By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
Week 7 has a couple of contrasting meanings in the grand scheme of Michigan high school football.
So here's where we sit. Fifty-one 11-player teams have qualified for the 11-player Playoffs. Another 94 are on the verge, needing one more victory. League titles will be decided all over Michigan again this weekend, and pairs of the best in all of the Upper Peninsula face off in both 11 and 8-player games.
Keep an eye on the statewide scene by following the MHSAA Score Center for scores as they come in tonight and Saturday, and check out MHSAA.tv for six live broadcasts – click here for the schedule. Drive for Detroit is powered by MI Student Aid.
Sidenote: With a win tonight against Oak Park (5-1) by his Hawks (4-2), Farmington Hills Harrison coach John Herrington would tie retired Birmingham Brother Rice coach Al Fracassa for the MHSAA record with 430 wins. Stay tuned.
Bay & Thumb
Frankenmuth (6-0) at Millington (6-0), Friday
This is the game, again, in the Tri-Valley Conference East as Frankenmuth has won 22 straight in the league dating to a loss to Millington in 2014. That season was the first of what is now four straight that these two have entered their annual meeting both undefeated. Coincidentally this time, both have scored 246 points this year, with Millington giving up 112 and Frankenmuth 102. And it gets closer still: In a projected Division 5 playoff field, Frankenmuth is third in playoff point average, with Millington next trailing by a mere 1.600. It’s fair to say a league title and possible home District Final are on the line.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Flushing (5-1) at Fenton (6-0), Lapeer (5-1) at Davison (5-1), Ortonville Brandon (4-2) at Linden (5-1), Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port Laker (5-1) at Unionville-Sebewaing (4-2).
Detroit Central (5-1) at Detroit Martin Luther King (5-1), Friday
Detroit Central is much smaller than even a decade ago when it had more than 1,000 students; the Trail Blazers played in the Division 6 playoffs last season. But they’ve got a chance to take a share of the Detroit Public School League Black division title from King, which has three times as many students these days and is the two-time reigning Division 2 champion. Both have talented offenses, but defense may reign; King has given up six points total over four league games, Central just 25. King is coming off a 27-6 win over previously-undefeated Denby, which handed Central its lone loss, 12-6, in Week 3.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard (6-0) at Dearborn Divine Child (5-1), Warren Fitzgerald (5-1) at Madison Heights Madison (6-0), Clarkston Everest Collegiate (5-1) at Waterford Our Lady (4-1), Clarkston (5-1) at Rochester Adams (5-1).
DeWitt (5-1) at Haslett (5-1), Friday
For the first time in a decade, one of this region’s most heated rivalries is relevant again, as the Capital Area Activities Conference Red title is on the line. That’s hardly all. Six of these teams’ first 11 meetings this century were decided by seven or fewer points; only two of the last 10 have been that close, and DeWitt has won 16 straight. But Haslett is 5-1 for the first time since 2007 and already has one more win than all of last season, and DeWitt moves to the CAAC Blue next fall – making this the most significant regular-season meeting these two might enjoy against each other for a while.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Wyoming Godwin Heights (5-1) at Belding (5-1), Lansing Sexton (4-2) at Holt (3-3), Lake Fenton (5-1) at Corunna (3-3), Carrollton (5-1) at Alma (6-0).
Northern Lower Peninsula
Johannesburg-Lewiston (4-2) at Gaylord St. Mary (6-0), Friday
Despite a couple of nonleague losses, Johannesburg-Lewiston has bounced back nicely from last season’s 4-5 finish, which was its first below .500 since 2007. Although Harbor Springs could figure into the mix – both the Cardinals and St. Mary face the Rams over the final two weeks of the regular season – tonight’s matchup could go a long way in deciding the Northern Michigan Football Conference Legacy champ. St. Mary is enjoying that opportunity after starting 2016 5-0 and finishing it 1-4. But that one win was over Johannesburg-Lewiston and by 28 points, perhaps a bit of a confidence builder with these two now the main contenders.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Elk Rapids (5-1) at Grayling (4-2), Beal City (4-2) at McBain (5-1), Hillman (3-3) at Oscoda (4-2), Cheboygan (3-3) at Traverse City St. Francis (6-0).
