By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
What’s still at stake as we dive into Week 9 of this football season?
Meanwhile, 171 11-player teams had secured playoff berths – and 71 could win and get in, although there also are 10 matchups between 5-3 teams this weekend that will leave the defeated hoping for at-large bids. The 8-player picture is just a little clearer: At least eight teams appear to be in the running for the final 2-3 spots in that 32-team field.
You’ll see below many of those league-deciding games, and others with playoff implications perhaps taking higher priority this week over matchups between teams already qualified. 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 seven games this weekend, and be sure to tune in to FOX Sports Detroit at 7 p.m. Sunday for the “Selection Sunday Show” announcing fields and pairings for the 11 and 8-player brackets. Our “Drive for Detroit” previews are powered by MI Student Aid.
Bay & Thumb
Davison (7-1) at Lapeer (8-0)
The winner takes the Saginaw Valley League Blue title outright. The lone loss between these teams was Davison’s to Detroit Catholic League Central co-champ Warren DeLaSalle in Week 7. Davison has only one league loss in the last three years – to Midland last season, which left the Cardinals to eventually place second. But they went on to beat Lapeer the next week and again in a playoff opener. This year’s Lightning team has been more successful on both sides of the ball, and the defense has given up more than 19 points only once.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Swartz Creek (6-2) at Ortonville Brandon (7-1), Midland Dow (5-3) at Midland (5-3), Mount Pleasant (8-0) at Saginaw Heritage (5-3), Goodrich (5-3) at Croswell-Lexington (5-3).
Detroit Cass Tech (8-0) vs. Detroit Martin Luther King (7-1) at Renaissance
These two rolled through their divisions of the Detroit Public School League so thoroughly that there hasn’t been much to point out over the last six weeks. But their rematch will decide the PSL “A” playoff champion; King won last year’s PSL semifinal meeting 17-7, and both teams went on to reach MHSAA Semifinals. The Crusaders’ only loss this fall was Week 2 against Muskegon, by three – the closest game for the Big Reds this season. Cass Tech’s only close game was a Week 2 one-point win over Ohio power Lakewood St. Edward. The Technicians have outscored PSL teams the last six weeks by a combined 269-7.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Brighton (7-1) at Belleville (8-0), Oak Park (7-1) at Clarkston (7-1), Grosse Ile (8-0) at Dearborn Heights Crestwood (8-0), SATURDAY Warren DeLaSalle (6-1) vs. Detroit Catholic Central (5-2) at Ford Field, Detroit Public Safety Academy (7-1) at Sterling Heights Parkway Christian (8-0).
Williamston (7-1) at Pewamo-Westphalia (8-0)
This one means nothing in the standings but could tell a lot about two playoff hopefuls. The Pirates will try to add to back-to-back Division 7 championships starting next week after yet another incredible regular season where they’ve outscored their first eight opponents by a combined 447-34 – and that included a 38-0 Week 1 win over Ithaca, which hasn’t lost since. With a win tonight, Williamston would lock up its best regular-season record since 2010, when it went on to finish Division 4 runner-up. The Hornets’ only trip-up came against St. Johns in Week 4, but over the last month they’ve beaten three teams that still have playoff aspirations heading into tonight.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Montague (7-1) at Portland (8-0), East Lansing (7-1) at Okemos (6-2), Saginaw Swan Valley (8-0) at St. Johns (5-3), Holton (5-3) at Howard City Tri-County (4-4).
Northern Lower Peninsula
New Lothrop (8-0) at Traverse City St. Francis (8-0)
The Traverse City West/Petoskey game could have league implications, but it’s hard to not talk more about New Lothrop making the trip up north. The Hornets are hoping to finish their eighth perfect regular season over the last nine years, and beat an eventual league champion in Maple City Glen Lake on opening night before a perfect run through the first-year Mid-Michigan Activities Conference. St. Francis also has a victory over Glen Lake, and by a similar margin. But the Gladiators have yet to win by fewer than 35 points – making this an important test for them as well heading into the playoffs.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Traverse City West (6-2) at Petoskey (5-3), Frankfort (5-3) at Benzie Central (5-3), Manton (4-4) at Rogers City (7-1), Cheboygan (4-4) at Elk Rapids (6-2).
