A Game for Every Fan: Regional & Semifinals

November 13, 2014

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Last week's MHSAA District Finals saw the thinning out of a number of favorites among the state's biggest football schools. 

But many eyes will be turned this weekend to some of our smallest as they face their biggest moments this season.

The 8-player tournament is down to its Semifinals – and we kick off with previewing those this week before getting into the 11-player Regionals. But from a Regional national news could emerge – Madison Heights Madison might be the most capable team so far of potentially breaking Ithaca’s 67-game winning streak, longest currently in the country among 11-player teams.

All games below are Friday unless noted. Be sure to tune in to MHSAA.com throughout the weekend for results and updated pairings with Semifinal sites expected by Sunday evening.

8-PLAYER

Deckerville (9-2) at Cedarville (10-1), Saturday at DeTour

Only the two teams playing in the other Semifinal have beaten Deckerville, the 2012 MHSAA champion. Running backs Danny Wolfe (1,497) and Ryan Stone (1,123) have run for more than 2,600 of the team’s 3,639 yards on the ground and combined for 52 rushing touchdowns. Quarterback Dylan Pattullo has thrown only 33 times – but for 11 scores. Cedarville dominated Bridge Football Alliance rivals Bellaire and Rapid River the last two weeks to a combined score of 67-0 to make its first 8-player Semifinal. Quarterback Joey Duncan played a big part in helping the boys basketball team to last season’s Class D Semifinals and has thrown for 18 touchdowns and run for 12 this fall. Another basketball standout, Brad Causley, has caught 10 of those TD passes, scored twice off interceptions, once on a kickoff return and four times on punt returns.

Lawrence (11-0) at Peck (11-0), Saturday

Two stars of last season’s MHSAA championship run, twins Cody and Kyle Abrego, have Peck lined up for a repeat with Cody running this season for 1,879 yards and 32 touchdowns and Kyle also starting both ways and scoring four times on receptions, one on an interception and another time on a kickoff return. Teammate Caleb Dudley has run for 11 scores and found the end zone after three of his eight interceptions. Lawrence will be easily fired up to see familiar company; the Tigers were cruising in last season’s playoffs before falling 73-34 to Peck in their Semifinal. The Pirates no doubt remember Lawrence’s Derek Gribler, a quarterback/running back who again has been the team’s most dangerous offensive player.

DIVISION 1

Canton (9-2) at Saline (10-1)

Tonight will be familiar at least to fans of Canton, which reached the Regional Final four of five seasons from 2005-09. Putting the Chiefs' record in perspective makes it look even better – they faced six playoff teams during the regular season alone. Saline has tied its team record for wins in making the Regional Final for the second time in three seasons and is seeking its first Semifinal berth. The Hornets haven’t lost since August, when they fell to emerging Division 2 power Muskegon Mona Shores by a mere 31-28.

Other Regional Finals: Hudsonville (7-4) at East Kentwood (10-1), Walled Lake Central (9-2) at Clarkston (11-0), Clinton Township Chippewa Valley (8-3) at Detroit Cass Tech (11-0) on Saturday.

DIVISION 2

Southfield (8-3) at Wyandotte Roosevelt (9-2)

The Bluejays are seeking their first Semifinal appearance since 2008 after what most would argue were upsets of Detroit Martin Luther King and Oak Park to win the District title. That said, Southfield’s three losses this fall were by a combined 12 points, all to playoff teams including two more also playing this weekend. Roosevelt finished third in a competitive Downriver League, with two losses to eventual playoff teams. But the Bears are going for their 10th win for the sixth time in seven seasons and last week avenged one of those losses by handing Brownstown Woodhaven its first and lone defeat.

Other Regional Finals: Battle Creek Lakeview (9-1) at Muskegon Mona Shores (10-1), Flushing (9-2) at Farmington Hills Harrison (9-2) on Saturday, Warren DeLaSalle (8-3) vs. Birmingham Brother Rice (11-0) on Saturday at Berkley.

DIVISION 3

Lowell (10-1) at Zeeland West (11-0)

Arguably the top game in Michigan this weekend matches Ottawa-Kent Conference White co-champ Lowell with O-K Green and reigning Division 3 champion Zeeland West. The less-than-lovely weather hasn’t slowed down either team; the Red Arrows scored a season-high 49 points last week in beating Grand Rapids Christian for the second time this fall, and West has scored more than 500 points for the fourth straight season – although the Dux must bounce back from a scare after needing to outlast Stevensville Lakeshore 30-28 in the District Final.

