By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
In place of a catchy way to introduce what’s at stake, here’s what’s at stake during Week 6 of this high school football season:
Of 45 matchups mentioned in this “Drive for Detroit” preview, 15 pit teams tied for first place in their respective leagues. Another five games match up teams that are undefeated in their leagues, although not tied for first technically because one of the teams has played one more league game.
Another bunch of games below have first and second-place teams facing off. And we didn’t even have room with the format for a few more title-caliber tilts – like Detroit Western (4-1) at Detroit Osborn (4-1) and Gibraltar Carlson (4-1) at Allen Park (4-1) – or the 5-0 vs. 5-0 showcase between Farmington and Madison Heights Madison.
All games below are tonight; a handful of Michigan teams play Saturday this week. Check out the MHSAA Score Center for the full schedule and results as games are completed. MHSAA.tv will broadcast 11 games this weekend, including Edwardsburg/Plainwell mentioned below. Our “Drive for Detroit” previews are powered by MI Student Aid.
Bay & Thumb
Mount Pleasant (5-0) at Midland (3-2)
These two and Midland Dow have started Saginaw Valley League Red play 3-0, and the Oilers are enjoying their first 5-0 start since the Division 3 runner-up season of 2011. Only one of their opponents so far has a winning record, but giving up 4.4 points per game is impressive whatever the competition. Midland’s defense has been similarly confining, holding its opponents to 13.6 points on average, and the Chemics have beaten Mount Pleasant in three straight. The winner will earn an edge in the league, of course, but the rest will be decided when Dow faces Mount Pleasant in Week 8 and Midland in Week 9.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Goodrich (4-1) at Flint Hamady (5-0), Grand Blanc (4-1) at Lapeer (5-0), Bad Axe (3-2) at Cass City (4-1), Traverse City West (3-2) at Flint Carman-Ainsworth (3-2).
Dearborn Fordson (5-0) at Belleville (5-0)
The co-leaders in the Kensington Lakes Activities Association East have played three like opponents and are nearly statistically even, Belleville outscoring its four league foes 179-65 and Fordson its four 178-67. But the Tractors must show they’re even in this matchup after falling 35-7 a year ago when both also entered that game undefeated. Both teams’ superiority stretches outside the league again this season; both rank among the top 10 in playoff point average statewide.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Harper Woods (4-1) at River Rouge (4-1), Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central (4-1) at Grosse Ile (5-0), Detroit Loyola (3-2) at Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood (4-1), Detroit Cass Tech (5-0) at Detroit Cody (4-1).
Saginaw Swan Valley (5-0) at Alma (5-0)
Only one opponent has slowed down Swan Valley this fall – Cedar Springs in a 21-12 defeat in Week 1. Alma was one of the few that came close a year ago, falling by only 17 in the Tri-Valley Conference Central finale. Neither has been tested much in the league this time around, and the winner tonight will clinch a share of the title.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY St. Johns (3-2) at Haslett (4-1), Fowler (4-1) at Dansville (4-1), East Lansing (4-1) at Holt (2-3), Grand Rapids Christian (4-1) at Middleville Thornapple Kellogg (5-0).
Northern Lower Peninsula
Leroy Pine River (4-1) at Lake City (5-0)
The Bucks have bounced way back from last season’s 1-8 finish and control their Highland Conference title destiny despite last week’s five-point loss to McBain – which fell by two to reigning champion Lake City in Week 3. Before last season, Leroy Pine River had defeated Lake City in three straight meetings. But the Trojans are 17-1 over the last two seasons and have given up 25 points this fall, half the Bucks’ equally impressive 51 points against and while scoring 13 more per game.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Petoskey (3-2) at Traverse City Central (4-1), Maple City Glen Lake (2-3) at Elk Rapids (4-1), Benzie Central (3-2) at Kingsley (4-1), Tawas (3-1) at Oscoda (4-1).
