by a combined score of 54-14, but faces another team that hasn’t gotten much attention – yet. Adams has outscored its first two opponents by a combined 91-31, with a 31-7 win last week over 2018 playoff qualifier Oxford.
Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Detroit U-D Jesuit (2-0) at Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice (2-0), Dearborn (1-1) at Belleville (2-0), Utica Eisenhower (1-1) at Clinton Township Chippewa Valley (2-0), Canton (1-1) at Plymouth (2-0).
Clare (2-0) at Harrison (2-0)
The Jack Pine Conference title continues to go through Clare, which shared the championship with Roscommon last season after outright wins in 2016 and 2017 and four more during the first half of the decade. The Pioneers have lost only three league games this decade – including to Harrison in 2010 and 2015. The Hornets earned their first two wins this season by a combined 70 points, but Clare has to be happy too with a combined 62-point margin during its start that included an impressive 35-0 shutout of Alma in Week 1.
Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Hartland (1-1) at Brighton (2-0), Fowlerville (2-0) at Williamston (2-0), Haslett (1-1) at Mason (2-0), Lake City (1-1) at Beal City (2-0).
Northern Lower Peninsula
Alcona (1-1) at Oscoda (2-0)
Alcona owns a 7-3 advantage since the teams began playing each other annually again in 2009, but Oscoda won 55-8 last season on the way to a North Star League title. The Owls offense found its stride last week against Coleman with a feat that is at least rare, if not unique – eight players combined to score 10 touchdowns, with Owen Franklin crossing the goal line three times and Andy Dault, Robert Host, Caleb Nagel, Gabe Kellstrom, Zach Ouillette, Gavin Lueck and Anthony Ward all scoring once (and quarterback Brayden Mallak making the MHSAA record book with five first-half TD passes).
Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Ludington (2-0) at Manistee (2-0), Grayling (1-1) at Kingsley (2-0), Tawas (1-1) at Whittemore-Prescott (1-1). SATURDAY Holt (2-0) at Traverse City West (1-1).
Southeast & Border
Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central (2-0) at Milan (2-0)
This pair frequently of late has decided the Huron League title – although Milan last season followed up a 26-21 win over the Falcons with later losses to Riverview and eventual conference champion Grosse Ile. But these two look like the possible teams to beat again. Milan opened league play last week beating Grosse Ile 35-13, and St. Mary has nice wins over 2018 Division 7 runner-up Madison Heights Madison and Carleton Airport to start this fall.
Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Coldwater (2-0) at Jackson Lumen Christi (2-0), Hillsdale (2-0) at Erie-Mason (2-0), Brooklyn Columbia Central (2-0) at Ida (1-1), Schoolcraft (2-0) at Ottawa Lake Whiteford (1-1).
Portage Northern (2-0) at Portage Central (1-1)
These neighbors shared the Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference West title last season, in part because of Central’s 21-20 win over Northern in Week 3. Northern earned a degree of revenge seven weeks later with a 35-7 win over Central in a Division 2 playoff opener and on the way to a District title. The Huskies got past a major league obstacle last week by edging Stevensville Lakeshore 14-6, but haven’t beaten Central during the regular season since 2012.
Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Centreville (2-0) at Cassopolis (2-0), St. Joseph (2-0) at Mattawan (1-1), Paw Paw (2-0) at Plainwell (1-1), Kalamazoo United (0-2) at Berrien Springs (2-0).
Calumet (2-0) at Ishpeming Westwood (1-1)
A number of contenders facing off immediately this season has put a focus on the Western Peninsula Athletic Conference Copper, and this week reigning champion Calumet will travel to take on 2018 runner-up Westwood. The Copper Kings won last year’s matchup 14-12 and then got past the Patriots 6-0 in a Division 6 playoff opener. But Westwood this time is trying to bounce back from last week’s 20-point loss to Iron Mountain, which has emerged as the possible Copper favorite this fall.
Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Menominee (1-1) at Gladstone (2-0), Charlevoix (2-0) at St. Ignace (1-1), Ishpeming (2-0) at Norway (1-1), Marquette (0-2) at Sault Ste. Marie (2-0).
Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central (2-0) at Grandville (2-0)
This matchup features a pair of teams that have been impressive so far and have high hopes of moving up in tough conferences. Forest Hills Central was 5-5 a year ago and third in the Ottawa-Kent Conference White, but has beaten 2018 playoff teams Jenison and Holland West Ottawa to start and held both to seven points apiece. Grandville tied for fourth in the O-K Red last season and finished 4-5 overall despite a one-point Week 3 win over the Rangers. The Bulldogs have outscored their first two opponents by a combined 106-44, with a 39-point win over playoff regular East Lansing last week.
Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY East Grand Rapids (1-1) at Muskegon (2-0), Grand Rapids Catholic Central (1-1) at Zeeland East (2-0), Muskegon Reeths-Puffer (1-1) at Muskegon Mona Shores (2-0), Hamilton (2-0) at Byron Center (2-0).
Pickford (2-0) at Powers North Central (2-0), Saturday
If nothing else, this matchup might feature the two best offenses in 8-player football this season – and might be pitting two teams that will be playing for MHSAA championships at the Superior Dome in two months. Reigning 8-player Division 1 runner-up Pickford has put up 106 points, against 34, over its two wins over playoff regulars Crystal Falls Forest Park and Engadine. North Central’s combined tally is 128-18 against two more annual powers, reigning 8-player Division 2 champion Rapid River and Cedarville.
Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Pellston (2-0) at Au Gres-Sims (1-1), Bellevue (1-1) at Climax-Scotts (2-0), Battle Creek St. Philip (1-1) at Colon (2-0), Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart (1-1) at Deckerville (2-0).
Second Half’s weekly “Drive for Detroit” previews are powered by MI Student Aid, a part of the Office of Postsecondary Financial Planning 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. MI Student Aid administers the state’s 529 college savings programs (MET/MESP), as well as scholarship and grant programs that help make college Accessible, Affordable and Attainable for you. Connect with MI Student Aid at www.michigan.gov/mistudentaid and find more information on Facebook and Twitter @mistudentaid.
PHOTO: A Newberry ball-carrier looks for an opening during last week’s 8-player 32-8 win over Stephenson. (Photo by Jeff Rochefort.)
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.)