By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
With 600 high school teams in Michigan and good games always to be found, just about any week could be called “Rivalry Week” as the term is often hyped at the college and pro levels.
A number of the best rivalries – longtime or emerging – will be played out over the next two days, and we offer a glance at a number of those games below. You’ll have a chance to check out a bunch, as seven of the games mentioned in this preview are among the 32 that will be broadcast live on MHSAA.tv – click here for the schedule.
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Bay & Thumb
Grand Blanc (4-0) at Davison (4-0)
These teams entered this game last season under almost identical circumstances – and Davison exited with a 49-7 win on the way to finishing second to Lapeer in the Saginaw Valley League Blue. Those three appear to be the main title contenders again, and Davison has won its first two Blue games by a combined 104-0 while Grand Blanc also opened league play last week with a shutout. Last season’s loss started a rough finish for the Bobcats, and they face a tough regular-season second half again with Lapeer, Flint Powers Catholic and Saline coming up. Obviously, a win tonight would provide a sizable lift heading into that string.
Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Harbor Beach (4-0) at Ubly (4-0), Saginaw Swan Valley (3-1) at Frankenmuth (4-0), Fenton (3-1) at Flint Kearsley (4-0), Breckenridge (3-1) at Merrill (3-1).
Macomb Dakota (3-1) at Clinton Township Chippewa Valley (4-0)
One of the best rivalries in the state again matches up the teams tied for first in the Macomb Area Conference Red. Chippewa Valley is riding an 18-game winning streak after claiming last season’s Division 1 championship and has won four straight over Dakota – with victories over the Cougars during the playoffs as well the last two seasons. Dakota’s only slip-up this fall came Week 1 against still-unbeaten Orchard Lake St. Mary’s, and it will be interesting to see how this meeting shakes out. The Big Reds won by only seven, 24-17, the first time they played in 2018 but 51-10 in the District Final rematch.
Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY West Bloomfield (3-1) at Lake Orion (4-0), Brownstown Woodhaven (4-0) at Allen Park (3-1), North Farmington (4-0) at Auburn Hills Avondale (3-1), Warren De La Salle Collegiate (2-2) at Orchard Lake St. Mary's (4-0).
Portland (4-0) at Lansing Catholic (4-0)
This one gets top billing by just a smidge over East Lansing/DeWitt, as Portland can claim supremacy in the Lansing area so far thanks to its two-point Week 2 win over the Panthers. The Raiders have otherwise dominated coming off last year’s Division 5 runner-up finish, but Lansing Catholic surely has been looking forward to this opportunity. Not only will tonight’s game likely eventually decide the Capital Area Activities Conference White champion, but Portland handed the Cougars their only two losses last season – by a combined 12 points.
Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY East Lansing (3-1) at DeWitt (3-1), Sanford Meridian (4-0) at Clare (4-0), St. Johns (3-1) at Mason (4-0), Laingsburg (3-1) at Pewamo-Westphalia (4-0).
Northern Lower Peninsula
Johannesburg-Lewiston (4-0) at Tawas (3-1)
The Cardinals are tied for first in the Northern Michigan Football League Legacy division after winning the title outright a year ago, and they’ve dominated for most of 2019 so far. But this nonleague meeting starts a string of games against four straight playoff hopefuls. Tawas was a qualifier last season and this fall is just a two-point opening-night loss to Alcona from a perfect start as well.
Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Charlevoix (3-1) at Frankfort (2-2), Mancelona (2-2) at Elk Rapids (2-2). SATURDAY Alpena (2-2) at Traverse City West (2-2), Gaylord (2-2) at Traverse City Central (3-1).
Southeast & Border
Marshall (3-1) at Jackson Lumen Christi (4-0)
By nature of this kind of success, as Lumen Christi’s state-best 27-game winning streak continues to grow, every matchup will be scrutinized that much more. The Titans have beaten Marshall in three straight but scored a season low in last year’s 21-0 shutout of the Redhawks. And this is a better Marshall team; after three straight seasons winning three or four games, Marshall is a one-point opening-night loss to Freeland from 4-0. Meanwhile, another win could just about seal up the Interstate 8 Athletic Conference title for Lumen – its final three league opponents are a combined 3-9.
Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Chelsea (4-0) at Jackson (3-1), Britton Deerfield (3-1) at Sand Creek (3-1), Hillsdale (4-0) at Hudson (2-2), Brooklyn Columbia Central (3-1) at Onsted (2-2).
Battle Creek Lakeview (4-0) at Kalamazoo Central (2-2)
Lakeview has had a nice run through the 2010s with five playoff appearances in a row from 2012-16. But last season the Spartans won two games, their fewest since 2002 – although that should be fading from memory with this start. A win tonight would bury it further, as defeating reigning champion Kalamazoo Central would earn Lakeview a share of the Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference East title – its first since 2015. But making it happen might take the Spartans’ best performance so far. The Maroon Giants have suffered their two losses by just a combined seven points, and the last three meetings with Lakeview all have been decided by eight points or fewer.
Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Cassopolis (4-0) at Decatur (2-2), Portage Central (2-2) at Stevensville Lakeshore (2-2), Benton Harbor (2-2) at Battle Creek Central (1-3). SATURDAY Delton Kellogg (3-1) at Schoolcraft (4-0).
Lake Linden-Hubbell (3-1) at L'Anse (3-1)
These teams are enjoying similar jumpstarts this fall but with this nonleague matchup key to their postseason hopes. The Lakes were 10-1 as recently as 2016, but won just two games last season. A two-point Week 2 loss to Ishpeming is all that’s kept them from 4-0, but their next two games are against the leaders of their Western Peninsula Athletic Conference Iron division. Despite opening with a loss to Hancock, the Purple Hornets have equaled their win total from all of last season as they pursue a first playoff berth since 2013 – but with a tough slate of West PAC Copper games coming up to finish the regular season.
Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Escanaba (3-1) at Kingsford (2-2), Iron Mountain (4-0) at Bark River-Harris (3-1), Boyne City (2-2) at Menominee (3-1), Ogemaw Heights (3-1) at Sault Ste. Marie (3-1).
Muskegon Oakridge (4-0) at Montague (4-0)
This has as much claim to being Michigan’s best matchup of the weekend as any listed above or below, after Montague won last year’s meeting 25-24 on a touchdown and 2-point conversion with no time left. Oakridge went on to win out before falling by three to eventual Division 5 champion Hudsonville Unity Christian in the District Final – meaning the Eagles’ two defeats were by a combined four points to teams that ended up at Ford Field. Montague was runner-up in Division 6 and opened 2019 by avenging last season’s loss to Reed City.
Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Hudsonville Unity Christian (3-1) at Grand Rapids South Christian (3-1), Byron Center (4-0) at Zeeland West (4-0), East Kentwood (3-1) at Grandville (4-0), Manistee (3-1) at Muskegon Orchard View (4-0).
Colon (4-0) at Climax-Scotts (4-0)
As expected, things got a little more competitive last week for Climax-Scotts as it continued to march through its first season of 8-player. But a 16-12 win over Camden-Frontier set the Panthers up to take on reigning Southern Central Athletic Association A champion Colon with an opportunity to win a share of the league title. The Magi have outscored their opponents by a combined 197-18 and have a few reasons to be amped. Not only does this stack up as one of the top 8-player matchups of the regular season statewide, but Climax-Scotts beat Colon in 11 straight 11-player games from 2008 through 2017.
Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Vestaburg (4-0) at Portland St. Patrick (4-0), Mio (3-1) at Hillman (4-0), Cedarville (2-2) at Brimley (4-0), Martin (4-0) at St. Joseph Lake Michigan Catholic (2-2).
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PHOTO: Portland edged DeWitt 29-27 in Week 2. Both play this weekend in games that eventually could decide their leagues’ champions. (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.)