By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
There were a handful of newly-crowned league champions celebrating by the end of this football weekend, and 54 more teams were able to start making playoff plans.
For all of the predictions made at the beginning of each season and even over the course of every week, there are still plenty of surprises to enjoy even at this late date. Read more below about all of the above as we head into the final third of this regular season.
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Bay & Thumb
HEADLINER Midland 22, Mount Pleasant 21 Midland controls the Saginaw Valley League Red title race after avenging the 2018 loss that eventually resulted in Mount Pleasant (5-1) becoming last year’s league champion. This time, the teams traded leads throughout the game before the Chemics (6-0) went up for good during the fourth quarter. Click for more from the Midland Daily News and see highlights below from WJRT.
— ABC12WJRT (@ABC12WJRT) October 5, 2019
Watch list Hemlock 30, Ithaca 6 While the Yellowjackets (5-1) still finished with a share of the Tri-Valley Conference West I title, the headliner from this league finale was Hemlock (4-2) handing Ithaca its first league loss since 2009. Midland Bullock Creek ended up with a share of the title as well thanks to the Huskies’ feat.
Remember this one Goodrich 49, Lake Fenton 14 The Martians (5-1) secured a share of the Flint Metro League “Lower” division title and can win it outright this week again winless Clio. Lake Fenton (3-3), meanwhile, will hope for an upset to claim a share of the championship but also must win out to guarantee a playoff berth after missing the postseason a year ago.
More shoutouts Fenton 24, Linden 21 The Tigers (5-1) earned a share of the Flint Metro League “Upper” division title, their eighth league championship in nine seasons after finishing third in the formerly unified Metro last fall. Richmond 14, North Branch 7 The Blue Devils (6-0) will meet Almont this week with a share of the Blue Water Area Conference title on the line after knocking North Branch (4-2) out of contention.
HEADLINER Belleville 20, Dearborn Fordson 19 Belleville made a number of clutch plays during the final six minutes to continue its unbeaten run, first stopping a 2-point conversion attempt after Fordson’s final score and then driving for the game-winning touchdown. Belleville (6-0) remains tied with Livonia Franklin for first in the Kensington Lakes Activities Association East. Those two meet Week 8 – but Franklin also must face Fordson (5-1) this week as the Tractors try to keep their hopes alive for a three-team shared championship. Click for more from M-Live Detroit and see highlights below from State Champs Sports Network.
— STATE CHAMPS! (@statechampsnet) October 5, 2019
Watch list Detroit Martin Luther King 32, Detroit Denby 14 The Crusaders (4-2) won this matchup for first place in the Detroit Public School League Division 2, claiming a share of the title while handing Denby (5-1) its only loss.
Remember this one Detroit Renaissance 25, Detroit Cass Tech 20 The Phoenix (4-2) earned a share of the DPSL Division 1 title with something of a historic win; the Technicians (2-4) hadn’t lost a league game since 2015, and to any other league opponent besides King since falling to Detroit Crockett in 2011.
More shoutouts Oak Park 41, Birmingham Seaholm 21 The Knights (5-1) pulled within one more win of locking up a third straight Oakland Activities Association White title by sending Seaholm (4-2) into second place with its first defeat in league play. Clarkston 22, Southfield Arts & Technology 21 (OT) After falling to Southfield 28-14 in Week 1, the Wolves (3-3) got past the Warriors (3-3) in the rematch and held onto control of their playoff prospects as they look to extend a 16-year postseason streak.
HEADLINER Mason 21, Fowlerville 14 Continued improvement was expected from Mason this fall after the Bulldogs jumped from two wins in 2017 to five last season. Check that box, and then some. They are 6-0 for the first time since 2009 and barreled to a share of the Capital Area Activities Conference Red title by handing Fowlerville (5-1) its lone loss. Click for more from the Lansing State Journal.
Watch list Holt 21, East Lansing 14 A week after the Trojans (4-2) shook up the CAAC Blue with a win over DeWitt, Holt has brought half the league back into the race. Those three and Grand Ledge all have one league loss, and the Rams (4-2) have their most wins in a season since 2016.
Remember this one Perry 27, Leslie 21 The Ramblers (3-3) surely are being careful to not look ahead. But it’s tough to not consider what’s happened and what’s coming up as the program continues to seek its first playoff berth. Perry has won four or five games three straight seasons, its best stretch since the early 1990s, and could make a run at six wins with its next three opponents a combined 4-14 this fall.
More shoutouts Stockbridge 16, Lake Odessa Lakewood 14 The Panthers (1-5) earned their first win and in the process locked up part of the Greater Lansing Activities Conference title for Olivet, which meets Lakewood (2-4) this week to either win it outright or share with the Vikings. Central Montcalm 27, Remus Chippewa Hills 14 The Hornets’ incredible turnaround continued as they moved within a win of clinching a share of the Central State Activities Association Gold title. The Hornets were 0-9 a year ago and a combined 3-24 over the last three seasons.
