By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
As we dive into the midpoint of the 2018 high school football regular season, there’s more than meets the eye to many of our Week 5 matchups.
Sure, we’ve got some of the usual regulars on this week’s preview list – Clinton Township Chippewa Valley vs. Macomb Dakota among them – but it’s fair to say a number of others discussed below are a bit off the usual board, but with plenty of significance upon further view.
Games below are tonight unless noted. Check out the MHSAA Score Center for the full schedule and results as games are completed. MHSAA.tv will broadcast 15 games this weekend, including our top game from the “Bay & Thumb” area. Our “Drive for Detroit” previews are powered by MI Student Aid.
Bay & Thumb
Davison (4-0) at Grand Blanc (4-0)
The Saginaw Valley League Blue is topped by three undefeated teams – these two and Lapeer – and this one will go a long way toward determining the eventual champion. But it also could have playoff implications down the road – the Bobcats are tied for fourth and Davison is tied for ninth in playoff point average among teams that traditionally fall into Division 1 for the postseason.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Swartz Creek (4-0) at Flint Hamady (4-0), Ubly (3-1) at Harbor Beach (3-1), Harrison (2-2) at Beaverton (3-1), Richmond (3-1) at Yale (2-2).
Clinton Township Chippewa Valley (4-0) at Macomb Dakota (4-0)
Like Davison and Grand Blanc mentioned above, these two rank highly among likely Division 1 playoff teams – Chippewa Valley first in playoff point average and Dakota tied for seventh – and they’ve seen each other in the postseason as well five of the last six seasons. The Big Reds won both meetings in 2017 and this season have handed the only losses to Saline and Roseville. Dakota is averaging 45 points per game during its best start since its 2013 league title season.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Detroit Cody (4-0) at Detroit Mumford (3-1), Garden City (3-1) at Dearborn Heights Crestwood (4-0), Auburn Hills Avondale (3-1) at Farmington (4-0), SATURDAY Detroit Catholic Central (3-1) at Birmingham Brother Rice (3-1).
DeWitt (4-0) at East Lansing (4-0)
They have two of the richest traditions in the Lansing area and will meet as members of the same league for the first time. The winner will earn a strong upper hand in an otherwise middling Capital Area Activities Conference Blue, and these two also met in the playoffs as recently as 2016. DeWitt still scores a bunch and East Lansing has offensive firepower too, but the defenses could emerge as the stars of this meeting – DeWitt has given up only 7.8 points per game, and East Lansing a respectable 16 ppg.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Lansing Catholic (4-0) at Portland (4-0), Canton (3-1) at Brighton (3-1), Ovid-Elsie (3-1) at New Lothrop (4-0), Haslett (4-0) at Williamston (3-1).
Northern Lower Peninsula
Traverse City Central (3-1) at Gaylord (4-0)
First-year coach and former assistant Shawn Sargent has the Blue Devils off to their first 4-0 start since their last playoff season in 2015. Gaylord has some solid wins, but Central will provide the strongest test to date. The Trojans have to be revved up after a close loss to rival Traverse City West last week. Central shines especially on defense, giving up only 9.5 points per game.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Oscoda (3-1) at Rogers City (4-0), Traverse City St. Francis (4-0) at Grayling (2-2), Leroy Pine River (4-0) at McBain (2-2), Traverse City West (2-2) at Alpena (2-2).
Southeast & Border
Athens (3-0) at Adrian Lenawee Christian (4-0)
The Southern Central Athletic Association has only four 11-player teams but two of the most intriguing matchups in the region this weekend. (Pittsford and Climax-Scotts line up on the other side.) Lenawee Christian is 4-0 for the first time ever; the Cougars are in their 11th season as a varsity program. And Athens? The Indians didn’t have an opponent Week 2, but have outscored their three this season by a combined 107-0.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Jackson (4-0) at Chelsea (3-1), Concord (3-1) at Springport (4-0), Union City (2-2) at Reading (4-0), Addison (2-2) at Grass Lake (4-0).
Watervliet (2-2) at Kalamazoo United (4-0)
Watervliet has won outright or shared seven straight league titles, but enters Southwestern Athletic Conference Valley play with a pair of close losses – their first regular-season defeats since Week 6 of 2016. United also was 4-0 coming into this league opener a year ago, and Watervliet won 52-34. But United – giving up only 27 points total over four games this time, might have the defense to slow down a Watervliet offense averaging 43 points per game.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Paw Paw (3-1) at Three Rivers (4-0), Muskegon Catholic Central (2-2) at Cassopolis (4-0), Stevensville Lakeshore (2-2) at Portage Central (3-1), Battle Creek Central (3-1) at Benton Harbor (1-2).
Harbor Springs (4-0) at St. Ignace (2-2)
With their best start since 1999, the Rams have equaled last season’s win total and are lined up to chase their best record since going 6-4 in 2000. But St. Ignace, despite losing to Johannesburg-Lewiston last week, has experienced a turn as well after uncharacteristically winning just a game a year ago. The Saints not only have more wins than last season already, but with 23 more points will eclipse last year’s output.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Norway (2-2) at Calumet (4-0), Negaunee (2-2) at Ishpeming (4-0), Maple City Glen Lake (2-2) at Gladstone (2-2), Petoskey (2-2) at Marquette (2-2).
Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian (3-1) at Hopkins (3-1)
The Ottawa-Kent Conference Silver has the smallest schools of the league’s seven divisions and doesn’t get the attention of the other high-profile leagues. But the Silver’s best have had big moments too over the years, and these two teams are hoping to ride fast starts into more over the next two months. NorthPointe started 5-0 a year ago before hitting the tough part of the league schedule – but did make the playoffs. Hopkins is seeking its first playoff berth since 2014 and already has avenged Silver losses from last season to Belding and Wyoming Godwin Heights.
Others that caught my eye FRIDAY Hudsonville (4-0) at Jenison (3-1), Whitehall (3-1) at Montague (3-1), Muskegon Oakridge (4-0) at Ravenna (3-1), Grand Rapids South Christian (3-1) at Hudsonville Unity Christian (4-0).
Onekama (4-0) at Wyoming Tri-unity Christian (4-0), Saturday
The Portagers seemed on the verge of something special last season, when they finished 9-2 losing in the 8-Player Division 2 Regional Finals. So far this fall they’ve outscored opponents by a combined 196-6, with only reigning Division 1 champion Central Lake getting on the board. Tri-unity is coming off its first challenge of the season – a 38-27 win over Suttons Bay – and could next provide Onekama’s best test to date, and with the Midwest Central Michigan West championship perhaps on the line.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Morrice (4-0) at Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart (3-1), Battle Creek St. Philip (3-1) at Camden-Frontier (3-1), Cedarville (3-1) at Engadine (3-1), Mayville (3-1) at Kinde-North Huron (3-1).
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PHOTO: Grand Blanc quarterback Tylor Leedom pitches to a teammate during the Bobcats’ Week 3 win over Flint Southwestern. (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 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.)