Southeast & Border
Ypsilanti Lincoln (4-1) at Jackson (5-0)
Jackson has arrived as a contender in the Southeastern Conference White with a number of gritty wins – four of five have come by 10 points or fewer, including last week’s over reigning champion Chelsea. The Vikings are new to the league this fall and now get Lincoln, last season’s runner-up and already an avenger of both of its 2017 regular-season defeats. Lincoln last won the league in 2014, and claiming another title next month would of course be a big deal. But Jackson is facing a truly historic possibility – it hasn’t won a league title since 1942.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Grass Lake (5-0) at Michigan Center (5-0), Blissfield (4-1) at Hillsdale (5-0), Saline (4-1) at Ann Arbor Pioneer (3-2), Pittsford (5-0) at Athens (3-1).
Battle Creek Central (4-1) at Kalamazoo Central (3-2)
The 115th meeting between these rivals means more than it has in quite a while. They are tied atop the five-team Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference East, both with more wins overall this season than in 2017 and both facing the possibility of making the playoffs for the first time in at least a decade. The Maroon Giants have won the last two of this series and own a 16-point win this season over SMAC West leader Portage Central – the only team to defeat the Bearcats this fall.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Constantine (5-0) at Schoolcraft (4-1), Edwardsburg (5-0) at Plainwell (4-1), Centreville (5-0) at Mendon (3-2), Portage Central (4-1) at St. Joseph (3-2).
Ishpeming (5-0) at Gwinn (4-1)
These two and Iron River West Iron County are all 3-0 in the eight-team Western Peninsula Athletic Conference small-school division. Ishpeming and Gwinn came to the league from the Mid-Peninsula Conference this fall, after the Hematites dominated that league for most of its final decade – but Gwinn won their last meeting on the field, by 32 points in 2016. The Modeltowners have surpassed their 2017 win total, but must bounce back after being stunned by Houghton last week. Ishpeming too has turned things around after two straight three-win seasons, passing a couple of close tests the last two weeks.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Calumet (5-0) at Iron Mountain (4-1), Marquette (2-3) at Kingsford (2-3), Hancock (2-3) at Ishpeming Westwood (3-2), Gladstone (3-2) at Sault Ste. Marie (3-2).
Zeeland West (4-1) at Hudsonville Unity Christian (5-0)
Unity Christian has spent its share of time chasing frequent champion Zeeland West in the Ottawa-Kent Conference Green race over the last decade or so, and the Crusaders have earned another chance to push ahead of the Dux and neighboring Chix – all three teams are 2-0 in league play with Unity the lone undefeated team overall. The last three meetings between West and Unity have been decided by seven points or fewer, and signs point to another tightly-contested matchup. West’s lone loss came to O-K Gold co-leader Grand Rapids Christian.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Jenison (4-1) at Muskegon (5-0), Grand Rapids South Christian (3-2) at East Grand Rapids (3-2), Spring Lake (5-0) at Grand Rapids West Catholic (2-3), Grand Rapids Catholic Central (4-1) at Allendale (3-2).
Colon (5-0) at Camden-Frontier (4-1)
First-year 8-player program Colon is one win from tying its best record since 2009 and after going 2-7 last season in 11-player. Camden-Frontier has established itself as an 8-player power the last two seasons and will provide a big test for the Magi – although the latter beat Bellevue in Week 2 and Bellevue handed the Redskins their lone loss, in Week 4. A Colon win would clinch a share of the Southern Central Athletic Association A title – while a Camden-Frontier win could create a three-way tie at the top with just one more league game to play.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Powers North Central (4-1) at Crystal Falls Forest Park (3-2), Posen (5-0) at Hillman (4-1), Mayville (4-1) at Peck (4-1), Stephenson (4-1) at Pickford (5-0).
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PHOTO: Saginaw Swan Valley's De'Ondric Sanders runs for some of his 102 yards Week 1 against Cedar Springs. 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.)