By Geoff Kimmerly
We’re into October, and the drive continues on as we begin turning our attention toward the playoffs beginning at the end of this month.
Today we preview a number of matchups that could again end in league title celebrations – and mention a number of other neighborly clashes that may have nothing to do with league title and playoff pursuits, but will still be memorable.
That said, It just so happens that most of the nine games we glance at below include a mix of all of the above.
All games below are tonight unless noted. Check out the MHSAA Score Center for the full schedule and results as games are completed. MHSAA.tv will broadcast eight games including Frankenmuth/Millington mentioned below. Our “Drive for Detroit” previews are powered by MI Student Aid.
Bay & Thumb
Millington (5-1) at Frankenmuth (5-1)
The noticeable difference heading into the latest chapter of this annual showdown is both teams have a loss – Frankenmuth fell in Week 2 to Tri-Valley Conference Central leader Saginaw Swan Valley, and Millington fell in Week 1 by three points to Ohio’s Sylvania Southview. Otherwise, it’s business as usual with this TVC East finale deciding the league title for the seventh time in eight seasons – and with the Eagles on a three-game winning streak against their rival.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Warren DeLaSalle (5-1) at Davison (6-0), Richmond (4-2) at Almont (6-0), Fenton (5-1) at Flushing (4-2), SATURDAY Lapeer (6-0) at Flint Carman-Ainsworth (3-3).
Dearborn Heights Robichaud (6-0) at Dearborn Heights Crestwood (6-0)
Both have plenty to celebrate. Robichaud was 1-8 just two years ago, rebounded to 6-3 last season but went 2-3 in the league, and now is facing Crestwood for the Western Wayne Athletic Conference title. Crestwood last week clinched its first playoff berth since 2005 and with a seventh win would have its most victories since 2000. After a four-year break, these teams met again last season with Robichaud a 34-26 winner – but Crestwood hasn’t given up more than 20 points in a game this fall.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Detroit Mumford (5-1) at Detroit Cass Tech (6-0), Detroit Denby (5-1) at Detroit Martin Luther King (6-0), Waterford Our Lady (4-2) at Clarkston Everest Collegiate (6-0), Macomb Dakota (5-1) at Romeo (5-1).
Breckenridge (6-0) at Carson City-Crystal (6-0)
Breckenridge football was reborn with its move to the Mid-State Activities Conference in 2016, and the Huskies are 18-0 in league games heading into this weekend’s MSAC finale. Two of those wins came against the Eagles, who formerly battled mostly Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart for league superiority. Breckenridge got the win in this matchup by just a point last fall, 27-26, and this season hasn’t given up a point since Week 1. Carson City-Crystal and its tough running game most likely will need to get on the board at least a few times if it’s to secure its first league championship since 2013.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Lake Odessa Lakewood (5-1) at Olivet (6-0), Beaverton (5-1) at Clare (5-1), Dansville (5-1) at Pewamo-Westphalia (6-0), Mason (3-3) at Williamston (5-1).
Northern Lower Peninsula
Johannesburg-Lewiston (5-1) at Harbor Springs (6-0)
After losing by just seven points to Manton on opening night, Johannesburg-Lewiston has been biding its time to pounce in the league race. The Cardinals have given up only 35 points over the last five weeks and two weeks ago won big against Gaylord St. Mary, which beat them for the Northern Michigan Football League Legacy title a year ago. Harbor Springs has its most wins since going 6-4 in 2000, including an impressive one against Frankfort in Week 2 – but must avenge last year’s 50-8 loss to Johannesburg-Lewiston to secure that league title tonight.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Muskegon Catholic Central (3-3) at Manistee (6-0), Elk Rapids (4-2) at Frankfort (4-2), Petoskey (3-3) at Gaylord (5-1), Kingsley (5-1) at Maple City Glen Lake (3-3).
