By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
How much should fans enjoy the final two weeks of this football regular season?
There are 93 leagues for the sport statewide, and 35 championships remain completely up for grabs. Another 35 leagues have had one team clinch a share of the title but still have the possibility for another to join the celebration.
And the playoff picture is similarly a slightly-filled canvas. A total of 346 teams (out of 531 total) remain eligible for at least an additional qualifier berth in the 256-team 11-player field. A total of 110 teams have secured their spots – but 86 more teams can clinch with a win this week.
On the 8-player side, the 32 playoff spots will remain in flux through Week 9 – and it looks like up to 55 teams still have a chance to make that field.
Below again is a look at many games that will tilt these numbers this weekend. The MHSAA.tv live streaming schedule includes 33 games – click for the full listing and links to each game. All games below are Friday unless noted.
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Bay & Thumb
Marine City (7-0) at Marysville (5-2)
The Mariners handed St. Clair its lone league loss last week to earn a share of the Macomb Area Conference Silver title, and will finish the league schedule against the other team tied for second in Marysville. If the Vikings are able to break a two-game losing streak in this series, it will create a three-way shared Silver championship. But they will have to crack a Marine City defense giving up just 8.4 points per game.
Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Fenton (6-1) at Goodrich (6-1), Flint Powers Catholic (5-2) at Grand Blanc (5-2), Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice (5-2) at Lapeer (6-1), Montrose (6-1) at Byron (5-2).
Romeo (6-1) at Clinton Township Chippewa Valley (7-0)
For the second straight season, Chippewa Valley enters this Macomb Area Conference Red finale with a perfect record and Romeo has a chance to break up the league title with a win. The Bulldogs and Utica Eisenhower are tied for second, one game behind the Big Reds, and Romeo fell only 41-34 last season in giving Chippewa Valley one of the toughest games of its undefeated Division 1 championship run.
Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Royal Oak Shrine (6-1) at Clarkston Everest Collegiate (6-0), Clawson (4-3) at Clinton Township Clintondale (5-2), Farmington (7-0) at North Farmington (7-0), Belleville (7-0) at Livonia Franklin (6-1), Detroit Catholic Central (4-3) at River Rouge (6-1).
Fowler (7-0) at Pewamo-Westphalia (7-0)
This season has been a little unfair to the Eagles, and be sure they’ll use that as motivation tonight. It’s hard to not talk about Pewamo-Westphalia – a lot – when the Pirates are outscoring their opponents by a combined 312-14 with five shutouts, including one over reigning Division 8 champion Reading (which is otherwise averaging 52 points per game). But a few miles over from that all-out domination, rival Fowler is outscoring its opponents 295-70, giving up more than 13 points in a game just once, and with a chance to take the Central Michigan Athletic Conference title outright if they get past the rival Pirates for the first time since 2014.
Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Portland (7-0) at Mason (7-0), St. Joseph (6-1) at DeWitt (5-2), Fowlerville (6-1) at Lansing Catholic (6-1), Olivet (7-0) at Williamston (4-3).
Northern Lower Peninsula
Maple City Glen Lake (6-1) at Charlevoix (5-2)
The leaders of the Northern Michigan Football League Leaders division will meet for the outright championship tonight. A win would give Glen Lake its third straight league title, and of course it would be celebrated – especially bouncing back from last week’s loss to Kingsley. But a win for Charlevoix would be historic; the Rayders not only would clinch a first playoff berth since 2016, but the league title would be the program’s first since 1987 and after a number of runner-up finishes over the years. Glen Lake has won the last six meetings between these teams, including three over the last three years in NMFL play.
Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Breckenridge (6-1) at Oscoda (7-0), Beal City (7-0) at McBain (4-3), Johannesburg-Lewiston (7-0) at Frankfort (3-4), Ogemaw Heights (5-2) at Grayling (3-4).
Southeast & Border
Milan (7-0) at Carleton Airport (5-2)
Milan claimed a share of the Huron League championship last week. And although third-place Airport can’t win a share as well whatever happens tonight, second-place Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central surely is cheering the Jets on. Milan has won the last eight against Airport, including once in the playoffs, but four of those games were decided by eight or fewer points – including last season’s when the Big Reds won 35-30.
Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Ann Arbor Pioneer (4-3) at Saline (6-1), Manchester (5-2) at Grass Lake (6-1), Britton Deerfield (4-3) at Ottawa Lake Whiteford (4-3), Jackson (5-2) at Pinckney (5-2).
Kalamazoo United (4-3) at Constantine (5-2)
As we consider what United will try to accomplish over the next two weeks – defeating Constantine and then unbeaten Schoolcraft to earn a third-straight playoff berth and repeat as Southwestern Athletic Conference Valley champion – it’s important to keep in mind the Titans’ start this fall. They began 0-3 – but the first loss was by two to still-unbeaten Jackson Lumen Christi, and the third defeat by just nine to still-undefeated Berrien Springs. Constantine is in a similar place, however – its losses to Berrien Springs and Schoolcraft were by a combined eight points.
Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Muskegon Catholic Central (4-2) at Benton Harbor (4-3), Parma Western (5-2) at Marshall (4-3), White Pigeon (6-1) at Mendon (6-1), Dowagiac (4-3) at Vicksburg (5-2).
Traverse City Central (6-1) at Escanaba (6-1)
The Eskymos’ chances of getting some help to climb back into the Great Northern Conference title race are getting slimmer by the week as a three-point Week 4 loss to Marquette still stands as the lone decider for first in that league. But Escanaba can continue to gear up for the playoffs and a run at a fourth-straight District title, and playing much larger Central is a great way to get ready. The Trojans have clinched a share of the Big North Conference title and haven’t lost since Week 1. Interestingly, their six-game winning streak started against Marquette – and they’d surely love to go 2-0 against the GNC’s best after falling to Escanaba by 17 a year ago.
Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Hancock (4-3) at Calumet (6-1), Iron Mountain (7-0) at L’Anse (4-3), Kingsford (4-3) at Menominee (4-3), Lake Linden-Hubbell (4-3) at Bark River-Harris (5-2).
Muskegon (7-0) at Muskegon Mona Shores (6-1)
Championships could be decided all over the Ottawa-Kent Conference this weekend, but this annual matchup in the Black always is one of the most-hyped games in the state and again deserves lots of attention after both teams reached Ford Field last season. Since falling in the 2018 Division 3 Final, Muskegon has been challenged only by East Grand Rapids in a five-point Week 3 win. The reigning Division 2 runner-up Sailors fell to still-unbeaten Rockford by 13 in Week 4 but otherwise have won all of their games by at least 20 points. The Big Reds have won the last four in this series, and regardless of the outcome this latest chapter will be entertaining – the total points scored has increased every game over the last four, with Muskegon winning 55-35 in 2018.
Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Rockford (7-0) at Grandville (6-1), Ravenna (6-1) at Muskegon Oakridge (7-0), Grand Rapids Christian (5-2) at East Grand Rapids (5-2), Byron Center (7-0) vs. Hudsonville Unity Christian (5-2) at Hope College.
Deckerville (7-0) at Kingston (6-1)
A share of the North Central Thumb League Blue championship goes to the victor, and in Deckerville’s case would guarantee a fourth consecutive league title. Two of the last five years this matchup determined the league champion, and a third time Kingston defeated Morrice to help Deckerville take back a share of first place after falling to the Orioles a week earlier in 2017. The Eagles have won all 12 against the Cardinals since the teams began playing each other regularly in 2010, including a pair of victories last season as they also met in the playoffs.
Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Burr Oak (5-2) at Climax-Scotts (6-1), Onekama (5-2) at Suttons Bay (7-0). SATURDAY Morrice (7-0) vs. Crystal Falls Forest Park (5-2) at Pickford, Mio (7-0) at Gaylord St. Mary (2-5).
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PHOTO: Mason works the ground game during a 21-14 league title-deciding win over Fowlerville on Oct. 4. (Click to see more from High School Sports Scene.)
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.)