If Lansing Catholic’s Cooper Rush would’ve thrown that late second-quarter pass just a litter farther Friday, his receiver probably would’ve had time to run under and catch it.
But it was hard for the Cougars’ senior quarterback to be disappointed. His first miss came after 20 straight completions to begin a 61-13 Division 5 Regional win over Dowagiac – and was one of three MHSAA records Rush set or tied on the night.
The 20 straight completions tied the mark set by Rockford’s Mike Segard in 1997. Rush also threw eight touchdown passes to set a record ahead of five who had thrown seven, a record seven TDs during the first half, and tied a record with five in the first quarter. And before leaving the game in the third quarter – after just 28 pass attempts – Rush had tossed for 510 yards to tie for third on that single-game list.
This fall has been filled with wild passing totals by Rush, who has committed to sign with Central Michigan this winter. His 3,302 yards for the season are seventh on the MHSAA record list with a possible two games left to be played, and his 41 touchdown tosses are third. A three-year starter, he emerged as an all-state candidate last season. But he’s dwarfed that performance in helping Lansing Catholic to a 12-0 record heading into Saturday’s Semifinal against Grand Rapids West Catholic.
“We’ve improved greatly, especially this year from last year,” Rush said. “I’ve developed a lot more timing with all my receivers, with that extra year playing with each other. All my receivers know what I want, and I know what they want.
“(I tell them) never give up on a route. Trust it, and they know I’ll put it where they can catch it and make a play after the catch.”
Total, Rush finished Friday night 25 for 28 throwing the ball, and he connected with five receivers. Senior Matt Macksood caught 11 passes for 304 yards and four touchdowns – the yardage fourth on the MHSAA record list for one game, and the four scores one short of tying for first. (Click to see both players' entries in the MHSAA record book.)
And Rush was hardly just dumping off the ball. All but nine of his completions were for 10 yards or more, and eight went for at least 25 yards. Macksood and his receivers helped out with a few great catches. But most of the time, he and teammates Jack Swain, Connor Bartlett, Dan Liesman and Jim Maher simply had to snag what was thrown at them.
“Every time I dropped back, guys were wide open. It was pretty easy to hit wide-open receivers,” Rush said. “It was the same old (routes) they’ve run all year. They just ran them really crisp.”
Macksood also is rising on MHSAA record lists in a number of categories. He’s surpassed 1,400 receiving yards for the second straight season and is one of five receivers on the MHSAA list with at least 2,800 for his career. His 33 touchdown catches over the last two seasons puts him tied for sixth in that category.
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.)