A Game for Every Fan: Playoffs Week 3

November 12, 2015

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Through the rain, and fog, and in some places up north a few flakes of snow, we see the MHSAA Football Finals finally approaching – even if predicting which teams will be playing is still no easy task.  

Plenty of opponents facing off this weekend have seen each other at this late date before. For a handful of others, this has been a wild first-time ride.

Here’s a look at what might be the most intriguing of this weekend’s 11-player Regional Finals, plus a longer glance at both 8-player Semifinals. All games are tonight unless noted.

Division 1

Detroit Cass Tech (9-2) at Macomb Dakota (9-2)

It’s hard to believe Macomb Dakota hasn’t played in an MHSAA championship game since 2007, but the 2010 and previously-undefeated 2013 teams both saw their seasons end in Regional Finals against Cass Tech. The Technicians, led by standout quarterback Rodney Hall, have lost only to Detroit Martin Luther King this season, twice. They are playing to make a third straight Semifinal – and get a shot at getting back to the championship game for the first time since 2012.

Other Regional Finals: Rockford (8-3) at Grand Ledge (11-0), Detroit Catholic Central (9-2) at Romeo (10-1), Canton (9-2) at Saline (10-0).

Division 2

Muskegon (9-2) at Lowell (10-1)

Muskegon’s path has been such that every week’s game has been one of the state’s most anticipated. After eliminating previously undefeated Traverse City Central and Muskegon Mona Shores in the District, the Big Reds must hit the road again to take on a Lowell team that is only two three-point losses from perfection. Not that this is an unfamiliar position for either program – although they didn’t meet last year, Lowell and Muskegon ran across each other in the playoffs six straight seasons from 2008-13.

Other Regional Finals: Midland Dow (10-1) at Walled Lake Western (11-0), Livonia Franklin (8-3) at Berkley (9-2), Detroit East English (9-2) at Detroit Martin Luther King (11-0), Saturday.

Division 3

Coldwater (11-0) at St. Joseph (10-1)

This trip into uncharted waters keeps getting longer for the Cardinals, who won their first playoff game ever two weeks ago. Although this level of the tournament is new, St. Joseph isn’t a completely unfamiliar opponent – the Bears beat Coldwater on opening night 2013. St. Joseph has downed league champions three of its last four games and is seeking its first Regional title since 2007.

Other Regional Finals: Chelsea (10-1) at Allen Park (10-1), East Grand Rapids (8-3) at Mount Pleasant (9-2), Saturday; St. Johns (8-3) at Orchard Lake St. Mary’s (9-1), Saturday.

Division 4

Flint Powers Catholic (9-2) at Richmond (10-1)

The first game between these schools features two programs looking to get over the Regional hump. Powers has fallen in two Regional Finals in three seasons since winning Division 5 in 2011. Richmond lost in the Regional Final last year after falling in District Finals both of the two seasons prior; the Blue Devils are trying to make their first Semifinal since 2003. After winning its playoff games by a combined eight points, Richmond will have to contend with a Chargers defense that hasn’t given up a point in these playoffs and has six shutouts total in 11 games.

Other Regional Finals: Remus Chippewa Hills (9-2) at Ada Forest Hills Eastern (10-1), Hudsonville Unity Christian (8-3) at Zeeland West (11-0), Milan (9-2) at Detroit Country Day (10-1), Saturday.

Division 5

Grand Rapids West Catholic (9-2) at Menominee (11-0), Saturday

This has become an annual game at some stage of the playoffs. Saturday will mark the sixth straight postseason meeting between these two, including Semifinals last season, 2010 and 2012 and the 2013 Division 5 Final. The Maroons usually can take advantage of opponents not familiar with their single-wing offense, but West Catholic should be plenty familiar; what Menominee can boast this time is its most impressive defense since the back-to-back undefeated seasons of 2006 and 2007.

Other Regional Finals: Lansing Catholic (10-1) at Freeland (11-0), Buchanan (11-0) at Ida (11-0), Algonac (10-1) at River Rouge (10-1).

