By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
Two thirds of the MHSAA football regular season are complete. And one tenth of Michigan’s teams are still perfect – at least two for only a few more hours.
A total of 59 teams are 6-0, and four are playing each other in two of our most significant clashes in the state this weekend.
See below for those matchups and more from your neighborhood. And be sure to check out the first-time, full-hour MHSAA Football Friday Overtime, kicking off with highlights from 13 games at 11:30 p.m. tonight on Fox Sports Detroit.
Also, remember to visit the MHSAA Score Center all weekend for updated scores and standings.
(All games below are tonight unless noted. Go to Score Center for additional dates and kickoff times.)
Grand Ledge (5-1) at Lansing Everett (6-0)
The Vikings have turned aside all challengers in their pursuit of a first league title since 1986. But despite a 6-0 win over East Lansing last week, the toughest might still be yet to come. Grand Ledge has won five straight since opening with a loss to East Kentwood, and over the years has thrived in games when everyone else is talking more about the other team.
Others that caught my eye: Pewamo-Westphalia (5-1) at Fowler (5-1), Grand Blanc (4-2) at Hartland (6-0), Lansing Catholic (5-1) at Portland (6-0), Olivet (5-1) at Battle Creek Pennfield (5-1).
Thumb and Bay
Flint Carman-Ainsworth (6-0) at Flint Powers Catholic (6-0)
Powers' season has been plenty eventful; the reigning MHSAA Division 5 champion owns wins over reigning Division 7 champ Saginaw Nouvel and reigning Division 3 runner-up Mount Pleasant, and fought through an emotional evening a week ago to beat Davison on the same day as retired coach Jack Pratt's funeral. Carman-Ainsworth's journey to this potential Saginaw Valley Association South title decider has rolled along a little more quietly. All the Cavaliers have done is outscore their first three league opponents by a combined 148-8.
Others that caught my eye: Frankenmuth (6-0) at Essexville Garber (4-2), Freeland (5-1) at Hemlock (5-1), Marysville (5-1) at Marine City (5-1), Croswell-Lexington (6-0) at Almont (4-2).
Lower Up North
St. Ignace (6-0) at Pickford (5-1)
Both are newcomers to the Ski Valley Conference this fall, from different former leagues, and are dominating the North division. The winner tonight claims a share of the league title, and Pickford already has beaten third-place Pellston big. A sixth win would give the Panthers their most since 2007. The Saints aren't budging, outscoring opponents 253-12 so far.
Others that caught my eye: Maple City Glen Lake (6-0) at Frankfort (3-3), Grayling (6-0) at Kalkaska (5-1), Johannesburg-Lewiston (4-2) at Onaway (5-1), Benzie Central (3-3) at Kingsley (4-2).
Ishepming (6-0) at Negaunee (6-0)
Two of six undefeated teams in the Upper Peninsula meet to decide at least a share of the Mid-Peninsula Conference – and eventually, this result could decide the whole title with the way these two have dominated. Negaunee has had a few close calls, but has some additional incentive after losing to Ishpeming in six of the last seven meetings.
Others that caught my eye: Marquette (4-2) at Menominee (5-1), Iron Mountain North Dickinson (6-0) at Powers North Central (4-2), Kingsford (5-1) at Iron Mountain (4-2), Rapid River (4-1) at Eben Junction Superior Central (5-1).
Muskegon Oakridge (6-0) at Shelby (5-1)
Winning the West Michigan Conference generally is a strong endorsement for a team's playoff hopes. Six of eight league teams still are up for automatic playoff berths, but Oakridge can claim a share of the championship tonight. Shelby's lone loss was to Montague, which lost to Oakridge; a Shelby win would create a three-way tie for first place between all three.
Others that caught my eye: Grand Rapids South Christian (4-2) at Grand Rapids Catholic Central (6-0), Caledonia (5-1) at Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central (4-2), East Grand Rapids (2-4) at Lowell (5-1), Grand Rapids Northview (5-1) at Cedar Springs (4-2).
Garden City (4-2) at Dearborn Heights Robichaud (6-0)
Robichaud hasn't been perfect this deep into a season since 1991, and got a lot of the heavy work out of the way last week by beating reigning league champion Redford Thurston to earn a share of the Western Wayne Athletic Conference Red. But the Bulldogs can't forget about Garden City, which like Thurston is just a win back of Robichaud and would create a three-way title with a win tonight.
Others that caught my eye: Farmington Hills Harrison (4-2) at Oak Park (6-0), Birmingham Seaholm (5-1) at Bloomfield Hills Lahser (5-1), Plymouth (5-1) at Canton (4-2), Detroit Catholic Central (4-2) at Birmingham Brother Rice (4-2), Saturday.
Southwest and Border
Dowagiac (6-0) at Three Rivers (4-2)
Dowagiac hasn't given up a point in three games and easily could look ahead to Edwardsburg, next week's opponent and the other team tied for first in the Wolverine B Conference South. But the Chieftains won't overlook Three Rivers, which is two eight-point losses from being 6-0 -- including one of those to Edwardsburg two weeks ago.
Others that caught my eye: Lawton (5-1) at Marcellus (5-1), Mattawan (6-0) at Portage Central (5-1), Niles Brandywine (4-2) at St. Joseph Lake Michigan Catholic (6-0), Hartford (5-1) at Decatur (5-1).
PHOTO: Portland running back Jacob Kimmell works to break away from multiple tacklers during the Raiders' 36-13 win over Corunna on Sept. 8. (Click to see more from HighSchoolSportsScene.com).
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 email@example.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.)