A Game for Every Fan: Week 1

August 28, 2014

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

It’s a lot like birds knowing to fly north in the spring.

If you’ve played, coached, parented or followed high school football, you’re likely having a hard time not jumping out of your shoes in anticipation of opening night.

So let’s get right to it; below are some of the most intriguing matchups from this first weekend of the MHSAA football season. More than 250 of the total 310-plus games will be played tonight, with 50 more Friday and a handful Saturday.

Tune in to MHSAA.com’s Score Center all weekend for game times, scores as we get them, standings for those starting league play immediately and all the playoff-point equating that will start to matter to most as we get rolling into the season’s second half. (Records below are from 2013. Games are organized based on the region of Michigan where they'll be played.)

West Michigan

Detroit Catholic Central (11-3) at Muskegon (12-2), Friday

This is set up to be arguably the most high-octane opener in Michigan in some time. DCC is back-to-back-to-back Division 1 runner-up, while Muskegon has finished runner-up in Division 2 the last two seasons. Granted, rosters turn over – but Joeviar Kennedy was Muskegon’s leading receiver in last season’s championship game and Alezay Coleman its leading tackler, and both are back. So are Alex Bock and Jordan Jenkins, two of the most noticeable Shamrocks during their run to Ford Field.

Others that caught my eye: Detroit Country Day (8-4) at Zeeland West (13-1), Grand Rapids South Christian (12-2) at Grand Rapids Christian (8-3) on Friday, Grand Rapids West Catholic (10-4) at Muskegon Oakridge (11-2) on Friday, Grand Rapids Catholic Central (6-4) at East Grand Rapids (5-4).

Greater Detroit

Lansing Sexton (12-1) vs. Detroit East English (9-3), Saturday at Wayne State

Many of the best from Detroit will be playing at Wayne State University over the next three days (see a few more big-time contests listed below), but this one carries the most intrigue because it features one of the best from the city against a Sexton team that missed making last season’s Division 4 Final by a touchdown. The Big Reds have all of their playmakers and much of their outstanding defense back; East English is keyed by run/pass dynamo Anton Curtis, one of the state’s most exciting quarterbacks.

Others that caught my eye: Macomb Dakota (11-1) at Clarkston (13-1), Pewamo-Westphalia (10-2) at Madison Heights Madison (11-1), Detroit Cass Tech (12-1) vs. Oak Park (6-5) on Friday at Wayne State, Southfield (7-3) vs. Orchard Lake St. Mary's (5-4) on Friday at Wayne State.

Bay and Thumb

Saginaw Swan Valley (11-1) at Saginaw Nouvel (9-2)

A nail-biting 27-20 win for Swan Valley in this opener last season kicked off a run to the Regional Finals and the team’s best season in the last eight. Senior running back Alex Grace returns from the most potent offense in school history and arguably is the most potent runner in MHSAA history with more than 5,000 yards in his career and nearly 3,000 last season alone. Nouvel’s lineup will include more new names – but the Panthers rattled off nine straight wins after the 2013 opening loss and will be prepared to get the streak started a week earlier this time.

Others that caught my eye: Flint Carman-Ainsworth (11-2) at Grand Blanc (7-3), Freeland (6-4) at Lake Fenton (8-3), Montrose (12-1) at Reese (8-2), Mount Pleasant (10-2) at Midland Dow (8-3).

Mid-Michigan

Ithaca (14-0) at Clare (7-3), Friday

The Yellowjackets’ 56-game winning streak stretches over four seasons and is the longest of any in MHSAA history achieved entirely during the playoff era. But Clare – the Jack Pine Conference champion for seven years running – should be Ithaca’s toughest regular-season test of at least the last two or three. Ithaca star quarterback Travis Smith is graduated and gone to Wake Forest University, but younger brother Jake Smith has been similarly anticipated and takes over the offense to start his junior year.

Others that caught my eye: Manchester (7-3) at Clinton (13-1), St. Johns (5-4) at East Lansing (4-5), Jackson Northwest (5-4) at Eaton Rapids (7-5), South Lyon (6-4) at Pinckney (7-4).

Lower Up North

New Lothrop (11-1) at Traverse City St. Francis (5-5), Friday

This is the second chapter of a series started a year ago that allows both to start out against a tough opponent before jumping into league play against more familiar foes. New Lothrop won last season’s matchup and went on to make the Division 8 Semifinals for the second time in three seasons. St. Francis hasn’t had two straight middling seasons like this since 2000-01 (it also finished 4-5 in 2012). But the Gladiators are back in a league for the first time since 2011 and should be able to add on last season’s return to the playoffs.

Others that caught my eye: Midland (10-2) at Traverse City West (5-5), Cadillac (11-1) at Big Rapids (3-6), Kingsley (6-4) at McBain (5-5), Marquette (5-4) at Traverse City Central (5-4).

Upper Peninsula

Munising (6-4) at Iron River West Iron County (10-1), Friday

These two did some celebrating in 2013. West Iron tied its school record for wins, while Munising bounced back from 2-7 in 2012 to make the playoffs for the second time in three seasons – and also for only the second time since 1990. Both should be looking for more this fall; West Iron’s lone loss came in the playoffs to eventual Division 7 champion Ishpeming, while Munising – after falling to West Iron 7-0 in last season’s opener – then lost its next two games by a combined six points before rattling off six straight wins.

Others that caught my eye: Houghton (6-4) at L'Anse (8-3), Ishpeming (14-0) at Iron Mountain (4-5), Petoskey (5-4) at Sault Ste. Marie (7-4) on Friday, Posen (4-6) at Cedarville (8-2).

Southwest and Border

Dowagiac (7-4) at Plainwell (8-2)

Dowagiac was cruising along on a 17-game regular-season winning streak when Plainwell broke it last fall with a 10-0 win on the way to a third straight playoff berth. These two haven’t played in the same division of the Wolverine B since 2011, but the rivalry continues to run hot now that both are division favorites on an annual basis.

Others that caught my eye: Watervliet (10-1) at Gobles (5-4), Parchment (7-4) at Schoolcraft (10-2), Edwardsburg (9-1) at Three Rivers (5-4), Portage Central (12-1) at Mattawan (4-5).

PHOTO: Lansing Sexton, practicing earlier this month, fell just a touchdown shy last season of reaching its first MHSAA Final.

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.)