Division 6

Boyne City (10-1) at Traverse City St. Francis (11-0)

The first battle between these rivals this season wasn’t much of one by the end, with St. from running back Malik Smith, and fumbled three times – which makes it feel like this rematch will be much closer if the Ramblers keep mistakes to a minimum. It’s fair to say St. Francis creates its own opportunities, though; the Gladiators have five shutouts in 11 games.

Other Regional Finals: Laingsburg (8-3) at Ithaca (11-0), Jackson Lumen Christi (8-3) at Clinton (11-0), Constantine (7-4) at Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian (11-0), Saturday.

Division 7

Sandusky (11-0) at New Lothrop (11-0)

Sandusky is stacking accomplishments like no football team at the school before. The Redskins have more than nine wins for the first time and won a District title for the first time, and now will take on the powerhouse Hornets for the first time. Few teams in Michigan have put together a run over the last six seasons like New Lothrop, which is 65-5 during that span. But the Hornets have been stopped short of the MHSAA championship game all of those seasons, and surely would like a first Finals appearance since 2006 to add to its recent local dominance. 

Other Regional Finals: Cassopolis (9-2) at Pewamo-Westphalia (11-0), Dansville (10-1) at Detroit Loyola (9-2), McBain (8-3) at Ishpeming (10-0).

Division 8

Crystal Falls Forest Park (7-3) at St. Ignace (10-1)

In pursuit of its third Regional title in five seasons – and really, in pursuit of its first MHSAA Final appearance since 1985 – St. Ignace has shown well against the toughest competition of its season. Three of the last four games, all four against playoff teams, have been decided by eight points or fewer, and the Saints came back from a second trip to rival Johannesburg-Lewiston last week with a second win over the Cardinals. Forest Park has no losses left to avenge after winning rematches the last two weeks against the two in-state teams it fell to during the regular season. But the Trojans did fall to St. Ignace in their last meeting, a 2011 Regional Final.

Other Regional Finals: Ottawa Lake Whiteford (9-2) at Climax-Scotts (11-0), Saturday; Muskegon Catholic Central (8-2) at Frankfort (9-2), Saturday; Saginaw Michigan Lutheran Seminary (10-1) at Waterford Our Lady (11-0), Saturday.

8-Player

Cedarville (9-2) at Powers North Central (11-0)

North Central is led by a talented quarterback making the entire state take notice – junior Jason Whitens is up to 41 touchdown passes without an interception to go with his 10 scores on the ground, and junior running back Bobby Kleiman has run for 17 touchdowns and caught 14 of Whitens’ scoring tosses. But Cedarville doesn’t give up too many scores. The Trojans handed Owendale-Gagetown and Posen their only losses of the season the last two weeks, giving up only 48 points total over those two games – a respectable total in the wide-open 8-player format.

Deckerville (10-1) vs. Battle Creek St. Philip (11-0), Saturday at Battle Creek Central

St. Philip got past rival Lawrence one final time last week, but the path to Legacy Field remains blocked by another past champion. Deckerville avenged its lone loss of the season by doubling up Morrice last week and has run over opponents for nearly 3,400 yards, with senior Jared Philpot and juniors Austin Fritch and Brandon Pattullo combining for 2,300 yards and 37 touchdowns on the ground. The Eagles have thrown only 48 times, but St. Philip is much more balanced. The Tigers have nearly the same rushing and passing yardage totals this season – within 77 yards – with senior Brendan Gausselin throwing 35 touchdown passes and senior Brayden Darr running for 23 scores and catching 14 touchdown passes.

PHOTO: Traverse City St. Francis, here against Elk Rapids, is 11-0 for the first time since its undefeated season of 2009. (Photo courtesy of St. Francis athletic department.)

Lawrence's Schuman Sets Example for Well-Rounded Success

By Pam Shebest
Special for MHSAA.com

December 14, 2022

LAWRENCE — If redshirting was a thing in high school, at least two coaches at Lawrence would stick that label on senior John Schuman.

Southwest Corridor“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.

John GuilleanGuillean 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.”

Great anticipation

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.

Derek GriblerGribler 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 ShebestPam 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 pamkzoo@aol.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.)