Other Regional Finals: Petoskey (9-2) vs. Muskegon (10-1) on Saturday at Holton, Mason (8-3) at Orchard Lake St. Mary’s (9-2) on Saturday, Redford Thurston (8-3) at New Boston Huron (10-1).

DIVISION 4

Eaton Rapids (8-3) at Edwardsburg (10-1)

These two are similar to the point that this game could be done in 90 minutes – both have gotten here with tough running that runs down the clock and leaves little opportunity for opponents. Edwardsburg has a pair of 1,000-plus yard runners and is three points from being undefeated. But Eaton Rapids – under former Holt coach Mike Smith, a playoff veteran – has become something of an unpredictable playoff force. The Greyhounds are 4-1 in two seasons of playoff games after having never made them before Smith took over last fall.

Other Regional Finals: Whitehall (9-2) at Grand Rapids South Christian (9-2), Richmond (10-1) at Lansing Sexton (11-0) on Saturday, Detroit Country Day (7-4) at Chelsea (9-2).

DIVISION 5

River Rouge (10-1) at Almont (11-0)

Almont’s dominating 35-7 win over Marine City in the District Final has made the Raiders a trendy pick to reach Ford Field from this side of the bracket. Eliminating the reigning Division 4 champion will do that, as will outscoring two playoff opponents by a combined 100-7 and putting up 569 points total through 11 games. Almont will face River Rouge for the second time in three seasons after falling 44-22 to the Panthers in a 2012 District Final. Last week’s opponent, Ida, was the first to score on River Rouge in more than a month.

Other Regional Finals: Freeland (10-1) at Menominee (11-0) on Saturday, Reed City (9-2) at Grand Rapids West Catholic (11-0), Flint Powers Catholic (8-3) at Lansing Catholic (11-0).

DIVISION 6

Madison Heights Madison (9-2) at Ithaca (11-0) on Saturday

Most opponents face Ithaca not expected to win and with nothing to lose – the Yellowjackets haven’t lost since 2009. But Madison definitely faces some pressure this weekend as the team expected to come closest, at least this season so far, to ending that run. Madison runs a lot – the team has 310 rushes to 104 passes – and with good reason averaging 9.4 yards per carry. But this might be the best defense, at least on paper, in Ithaca history. It hasn’t given up a point in the playoffs and allowed only 66 during the regular season.

Other Regional Finals: Leroy Pine River (8-3) at Boyne City (11-0), Watervliet (10-1) at Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian (10-1) on Saturday, Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central (10-1) at Jackson Lumen Christi (11-0) on Saturday

DIVISION 7

New Lothrop (11-0) vs. Detroit Loyola (11-0) at Detroit U-D Jesuit

It’s been quite a calendar year for New Lothrop’s boys teams, with MHSAA championships in wrestling and baseball. Beating a Loyola football team that has finished runner-up in Division 7 the last two seasons probably shouldn’t count the same – but would still be a giant deal for a Hornets team that has five straight perfect regular seasons but hasn’t made it to Ford Field during that run. Loyola hasn’t lost a regular-season game since 2010 or given up more than seven points in a game since September – the Bulldogs’ 69 points against for the season rank them among the best defensively in the state.

Other Regional Finals: Traverse City St. Francis (9-2) vs. Ishpeming (10-0) at the Superior Dome, Saginaw Michigan Lutheran Seminary (10-1) at Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port Laker (11-0), Bridgman (8-2) at Pewamo-Westphalia (9-2).

DIVISION 8

Mendon (10-1) vs. Muskegon Catholic Central (11-0), Saturday at Grand Haven

Muskegon Catholic Central has certainly played up to expectations this fall, extending its winning streak to 23 games despite taking on a number of larger schools as a first-year member of the Lakes 8 Conference. The Crusaders are supposed to cruise to their second straight Division 8 title. But if they are to be stopped, it could be by Mendon. Only Columbus Hartley from Ohio has come closer to catching MCC than Mendon did in last season's 28-12 Regional Final defeat. With eight straight seasons of at least 10 wins, the Hornets surely aren’t intimidated.

Other Regional Finals: Munising (10-1) vs. Crystal Falls Forest Park (9-1) at the Superior Dome, Baldwin (10-1) at Beal City (9-2), Morenci (10-1) at Harbor Beach (11-0) on Saturday.

PHOTO: Ithaca, here against Millington in their Division 6 District Final, will look to extend its winning streak to 68 games. (Click to see more from HighSchoolSportsScene.com).

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.)