Southeast & Border
Grass Lake (6-0) at Napoleon (5-1)
Grass Lake has shared or won outright four Cascades Conference championships this decade, but stepped back a year ago going 3-4 in the league and missing the playoffs for the first time since 2004. That’s almost a distant memory, as the Warriors need only 14 more points to outscore last year’s team and defensively are on pace for their best performance in more than a decade. Grass Lake defeated 2017 co-champions Addison and Michigan Center the last two weeks and now gets the third team that shared last year’s title – Napoleon, which has bounced back from an opening night loss to get back into the hunt and won last year’s meeting with the Warriors 45-8.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Grosse Ile (6-0) at Milan (5-1), Hillsdale (6-0) at Ida (5-1), Pittsford (6-0) at Adrian Lenawee Christian (5-1), Ottawa Lake Whiteford (6-0) at Sand Creek (4-2).
Three Rivers (6-0) at Edwardsburg (6-0)
These are the two best teams in Michigan we’ve barely mentioned this season – because in the Wolverine Conference, every team plays nine league games and these two have dominated the league thoroughly. Edwardsburg has scored at least 41 points every week this fall and given up 19 total; Three Rivers has been slightly less dominant offensively but given up only 35 points and only seven over the last four weeks. Three Rivers broke Edwardsburg’s 34-game league winning streak last season, although the Eddies did still go on to claim the conference title and then defeat the Wildcats in a District Final on the way to finishing Division 4 runner-up.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Kalamazoo United (6-0) at Delton Kellogg (5-1), Hartford (4-2) at Cassopolis (6-0), Portage Northern (4-2) at Battle Creek Central (4-2), Fennville (5-1) at Lawton (3-3).
Ishpeming (6-0) at Iron River West Iron County (5-1), Saturday
Three Western Peninsula Athletic Conference small-school division games remain for both of these teams, but this one very well could decide the league title. Only once this season have the Hematites had a game closer than 10 points. The Wykons took a tough Week 4 loss to West PAC large-school leader Calumet in Week 4, but minus that game have given up only 13 points over their other five. This is the first meeting of these teams since 2014, when Ishpeming ended West Iron’s season in the playoffs for the third time this decade.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Houghton (3-3) at Calumet (6-0), Escanaba (4-2) at Gladstone (3-3), Gwinn (4-2) at Norway (3-3), Ishpeming Westwood (4-2) at L'Anse (3-3).
Montague (5-1) at Muskegon Oakridge (6-0)
This West Michigan Conference rivalry is alive and well, with the teams splitting the last four meetings and Montague winning the most recent 40-0 a year ago on the way to the league title. This likely will decide the championship as well; after losing to still-unbeaten Reed City on opening night, Montague has outscored its first five league opponents on average 58-7. Oakridge has outscored its league opponents only 57-12 on average.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Spring Lake (5-1) at Grand Rapids Catholic Central (5-1), Middleville Thornapple Kellogg (5-1) at East Grand Rapids (4-2), Rockford (3-3) at Hudsonville (5-1), Holton (5-1) at Kent City (6-0).
Mesick (3-3) at Brethren (4-2)
These two are relative newcomers to 8-player football, Brethren in its third season and Mesick in its second. But the headway made has been fast and impressive. Brethren can clinch a share of the West Michigan D League championship tonight and also tie its highest win total since 1990. Mesick made the playoffs for the first time last season since 1995, and with a win tonight can create a three-team tie at the top of the league standings with one WMDL game to play (Manistee Catholic Central would join them in first with a win over reigning champion Marion). Mesick won this meeting 30-14 a year ago.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Morrice (6-0) at Genesee (4-2), Mayville (4-2) at Deckerville (4-2), New Haven Merritt (3-3) at Caseville (4-2), SATURDAY Bellevue (5-1) at Battle Creek St. Philip (4-2).
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PHOTO: Clare, here against Beal City during a Week 1 win, is among teams chasing first place in their respective leagues 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.)