By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
Tonight could end with at least a few Michigan communities celebrating the best night in their local high school's football history.
Breckenridge is seeking its first league title since its players' grandparents were newborns. Engadine, Corunna and many more could have momentous evenings as well as league titles stand to be decided all over the state.
All nine highlighted games of this week's Drive for Detroit preview powered by MI Student Aid could decide league races, whether tonight or in the near future. Check out the MHSAA Score Center for a schedule of this weekend's games and to see scores as they're reported. All games listed below are today unless noted.
Bay & Thumb
Corunna (6-0) at Lake Fenton (6-0)
This Genesee Area Conference Red finale matches the league’s co-leaders. Corunna’s transformation the last two seasons truly deserves note; the Cavaliers didn’t have a winning season from 2006-12 and then fell back to 2-7 in 2014 after a 6-4 finish the year before. But they’re in position to repeat as Red champs after sharing the title last season with Goodrich. Lake Fenton has been much more of a regular contender but still will be playing for its first league title since sharing the Red with Montrose in 2007.
Others that caught my eye: Alma (5-1) at Carrollton (4-2), Saginaw Swan Valley (4-2) at Freeland (6-0), Davison (6-0) at Lapeer (5-1), Saginaw Heritage (3-3) at Flint Carman-Ainsworth (4-2).
Rochester Adams (5-1) at Birmingham Groves (6-0)
It’s a little complicated, but the Oakland Activities Association White winner also can be partially determined tonight. Thanks to a one-point loss to Oak Park in Week 4, Adams trails Groves just slightly in the standings with the opportunity to secure a share of the league title with a win tonight in what will be its final league game of the fall. Groves also can clinch a share tonight with a win but still has one more league game to play next week and must win that as well to clinch the title outright – unless Oak Park, already with a league defeat to Groves, also loses one of its final two OAA White games. An Adams win tonight could lead to a three-way title share.
Others that caught my eye: Romeo (4-2) at Warren Mott (6-0), Detroit Western International (4-2) at Detroit Mumford (5-1), Detroit Catholic Central (6-0) at Orchard Lake St. Mary’s (4-2), Detroit East English (4-2) at Detroit Martin Luther King (5-1) on Saturday.
Merrill (5-1) at Breckenridge (6-0)
Already celebrating its first playoff berth since 1993 – and after going 0-9 (!) last season – Breckenridge can secure a share of its first league title tonight in 70 years, according to a Midland Daily News report. But Merrill – which like Breckenridge joined the Mid-State Activities Conference this season after leaving the Tri-Valley Conference West – can set up a possibility to share the championship as it enters with only an MSAC loss to Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart. Merrill downed Breckenridge 48-6 a year ago after the Huskies took their 2014 meeting.
Others that caught my eye: Fowler (4-2) at Dansville (4-2), Lansing Sexton (4-2) at East Lansing (4-2), Stockbridge (3-3) at Olivet (4-2), DeWitt (5-1) at St. Johns (3-3).
Northern Lower Peninsula
Clare (5-1) at Roscommon (6-0)
These two are tied for first in the Jack Pine Conference with three games to play – meaning that a loss tonight won’t entirely derail either’s hopes. But the winner should be set up well to at least share the title, although Roscommon still must play Harrison (4-2) and Claire finishes with playoff hopefuls Beaverton (4-2) and Houghton Lake (3-3). The Pioneers are used to this scenario – before falling twice last season, they had won 34 straight Jack Pine games and have dominated the league most of the last two decades. Roscommon, meanwhile, has its most wins already since 2006, when it finished 10-2 and won the conference.
Others that caught my eye: Gaylord St. Mary (5-1) at Johannesburg-Lewiston (3-3), Muskegon Catholic Central (6-0) at Manistee (4-2), Charlevoix (5-1) at Onekama (5-1), Saginaw Nouvel (4-2) at Tawas (4-1).
Southeast & Border
Ida (6-0) at Hudson (5-1)
Ida has won all but one of its Lenawee County Athletic Association games over the last two seasons by at least 24 points. The team to come closer, Hillsdale (falling 20-17), is next week’s opponent – but Ida won’t look past rejuvenated Hudson. The Tigers have bounced back from finishing 4-5 last year and still have LCAA title hopes despite falling to Hillsdale 14-6 last week. Hillsdale already has a league loss as well, so an Ida win tonight puts the Bluestreaks in strong position to at least share the championship after winning it outright in 2015.
