A Game for Every Fan: Week 5

September 20, 2012

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Some of the strongest followings of high school football in this state take place in some of our smallest communities.

And some of Michigan's smallest towns should see some of the best games of this week, the midpoint of the 2012 regular season. 

See below for this observer's picks of the best matchups from your corner of the state. And remember to visit the MHSAA Score Center all weekend for updated scores and standings.

(All are tonight unless noted. Go to Score Center for additional dates and kickoff times.)

Bay and Thumb

Vassar (4-0) at Reese (4-0)

A move into the Greater Thumb Conference West five years ago, from the Tri-Valley Conference East, has paid off for Vassar. The Vulcans are 30-14 in that time, including a 4-0 start this fall during which they’ve outscored opponents 127-6. The only league team they haven’t beaten since the move: Reese, which handed Vassar its only GTC West losses the last two seasons and is averaging 45 points per game.

Others that caught my eye: Merrill (2-2) at Carrollton (4-0), Saginaw Swan Valley (4-0) at Freeland (3-1), Mount Pleasant (2-2) at Midland (4-0), Essexville Garber (3-1) at Millington (3-1).

Greater Detroit

Livonia Churchill (4-0) at Canton (3-1)

Churchill is lining itself up well for its best season in decades. The Chargers have the most playoff points in the state through four games, have scored at least 35 points in each, and with a another win over Canton – Churchill beat the Chiefs by a point last season – the Chargers will be heavy favorites to win their first league championship since 1979. What about Canton? Its only loss this season was by a point to undefeated Midland.

Others that caught my eye: Detroit Cass Tech (4-0) at Orchard Lake St. Mary (3-1), Farmington (4-0) at Oak Park (4-0), Warren Michigan Collegiate (4-0) at Detroit University Prep (4-0), Wyandotte Roosevelt (4-0) at Taylor Truman (4-0).

Upper Peninsula

Cedarville (4-0) at Eben Junction Superior Central (4-0)

In no other division is the importance of playoff points as cut and dried as in 8-player. The top 16 teams, based on playoff points, make the postseason. Simple as that. These two are in fine shape so far; Cedarville is second only to Portland St. Patrick in points, and Superior Center is third. And they’re also two of three 4-0 teams atop the Bridge 8-Man Football Alliance (Rapid River is the third.). Cedarville and Rapid River shared the title in 2011.

Others that caught my eye: Powers North Central (3-1) at Crystal Falls Forest Park (4-0), Iron Mountain (2-2) at Ishpeming Westwood (2-2), Hurley, Wis (2-2) at Bessemer (3-1), Engadine (2-1) at Rapid River (4-0).

Southwest and Border

Watervliet (4-0) at Hartford (4-0)

No league’s teams have enjoyed more nonconference success than the members of the Southwestern Athletic Conference South. Five of the six have started the season 4-0, with these two perhaps the most impressive so far. Watervliet has followed its 10-win season of last fall by outscoring its first opponents in 2012 by a combined 204-13. Hartford hasn’t been far behind that pace, winning all of its games by at least 28 points.

Others that caught my eye: Lawton (4-0) at Decatur (4-0), Three Rivers (3-1) at Edwardsburg (3-1), St. Joseph (3-1) at Portage Central (3-1), Stevensville Lakeshore (4-0) at Niles (3-1).

West Michigan

Whitehall (2-2) at Montague (3-1)

These West Michigan Conference rivals have played annually for the “Bell” since 1906, with Montague winning the last five meetings. Despite a big loss to Muskegon Oakridge, the Wildcats have won their other three games this fall by a combined score of 152-0. But don’t count out Whitehall; after a 2-0 start, its losses were by eight and four points to Shelby and North Muskegon the last two weeks, respectively.

Others that caught my eye: Caledonia (4-0) at Grand Rapids Christian (3-1), East Grand Rapids (2-2) vs. Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central (3-1) at Fifth Third Ballpark, Hudsonville Unity Christian (2-2) at Grand Rapids South Christian (3-1), Muskegon Oakridge (4-0) at Ravenna (2-2).

Mid-Michigan

DeWitt (3-1) at St. Johns (4-0)

Both coming off of one-point wins last week, these Capital Area Activities Conference Red rivals either will be worn down, or more likely raring to go against what has arguably become the biggest rival for both. These teams haven’t had to play this many close games in a while, and this one should be tight too – all four Redwings wins this season have come by six or fewer points, and DeWitt has scored as many as it has given up. The Panthers hold a 4-3 edge since the series was renewed in 2005.

Others that caught my eye: East Lansing (4-0) at Holt (2-2), Charlotte (2-2) at Mason (4-0), Portland (4-0) at Williamston (3-1), Comstock Park (3-1) at Belding (2-2).

Lower Up North

Pellston (4-0) at Pickford (4-0)

Pellston is arguably the biggest surprise of the northern Lower Peninsula – the Hornets had won a combined four games over the last three seasons, and last won four in one season in 2002. But Pickford also has to be excited about its best start since 2005, especially in its first season in the Ski Valley Conference, which added teams and split into the North and South this fall. The Panthers are just two more wins from their first playoff berth since 2007.

Others that caught my eye: Traverse City Central (3-1) at West Branch Ogemaw Heights (2-2), Onaway (4-0) at Mancelona (4-0), Lake City (4-0) at McBain (2-2), Boyne City (4-0) at Traverse City St. Francis (2-2).

PHOTO: Saginaw Swan Valley (white jerseys) defeated Alma last week to remain atop the Tri-Valley Conference Central standings. (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.)