Northern Lower Peninsula
HEADLINER Johannesburg-Lewiston 22, Charlevoix 6 The Cardinals moved to 6-0 for the first time since 2000, and four of those victories have come against teams 3-3 or better including the Rayders (4-2). After two straight non-league games, Johannesburg-Lewiston meets Harbor Springs this week to decide at least partially the Northern Michigan Football League Legacy title. Click for more from the Traverse City Record-Eagle and see highlights below from MI Sports Now.
— MISportsNow (@MISportsNow) October 5, 2019
Watch list Traverse City St. Francis 17, Boyne City 14 The Gladiators (4-2) kept themselves in the NMFL Legends title mix, one game behind leader Kingsley but with the Stags closing the regular season against two more teams (including Boyne City) with only one league loss.
Remember this one Mancelona 36, Frankfort 18 The Ironmen (4-2) had lost all three games against Frankfort (2-4) since the two became part of the NMFL Leaders division. This win also strengthened Mancelona’s pursuit of a first playoff berth since 2014 with Charlevoix up next but its final two opponents a combined 1-11.
More shoutouts Houghton Lake 20, Evart 6 While still hoping for some help catching Beal City in the Highland Conference, second-place Houghton Lake (4-2) has now doubled up last season’s win total by getting past another improved foe in the Wildcats (3-3). Kingsley 67, Benzie Central 40 The Stags (6-0) are scoring 44 points per game, with this week’s output their highest since 2013 – although Benzie (2-4) also scored its season high.
Southeast & Border
HEADLINER Hillsdale 35, Blissfield 28 After sharing the Lenawee County Athletic Association title last season, Hillsdale (6-0) finds itself a major step closer to another championship after getting past the first of four tough opponents down the stretch. The Hornets moved into first place alone, with Blissfield (4-2) the only team one game back and four more tied for third place – although three of those teams make up Hillsdale’s final three opponents. Click for more from the Hillsdale Daily News.
Watch list Ottawa Lake Whiteford 28, Sand Creek 6 The Bobcats (4-2) did their part to set up this week’s Tri-County Conference-deciding matchup with Clinton, downing a Sand Creek team that stands 4-2 and fell by only six to Clinton three weeks ago.
Remember this one Saline 24, Temperance Bedford 21 Three of the four closest wins during Saline’s 31-game Southeastern Conference winning streak came over Bedford (4-2) – which also handed the Hornets (5-1) their last league loss, in 2013.
More shoutouts Jonesville 46, Springport 0 The Comets (5-1) have guaranteed their best finish since at least 2013 and will square off this week with Reading for a first share of the Big 8 Conference championship. Adrian Madison 38, Petersburg Summerfield 14 After breaking an 11-game losing streak against Summerfield (2-4) this past week, Madison (3-3) has more wins than the last two seasons combined and playoff possibilities as it seeks its first postseason appearance since 2009.
HEADLINER Schoolcraft 27, Constantine 24 While the Falcons became the first team this season to hold Schoolcraft (6-0) under 50 points, the Eagles’ defense also came through by locking down a Constantine offense averaging 40.5 points per game. Schoolcraft extended its winning streak over the Falcons (4-2) to five and remains tied for first in the Southwestern Athletic Conference Valley. Click for more from the Kalamazoo Gazette.
VIDEO: Check out the highlights of the Schoolcraft (@SCSEagles1) at Constantine football game from Friday afternoon.
— STATE CHAMPS! (@statechampsnet) October 5, 2019
Watch list Cassopolis 41, White Pigeon 0 After giving up its first points this fall (11) to Decatur in Week 5, Cassopolis (6-0) rolled out its fifth shutout of this season to take over first place alone in the Southwest 10 Conference. White Pigeon (5-1) entered tied for first and averaging 34 points per game.
Remember this one Coldwater 21, Marshall 20 All three of Coldwater’s final opponents also have playoff hopes, making this win over Marshall (3-3) of particular importance as the Cardinals (5-1) look to get back to the postseason after a year away. Marshall’s three defeats were by a combined nine points.
More shoutouts Battle Creek Central 32, Kalamazoo Central 29 The Bearcats broke a three-game losing streak to the rival Maroon Giants and kept their playoff hopes alive as both teams sit at 2-4. St. Joseph 34, Portage Central 7 The Bears have two massive nonleague opponents up next – Battle Creek Lakeview and then DeWitt – but with this win over the Mustangs (3-3) guaranteed the Week 9 matchup with Portage Northern will be for the outright Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference West title.