Others that caught my eye: Petersburg-Summerfield (4-2) at Clinton (4-2), Quincy (5-1) at Concord (5-1), Milan (6-0) at Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central (3-3), Morenci (4-2) at Ottawa Lake Whiteford (6-0).
Battle Creek Harper Creek (6-0) at Coldwater (4-2)
Harper Creek is having an all-around great fall; the volleyball team is ranked No. 6 in Class B, the boys cross country team was tied for No. 9 in Lower Peninsula Division 2 entering this week, and the football team has doubled its wins from a season ago with an opportunity tonight to clinch a share of the Interstate 8 Athletic Conference championship against last year’s champion. Coldwater has won two straight over the Beavers and won’t go quietly, but Harper Creek has yet to allow a team to get closer than 10 points.
Others that caught my eye: St. Joseph Lake Michigan Catholic (5-1) at Bridgman (4-2), Schoolcraft (6-0) at Gobles (5-1), Portage Central (5-1) at Portage Northern (4-2), Delton Kellogg (4-2) at Watervliet (4-2).
Ishpeming (3-2) at Negaunee (6-0)
A couple of pretty strong Negaunee teams have had their Mid-Peninsula Athletic Conference hopes dashed by MHSAA title-contending Ishpeming teams over the last few years. The Hematites have beaten the Miners in three straight, and the 2013 and 2015 victories decided league titles. But Negaunee enters as the favorite this time with wins over five teams still up for playoff berths, and Ishpeming has a little additional pressure; it must win two of its last three games against Negaunee, St. Ignace and Gwinn to guarantee adding to a 14-season playoff streak.
Others that caught my eye: Kingsford (4-2) at Iron Mountain (5-1), Escanaba (5-1) at Gladstone (3-3), Lake Linden-Hubbell (6-0) at Houghton (3-3), Hancock (4-2) at Gwinn (4-2).
Zeeland East (5-1) at Hudsonville Unity Christian (6-0)
Four teams in the Ottawa-Kent Conference Green are at least 5-1 and a fifth is 4-2, making this arguably the strongest league in the state top to bottom this fall. Two of this week’s matchups are highlighted in this space this week, and Unity Christian enters tied with Byron Center for first place but with Hamilton and Zeeland East holding only one league loss. East is a newcomer after playing previously in the O-K Black, but could have the greatest influence on the final finish with Unity on the schedule this week, Byron Center next week and rival Zeeland West in Week 9
Others that caught my eye: Whitehall (4-2) at Ravenna (4-2), Big Rapids (3-3) at Reed City (6-0), Grand Rapids South Christian (3-3) at Wyoming (4-2), Hamilton (5-1) at Zeeland West (4-2).
Cedarville (6-0) at Engadine (6-0)
Engadine is in the midst of a string of successful seasons it hasn’t enjoyed since the mid-1980s, but winning tonight could make this fall the best of the bunch. The Eagles can clinch a share of the Bridge-Alliance League title after returning this fall after a year playing in the Western Eight Conference. Cedarville, of course, is a regular favorite and has only four league losses in five seasons of 8-player football. The Trojans’ closest games this fall have been a pair of 20-point wins, and Engadine hasn’t let anyone get closer than 10.
Others that caught my eye: Wyoming Tri-unity Christian (6-0) at Lawrence (6-0), Webberville (5-1) at Portland St. Patrick (6-0), Rapid River (5-1) at Stephenson (5-1).
Second Half’s weekly “Drive for Detroit” previews are powered by MI Student Aid, a part of the Student Financial Services Bureau located within the Michigan Department of Treasury. MI Student Aid encourages students to pursue postsecondary education by providing access to student financial resources and information, including various student financial assistance programs to help make college more affordable for Michigan students. MI Student Aid administers the state’s 529 savings programs (MET/MESP) and eight additional aid programs within its Student Scholarships and Grants division. Click for more information and connect with MI Student Aid on Facebook and Twitter @mistudentaid.
PHOTO: Saginaw Swan Valley (left) and Zeeland East faced off earlier this season; both will attempt to beat league leaders this weekend. (Click to see 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 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.)