By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
We’ve begun the second half of the football regular season, and predictably every week will include increasingly important games as league titles and playoff qualifiers are determined.
We’ve highlighted a number of matchups below that could end up deciding league title races. Meanwhile, four teams qualified last week for the 11-player playoffs after starting 5-0 with eight-game schedules. Another 64 can join the field with a win this weekend.
A total of 28 games will be streamed live tonight on MHSAA.tv, including eight highlighted below. Click for the full schedule.
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Bay & Thumb
Goodrich (4-1) at Lake Fenton (3-2)
The winner earns a share of the inaugural Flint Metro League Lower division championship. Both joined the league this fall after previously playing in the Genesee Area Conference Red – Goodrich won that league’s final title in 2018 after Lake Fenton was the champ in 2016 and 2017. Don’t be shocked if this is close. The Martians have hung on after opening this season with a one-point loss to Flint Powers, claiming wins over Linden and Ortonville Brandon by a touchdown or less. Lake Fenton similarly knows how to navigate a close game. The Blue Devils opened with losses to Cadillac by 10 and Ida by six, but won their next three games by six, two and one point.
Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Sanford Meridian (4-1) at Beaverton (5-0), Lapeer (4-1) at Grand Blanc (4-1), Essexville Garber (4-1) at Frankenmuth (5-0), North Branch (4-1) at Richmond (5-0).
Belleville (5-0) at Dearborn Fordson (5-0)
The annual meeting between these two – most recently in the Kensington Lakes Activities Association East – eventually has decided three straight league titles, and there’s a chance that will be the case again when all is said and done this fall. These two and Livonia Franklin are all undefeated and tied for first in the East. Belleville is seeking its third straight league title, and hence third straight win over Fordson after prevailing 29-26 a year ago. Both are piling up points again, each averaging more than 40 per game.
Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Oak Park (4-1) at Birmingham Seaholm (4-1), Detroit Martin Luther King (3-2) at Detroit Denby (5-0), Southfield Arts & Technology (3-2) at Clarkston (2-3), Hartland (3-2) at Plymouth (5-0).
Midland (5-0) at Mount Pleasant (5-0)
The winner will move into first place alone in the Saginaw Valley League Red. The reigning champion Oilers have won 19 of their last 20 games going back to midway through 2017 and last season beat Midland 40-20 in the game that eventually decided the league title. This time they couldn’t be much more numerically even – the Oilers have scored 200 points and given up 38, and the Chemics have a 203-39 combined scoring margin. Midland also has beaten the only other team in the league with an overall winning record, Saginaw Heritage (3-2).
Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Mason (5-0) at Fowlerville (5-0), Holt (3-2) at East Lansing (4-1), Remus Chippewa Hills (2-3) at Central Montcalm (5-0), New Lothrop (5-0) at Durand (3-2).
Northern Lower Peninsula
Johannesburg-Lewiston (5-0) at Charlevoix (4-1)
While this matchup means nothing toward a league title, it should serve as a measuring stick for some of the best small-school teams just south of the Mackinac Bridge. Both are undefeated in their leagues – Charlevoix in the Northern Michigan Football League Leaders and the Cardinals in the NMFL Legacy. The Rayders should have a little extra incentive as well as they continue their best season since 2016 and lost to Johannesburg-Lewiston by a combined 62-7 over the last two years.
Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Traverse City St. Francis (3-2) at Boyne City (2-3), Evart (3-2) at Houghton Lake (3-2), Oscoda (5-0) at Tawas (3-2), Frankfort (2-3) at Mancelona (3-2).
Southeast & Border
Hillsdale (5-0) at Blissfield (4-1)
This is another matchup of teams tied for first place in their league. Hillsdale is in a bit more familiar spot having shared the Lenawee County Athletic Association title last season with Brooklyn Columbia Central. But Blissfield already has beaten BCC (for the third straight season) and will try to continue its charge with a first win over the Hornets since 2016. Hillsdale won those last two meetings by 10 in 2018 and eight the year before.
Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Springport (3-2) at Jonesville (4-1), Sand Creek (4-1) at Ottawa Lake Whiteford (3-2), Riverview (3-2) at Carleton Airport (4-1), Britton Deerfield (3-2) at Clinton (5-0).
Cassopolis (5-0) at White Pigeon (5-0)
The co-leaders in the Southwest 10 Conference have taken vastly different paths on the way. Cassopolis is the reigning league champion and has clinched the conference titles three of the last four seasons. The 11 points Decatur scored last week were the first the Rangers have given up this fall. White Pigeon made the playoffs last year for the first time since 2009, which also was its first winning season since 2014. But the Chiefs have been similarly stellar on defense giving up only 40 points over five games, and the opportunity to take the league lead by breaking a nine-game losing streak to Cassopolis should further feed the team’s motivation.
Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Schoolcraft (5-0) at Constantine (4-1), Gobles (3-2) at Lawton (5-0), Coldwater (4-1) at Marshall (3-2), St. Joseph (5-0) at Portage Central (3-2).
Iron Mountain (5-0) at Calumet (5-0)
This is the first of four straight league games for both, and a title won’t be decided tonight. But this has been one of the most highly-anticipated matchups in the Upper Peninsula since Week 1. Calumet won last season’s Western Peninsula Athletic Conference Copper title, and steadily earned a share of first place so far this fall with wins over Ishpeming Westwood and Negaunee sticking out. The Mountaineers gave notice as contenders quickly with wins over Negaunee and Westwood as well the first two weeks, and they haven’t allowed a point over the last three. Last year’s meeting ended with a 24-0 Calumet win, but it’s fair to expect a closer and yet still low-scoring result in the rematch.
Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Escanaba (4-1) at Menominee (4-1), Ishpeming Westwood (3-2) at Hancock (4-1), Negaunee (3-2) at L'Anse (4-1). SATURDAY West Iron County (4-1) at Lake Linden-Hubbell (3-2).
Hudsonville (4-1) at Grandville (5-0)
These two and Rockford are off to 2-0 starts in the Ottawa-Kent Conference Red. Hudsonville is a one-point Week 2 loss to Holt from undefeated and earned perhaps its best win so far last week, 28-16 over Jenison. Grandville hung on for a one-point win over East Kentwood last week, but its body of work continues to look better and better with Week 3 opponent Forest Hills Central a contender in the O-K White and Week 2 opponent East Lansing arguably the top team in the entire Lansing area this fall.
Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central (4-1) at Cedar Springs (4-1), Ravenna (4-1) at Montague (4-1), Allendale (3-2) at Grand Rapids Catholic Central (4-1), Ludington (4-1) at Muskegon Orchard View (5-0).
Martin (5-0) at Bridgman (5-0)
Just about everything about this is new. These two are both unbeaten in the first-year Southwest Michigan 8-Man Football League, both playing their first season of 8-player. They did play each other in 11-player last year for the first time, at least as far back as Michigan-Football.com tracks for Bridgman (1957), with Martin a 13-8 winner. The Clippers were 11-player playoff qualifiers last year, but the switch has really helped the Bees turn things around – they had gone a combined 1-16 over the last two seasons. Martin has played one more league game than Bridgman, so a win tonight would clinch the Clippers a share of the league title.
Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Gaylord St. Mary (5-0) at Suttons Bay (5-0), Cedarville (3-2) at Pickford (4-1), Climax-Scotts (4-1) at Tekonsha (3-2). SATURDAY Crystal Falls Forest Park (4-1) at Powers North Central (5-0).
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PHOTO: Mount Pleasant, here against Bay City John Glenn during a Week 3 win, is off to a 5-0 start and faces Midland in one of the state’s headlining games this weekend. (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.)