HEADLINER Iron Mountain 15, Calumet 14 What may end up the game of the year in the Upper Peninsula couldn’t have been more evenly matched. Iron Mountain scored first and Calumet (5-1) scored last, and the teams piled up nearly the same amount of yardage and first downs. But the Mountaineers (6-0) emerged alone atop the Western Peninsula Athletic Conference Copper and having now avenged both of its league defeats from a year ago. Click for more from the Iron Mountain Daily News.
Watch list Escanaba 26, Menominee 20 The Great Northern Conference could finish up any number of ways, as these two are among three teams with one league loss behind leader Marquette – which is only 2-4 overall and has yet to play Menominee (4-2). Escanaba (5-1) has just one league game left and will have to wait and watch through Week 9 to see if it ends up as the league’s overall or co-champion or having fallen just short.
Remember this one Gladstone 20, Sault Ste. Marie 8 The Braves’ schedule is becoming more impressive by the week and could end up featuring three league champions. After three straight losses Gladstone (3-3) got back on track with a needed win over the Blue Devils (4-2).
More shoutouts Ishpeming Westwood 36, Hancock 23 The Patriots (4-2) have won three straight and put themselves in position to earn a third-straight playoff berth with this key win over the improved Bulldogs (4-2). West Iron County 24, Lake Linden-Hubbell 16 The Wykons (5-1) earned an opportunity to play Ishpeming this week for first place in the West PAC Iron, getting past another possible playoff team in the Lakes (3-3).
HEADLINER Muskegon Orchard View 30, Ludington 14 The Cardinals clinched a share of their first Lakes 8 Conference title since 2008 and can finish the run outright this week against Muskegon Heights Academy. The Cardinals were just 2-7 a year ago, but avenged last season’s loss to Ludington (4-2) to get to 6-0 for the first time since 2005. Click for more from the Local Sports Journal and see highlights below from FOX 17.
Orchard View improves to 6-0 with win over visiting Ludington https://t.co/OxrSQlKvLv
— FOX 17 Blitz (@FOX17Blitz) October 5, 2019
Watch list Hudsonville 44, Grandville 21 The Eagles (5-1) were never forgotten in the Ottawa-Kent Conference Red, of course, with that lone loss by a point to nonleague Holt. But the Week 8 Grandville/Rockford matchup was starting to look like the likely decider in the league title race. Instead, that unofficial championship game could come this week when the Eagles meet the Rams. Hudsonville came back from a halftime deficit, scored its most points since Week 1 and held the Bulldogs (5-1) to their season low.
Remember this one Cedar Springs 30, Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central 6 Four of seven teams in the O-K White are 4-2 or better, and with this win reigning champ Cedar Springs (5-1) set itself up to play Lowell this week for first place. The Red Hawks have wins already over the other contenders including now the Rangers (4-2).
More shoutouts East Grand Rapids 59, Grand Rapids South Christian 35 The O-K Gold race appears down to EGR (4-2) and Grand Rapids Christian, although South Christian (3-3) still could make an impact as it takes on the Eagles this week. Ravenna 17, Montague 7 North Muskegon or Hart could play spoiler this week, but if not the West Michigan Conference title will be decided in Week 8 when Ravenna (5-1) takes on Muskegon Oakridge as they’ve handed back-to-back defeats to reigning champion Montague (4-2).
HEADLINER Martin 60, Bridgman 16 The Clippers have begun their 8-player history as league champions, downing another first-year 8-player program Bridgman (5-1) to lock up a share of the inaugural Southwest Michigan 8-Man Football League title. Martin (6-0) did so scoring its second-most points of the season, and can clinch the championship outright Week 8 against St. Joseph Michigan Lutheran. Click for more from TownBroadcast.com.
Watch list Gaylord St. Mary 48, Suttons Bay 47 This didn’t affect any league race but did provide a glance at what could become one of the key playoff matchups in two months. Had the playoffs started this past week, St. Mary (6-0) and Suttons Bay (5-1) would’ve entered tied for the third-highest playoff point average in 8-player Division 1.
Remember this one Powers North Central 34, Crystal Falls Forest Park 8 Not only did this win over the rival Trojans (4-2) pull North Central within one more victory of clinching a share of the Great Lakes Conference West title, but the Jets (6-0) were tied for first and the Trojans fifth in last week’s projected 8-player Division 2 playoff listings.
More shoutouts Deckerville 44, Mayville 12 Five of six teams in the North Central Thumb League Blue are 4-2 or better, and Deckerville (6-0) remains tied with Kingston atop the league after handing Mayville (4-2) its first Blue defeat. Kinde North Huron 22, Peck 14 The Warriors (5-1) should be eager for their chance at Deckerville this week coming off a solid win over the Pirates (4-2).
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PHOTO: Frankenmuth's quarterback surveys the Essexville Garber defense before the snap during Friday's Eagles win. (Photo by Dan Brovont.)
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.)