Southeast & Border
Hudson (6-0) at Ida (5-1), Friday
The Tigers are looking to run through the Lenawee County Athletic Association schedule undefeated for the fifth time in nine seasons, but 2015 league champion Ida is standing in the way after both teams also shared last season’s title – Ida fell to Hudson by a point (and Hudson fell to Hillsdale). After a pair of impressive nonleague wins, the Tigers have won every LCAA game so far by at least 22. The Bluestreaks took an eight-point loss to Brooklyn Columbia Central two weeks ago and surely won’t mind sharing the title again as a result of handing Hudson its first defeat tonight.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Ann Arbor Pioneer (3-3) at Saline (5-1), Athens (5-1) at Pittsford (5-1), Parma Western (4-2) at Jackson Lumen Christi (5-1), Grass Lake (4-2) at Addison (5-1).
Edwardsburg (6-0) at Three Rivers (5-1), Friday
Edwardsburg’s 34-game Wolverine B Conference winning streak just keeps growing, but a few challengers are lined up. Three Rivers fell to the Eddies 38-0 just a year ago, but already has avenged its other 2016 league loss this season, flipping a 29-point defeat to Plainwell into a 20-point win on opening night. Granted, the Wildcats followed that with a 14-point loss to Dowagiac, which fell to the Eddies by eight two weeks later in giving them their first significant league challenge in two years. But if nothing else, this should be closer than a year ago – and Vicksburg (5-1) will be waiting for Edwardsburg in Week 8.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Coldwater (4-2) at Battle Creek Harper Creek (6-0), Schoolcraft (5-1) at Coloma (4-2), Cassopolis (6-0) at Hartford (5-1), Decatur (4-2) at Mendon (6-0).
Gladstone (6-0) at Escanaba (5-1), Friday
It’s an interesting coincidence that the season these two are considered arguably the best teams in the Upper Peninsula is also the first time they aren’t in the same league since the mid-1980s, but that hardly lessens the significance of this matchup. The Eskymos are laying claim to the top spot after doubling up annual top U.P. team Menominee last week. Gladstone is staring down its best season since at least 2008 – and it can only get better with this opportunity against its old Great Northern Conference foe.
Others that caught my eye: FIRDAY Newberry (3-2) at Norway (6-0), Calumet (3-3) at L'Anse (4-2), Charlevoix (2-4) at Munising (3-3), Bark River-Harris (3-3) at Bessemer Gogebic (2-4).
Rockford (4-2) at Holland West Ottawa (5-1)
Pick a league, any league, on the west side and it seems like there is a game that will determine a league champion either this week or eventually. These are the best from the elite Ottawa-Kent Conference Red; Rockford is 3-0 in the league and West Ottawa is 4-0. The Panthers especially have to be thinking historically; they haven’t beaten the Rams since 2002. But West Ottawa also has more wins this fall than the last two seasons combined and has yet to give up more than seven points in a league game – an impressive enough feat to make this look like a much closer matchup than last year’s 51-14 Rockford win.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Lowell (4-2) at Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central (6-0), Comstock Park (4-2) at Grand Rapids Catholic Central (6-0), Wyoming Kelloggsville (6-0) at Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian (5-1), Muskegon Oakridge (5-1) at Montague (6-0).
Stephenson (6-0) at Rapid River (6-0)
Similar to Powers North Central and Crystal Falls Forest Park in 2016, these two have an argument that they are the best in all of 8-player football even as relative neighbors. But only one (most likely) will finish as champion of the Western Eight Conference – although at this point, both could have a chance to finish as MHSAA champions as they project to play in different playoff divisions. Stephenson has two straight wins over the Rockets and hasn’t allowed an opponent closer than 24 points this season. Rapid River certainly has more experience in close games – with three wins by eight or fewer – and that could pay off.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Engadine (4-2) at Cedarville (6-0), Marion (5-1) at Manistee Catholic Central (2-3), Kingston (4-2) at Morrice (6-0), Pickford (6-0) at Onaway (3-3).
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PHOTO: DeWitt, here against Grand Ledge in Week 2, will try to win its 17th straight over rival Haslett. (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.)