By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
Something's gonna give in many football leagues all over Michigan this weekend.
In the southeastern corner alone at least seven matchups feature first and second-place teams aiming at claiming league titles. And titanic face-offs can be found continuing north to the coast of Lake Superior.
Here's a look at some that stuck out most from this week's schedule. Be sure to check MHSAA Score Center all weekend for up-to-date scores and standings, and then again each morning for updated playoff points averages.
Caledonia (5-1) at Lowell (6-0)
There's never much of a break in the O-K White, and Lowell gets to follow up last week’s four-overtime win at East Grand Rapids with a home game against second-place Caledonia. The Fighting Scots’ only loss was to much-improved Muskegon Mona Shores, and they’ve scored a combined 136 points in three wins since that Week 3 defeat. The Red Arrows are used to top competition with wins also against River Rouge (4-1) and Muskegon (5-1) this fall, and they get to follow this one with Grand Rapids Christian next week.
Others that caught my eye: Holland West Ottawa (4-2) at East Kentwood (4-2), Belding (4-2) at Hopkins (4-2), Spring Lake (5-1) at Ludington (4-2), Zeeland East (5-1) at Muskegon Mona Shores (5-1).
Greater Detroit and Southeast
Canton (6-0) at Plymouth (5-1)
A set of baseball and softball fields separate these neighbors, and they’ve also seen each other twice each of the last five seasons – once during league play and again during the playoffs. A three-point loss by Plymouth to Livonia Franklin is all that kept this from being a matchup of undefeated teams – and if Plymouth wins, it will force Canton to share the Kensington Lakes Activities Association South title.
Others that caught my eye: Belleville (4-2) at Dearborn Fordson (4-2), Detroit Denby (5-1) at Detroit Martin Luther King (5-0), Oak Park (5-1) at Farmington Hills Harrison (5-1), Detroit Mumford (6-0) at Detroit Cass Tech (6-0)
Thumb and Bay
Montrose (6-0) at Flint Beecher (5-1)
Beecher’s only loss this season was two weeks ago against Lake Fenton – which is tied with Montrose for first place in the Genesee Area Conference Red. If the Buccaneers can beat the Rams, a three-team shared title will remain a possibility – Montrose ends the regular season against Lake Fenton and has beaten the Blue Devils in three straight.
Others that caught my eye: Reese (5-1) at Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port (5-1), Flint Powers (3-3) at Flint Carman-Ainsworth (5-1), Traverse City St. Francis (4-2) at Saginaw Nouvel (5-1), Gladwin (4-2) at Sanford Meridian (6-0).
Southwest and Border
Paw Paw (6-0) at Plainwell (6-0)
How little have these Wolverine Conference East leaders been tested this fall? Combined, they’ve given up 68 points. It’s fair to say the Trojans have been the tiniest bit more impressive – they have three shutouts including one over Wolverine Conference West leader Dowagiac. But Paw Paw does have history on its side – the Redskins have won all eight meetings (including one in the playoffs) since the two became league foes in 2006.
Others that caught my eye: Climax-Scotts (6-0) at Bellevue (4-2), St. Joseph Lake Michigan Catholic (5-0) at Niles Brandywine (6-0), Coldwater (3-3) at Battle Creek Lakeview (6-0), Three Rivers (4-2) at Dowagiac (5-1).
Lower Up North
Beal City (6-0) at Lake City (6-0)
Talk about two teams that have simply dominated so far; these two have outscored their opponents by a combined 678-33. The winner claims a share of the Highland Conference title, which Beal City has won nine of the last 10 seasons. It’s anyone’s guess how this matchup might go; Lake City has given up six points this season and Beal City has scored at least 60 four times.
Others that caught my eye: Traverse City West (4-2) at Cadillac (6-0), Kalkaska (5-1) at Grayling (5-1), Evart (5-1) at McBain (4-2), Maple City Glen Lake (6-0) at Suttons Bay (3-3).
Negaunee (6-0) at Ishpeming (6-0)
Ishpeming finished an incredible playoff run as the Division 7 champion last fall, but Negaunee can boast that it claimed the Mid-Peninsula Conference championship during the regular season thanks to a 20-8 win over the Hematites. Both have been similarly dominating again this season, making this arguably the best game in the Upper Peninsula for all of 2013.
Others that caught my eye: Powers North Central (5-1) at Felch North Dickinson (5-1), Cheboygan (5-1) at Sault Ste. Marie (3-3), Pickford (4-2) at St. Ignace (5-1), Marinette, Wis. (2-5) at Menominee (6-0).
Fowler (5-1) at Pewamo-Westphalia (6-0)
That this Central Michigan Athletic Conference clash is considered one of the best rivalries throughout mid-Michigan despite including two of its smallest schools speaks volumes both to how much these programs are respected by others big and small and how good this matchup has been over the last 40-plus seasons. During the last decade alone both have played in MHSAA Finals at Ford Field and faced each other in four games decided by eight or fewer points.
Others that caught my eye: Lansing Everett (5-1) at Grand Ledge (3-3), Carson City-Crystal (6-0) at Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart (5-1), Battle Creek Pennfield (5-1) at Olivet (6-0), Homer (6-0) at Springport (5-1).
PHOTO: Detroit Martin Luther King (white jerseys), here against Detroit East English, has claimed a share of the Detroit Public School League East title, but can win it outright by defeating second place Detroit Denby tonight. (Photo courtesy of the Detroit Public School League).
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.)