By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
Every fall we say it again: We can’t believe how quickly football season flies by.
With two regular-season games to play, 117 of 256 11-player playoff spots are filled, and 83 more teams can clinch postseason berths this weekend. The Detroit Public School League begins its playoffs tonight and Saturday, while many other leagues across the state will either be finishing up their schedules and/or crowning champions over the next 72 hours.
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 11 games this weekend including five mentioned below. Our “Drive for Detroit” previews are powered by MI Student Aid.
Bay & Thumb
Roseville (5-2) at Port Huron Northern (6-1)
Both are undefeated in Macomb Area Conference Blue play heading into this winner-take-all league finale. The Huskies are attempting to take the next step after finishing second in the MAC Gold both of the last two seasons, while Roseville was one of three teams to share the Blue title a year ago – and is looking to also avenge last season’s 13-7 first-round playoff loss to Northern.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Midland Dow (5-2) at Mount Pleasant (7-0), Sandusky (7-0) at Harbor Beach (6-1), Fenton (5-2) at Swartz Creek (6-1), Haslett (6-1) at Goodrich (5-2).
Warren DeLaSalle (6-1) at Detroit Catholic Central (5-2), Sunday
The Detroit area features league championship-deciding games Friday, Saturday and Sunday, with this a clash of MHSAA title contenders as well. Reigning Division 2 champion DeLaSalle has clinched a share of the Catholic League Central title after winning it outright a year ago by defeating the Shamrocks. The Pilots then beat DCC the following week as well in the Prep Bowl, and this weekend’s game could potentially be the first of two straight between these powers again.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Farmington (6-1) at Birmingham Seaholm (6-1), Walled Lake Western (5-2) at South Lyon (7-0), Riverview (6-1) at Grosse Ile (7-0), SATURDAY St. Clair Shores Lake Shore (6-1) at Warren Woods Tower (7-0).
Saginaw Michigan Lutheran Seminary (6-1) at Ithaca (6-1)
The Cardinals’ loss last week to Hemlock took some of the juice out of this one, but an MLS win would create a three-team share of the Tri-Valley Conference West championship between these two and the Huskies. Ithaca hasn’t lost a league game since 2009, and counting the share it owns already this fall has won 10 straight TVC West titles. The Cardinals’ defense has been especially impressive, giving up just over nine points per game, and it will need to come up big again as Ithaca’s offense remains on a scorching 45-ppg pace.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Pewamo-Westphalia (7-0) at Fowler (4-3), Lake Fenton (4-3) at Williamston (6-1), Climax-Scotts (3-3) at Breckenridge (7-0), Brighton (6-1) at Howell (4-3).
Northern Lower Peninsula
Gaylord (5-2) at Traverse City West (5-2), Saturday
The Blue Devils can’t move into a first-place tie in the Big North Conference with a win in this one, but they can make the league race pretty messy. West is undefeated in league play, but a Gaylord win would give Traverse City Central and Petoskey opportunities to share or win the championship outright. The reigning league champion Titans have beaten Gaylord in 12 straight – but this is a better Blue Devils team than most during that string. A sixth win would tie Gaylord’s most in a season over the last 15.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Escanaba (5-2) at Traverse City Central (6-1), Kingsley (6-1) at Cheboygan (4-3), Boyne City (3-4) at Benzie Central (4-3), Elk Rapids (5-2) at Harbor Springs (6-1).
Southeast & Border
Springport (7-0) at Reading (7-0)
The Big 8 Conference title comes down to this, one of three matchups this week between 7-0 teams. Reading has won 16 straight league games, including a sweep of all seven in earning last season’s championship, but these two have split their last eight meetings. The Rangers might have the most statistically impressive defense in the state – they’ve given up just 19 points this season – and it will be key against a Springport offense averaging 45 points (although Reading averages 50).
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Monroe (6-1) at Saline (6-1), Clinton (6-1) at Ottawa Lake Whiteford (7-0), Hillsdale (7-0) at Brooklyn Columbia Central (6-1), Michigan Center (6-1) at Napoleon (5-2).
Constantine (6-1) at Kalamazoo United (7-0)
Constantine’s loss two weeks ago to Schoolcraft has it sitting third in the Southwestern Athletic Conference Valley behind the Eagles and United. Those co-leaders meet in Week 9 – but Kalamazoo of course won’t look past tonight. The last two games between the Falcons and Titans have been decided by a combined seven points – although both in Kalamazoo’s favor. Constantine’s running attack may need to be the key to slowing down a United offense averaging 60 points per game.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Olivet (7-0) at Berrien Springs (6-1), Cassopolis (7-0) at Mendon (4-3), Mattawan (5-2) at Portage Central (5-2), Athens (3-3) at Three Oaks River Valley (4-3).
Gladstone (3-4) at Marquette (3-4)
When it a matchup between two sub-.500 teams the best in a region? When both are fighting for playoff possibilities – and a league title. Thanks to one-point wins over Escanaba and Kingsford, the Redmen have all but wrapped up the Great Northern Conference championship. Gladstone has only the slimmest chance of ending up with a piece of the league title, but the Braves can still shake things up – and like Marquette must finish 5-4 to earn an opportunity for an at-large playoff bid.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Iron River West Iron County (5-2) at Gwinn (5-2), Rogers City (6-1) at St. Ignace (4-3), Munising (4-3) at Ishpeming (7-0), Negaunee (4-3) at Houghton (3-4).
Muskegon Mona Shores (7-0) at Muskegon (7-0)
With the reigning Division 3 champion Big Reds down the road, Mona Shores probably isn’t getting as much attention as it might elsewhere. But the Sailors can earn it tonight in this battle for a share of the Ottawa-Kent Conference Black title. Mona Shores gave Muskegon the latter’s closest game a year ago, losing by just 11. The Big Reds have proven themselves again this fall against some of the state’s elite – but the Sailors belong in that conversation too and have the enviable opportunity to show it.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Zeeland East (6-1) at Zeeland West (6-1), East Grand Rapids (5-2) at Grand Rapids Christian (5-2), Lake City (7-0) at Kent City (7-0), Grand Rapids West Catholic (4-3) at Grand Rapids Catholic Central (6-1).
Posen (6-1) at AuGres-Sims (7-0)
AuGres-Sims’ first season of 8-player football couldn’t be going much better, as it clinched a share of the Midwest Central Football Conference East last week and can finish the outright title tonight against second-place Posen (which is tied for that position with Hillman). The Wolverines have four shutouts and have given up a combined 30 points over their other three games. But Posen deserves it’s due too – its six wins are as many as the last two seasons combined, and the only defeat was by four to Hillman two weeks ago. An upset tonight would be one of the most memorable wins of the last decade for one of the state’s first 8-player adopters.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Rapid River (5-2) at Engadine (6-1), Peck (5-2) at Kingston (6-1), Suttons Bay (6-1) at Onekama (6-1), Ontonagon (4-3) at Crystal Falls Forest Park (4-3).
Second Half’s weekly “Drive for Detroit” previews and reviews 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: Breckenridge charges ahead against Carson City-Crystal last week on the way to clinching the Mid-State Activities Conference title. (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 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.)