Southeast & Border
Grass Lake (8-0) at Reading (8-0), Saturday
The Cascades Conference champion meets the Big 8 Conference title winner in one of five matchups pitting undefeated teams this week. The Warriors got here with defense – they have yet to give up more than 16 points in a game – while Reading, as noted last week, has had one of the most impressive defensive showings in the state. The Rangers gave up 14 in clinching the league title last week to bring their total number of points allowed to 33 this fall.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Dundee (5-3) at Hillsdale (7-1), Michigan Center (7-1) at Springport (7-1), Brooklyn Columbia Central (7-1) at Hudson (4-4), Ida (6-2) at Blissfield (5-3).
Cassopolis (8-0) at Centreville (8-0)
The Southwest 10 Conference championship comes down to this matchup of a team that’s had its share of recent success and another that is one of this season’s best turnaround success stories. Cassopolis was runner-up in the conference a year ago and won its old Berrien-Cass-St. Joseph Red in 2016. Centreville, meanwhile, will finish with its first winning record since 2008 and after claiming a total of five victories over the last three seasons. And talk about defense, the Bulldogs have given up 34 points this fall – and these Rangers have given up a mere 24.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Schoolcraft (7-1) vs. Kalamazoo United (8-0) at Vicksburg, Portage Northern (6-2) at St. Joseph (5-3), Plainwell (5-3) at Otsego (5-3), Napoleon (5-3) at Quincy (5-3).
Gaylord (5-3) at Sault Ste. Marie (5-3)
Sault Ste. Marie has bounced back from two straight two-win seasons and a 1-2 start to this one to reach the verge of returning the postseason despite scoring only 123 points over seven games – they’ve made it by giving up only 15 per game. Gaylord is looking to take the next step after missing the playoffs last season as a 5-4 finisher. Speaking of “so close,” the last two weeks have been excruciating for the downstate Blue Devils with two one-point losses that would’ve meant a league title had they gone the other way.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Kingsford (4-4) at Escanaba (6-2), Norway (4-4) at Iron River West Iron County (6-2), Gwinn (5-3) at Munising (4-4), Marquette (4-4) at Menominee (1-7).
Rockford (5-3) at East Kentwood (7-1)
A share of the Ottawa-Kent Conference Red championship is at stake. So is a lot more. The Falcons have clinched at least a share of the league title. But Rockford can earn a share as well with a third-straight win in this series – and although the Rams would be a strong at-large candidate at 5-4, they must win to guarantee continuing a 23-year playoff streak. It’s the longest active postseason football streak in the state, and also tied for the longest all-time.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Zeeland East (7-1) at Hudsonville Unity Christian (7-1), Saugatuck (7-1) at Fennville (7-1), Berrien Springs (7-1) at Muskegon Oakridge (7-1), Hudsonville (5-3) at Holland West Ottawa (6-2).
Wyoming Tri-unity Christian (8-0) at Colon (8-0)
The Magi can finish their first perfect regular season since 1957 (according the Michigan-football.com), and have picked it up the last three weeks outscoring those opponents by a combined 150-6 – despite the fact two of those teams are possible playoff qualifiers. For Tri-unity Christian, this would be a second perfect regular season in three years. But that hardly makes it less significant. The Defenders have reached three straight playoffs and advanced to the Semifinals two years ago. A win of this magnitude would be the best way to keep things rolling into their next postseason trip.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Powers North Central (7-1) at Stephenson (5-3), Tekonsha (5-3) at Bellevue (7-1), Pickford (8-0) at Cedarville (5-3), Peck (5-3) at Deckerville (6-2).
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: Saginaw Heritage, here against Arthur Hill this fall, is among 71 teams hoping to qualify for the MHSAA Playoffs with a win 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 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.)