Garza Shows Range, New Lothrop Reigns

By Paul Costanzo
Special for MHSAA.com

January 23, 2021

DETROIT – It had been a while Saturday since the New Lothrop offense had made a big play. 

The Hornets had seen a 28-point lead shrink to seven and were staring down another big third down. In need of a spark, they turned to the player who had given them so many earlier in the game, and once again, Julius Garza delivered. 

Garza converted the third down, and eventually scored his fourth touchdown to help seal New Lothrop’s 42-35 victory over Traverse City St. Francis in the Division 7 Football Final at Ford Field.  

“Their backers were keying on (Will) Muron all night, so I knew when they flew up, Julius would come open,” New Lothrop senior quarterback Cam Orr said. “I knew if I threw him the ball, he’d catch it no matter where it was.” 

Garza scored four touchdowns in the game – two rushing, one receiving and one on a kick return – to tie him for fourth in MHSAA Finals history for touchdowns in a game. He had 139 yards receiving on four catches and 26 yards rushing on four carries. 

It was his 3rd-and-6 conversion with his team in its own territory and clinging to a seven-point lead, however, that was likely his biggest play of the game. His 26-yard reception on the next play was also in the running, as was the nine-yard touchdown run that put New Lothrop up 42-28 with 2 minutes, 26 seconds to play. 

“It means everything,” Garza said. “It’s kind of taken a little bit to settle in. I feel like I’m on top of the world right now. It’s really exciting. All the work we put in, and everything we do, for it to pay off, it means the world.” 

The title was the Hornets’ third, and first since 2018. If not for a one-point Regional Final loss a year ago against eventual champion Pewamo-Westphalia, the program could be celebrating a three-peat. 

“We’ve always had tremendous community backing. We’ve always had tremendous kids that have put in the same amount of work these guys have,” New Lothrop coach Clint Galvas said. “We were just unfortunately not able to get over that hump. Obviously in (2018) we were able to get over that hump and win a state title. Maybe that gave us the confidence we need moving forward as a program, like, ‘Hey, we can do this now.’ Winning a couple is special, but I’m not taking anything away from the previous teams we had, because we had some pretty darn good teams walk through these halls and wear the New Lothrop helmet, and they put in the work, too.” 

At halftime, it looked as though New Lothrop (11-0) would be cruising to title No. 3, as it built a 35-7 lead, using explosive plays. Muron scored on the Hornets’ second offensive play with a 27-yard run, and after St. Francis answered with a three-yard Gabe Olivier touchdown run, Garza returned the ensuing kickoff 83 yards for a score. 

Garza added a 65-yard touchdown reception from Orr and a three-yard touchdown run, before Orr closed out the half with an 11-yard rushing score.  

“Is Julius Garza having a heck of a day surprising? Not at all,” Galvas said. “Those of you who have been around and watched this kid, he was a two-way starter two years ago on the 2018 title team. The kid’s always been a player. … I think they came into the game like a lot of teams, they want to stop Cam and they want to stop Will on the edge. And I think if you do that, sometimes you forget about Julius Garza. We were able to get him a lot of one-on-one matchups with some backers and things, and he’s going to win those pretty much 10 out of 10 times. He’s a heck of an athlete.” 

St. Francis (9-3) clawed back into the game in the second half, however, shutting the New Lothrop offense down and getting its own offense going – albeit in a different manner than the Hornets. The Gladiators power run game started to lean on New Lothrop and scored on its next three possessions prior to Garza’s late-game heroics, to nearly erase the deficit. 

Aidan Schmuckal closed out a nine-play drive with a two-yard touchdown run midway through the third quarter, and Charlie Peterson scored on a one-yard sneak early in the fourth to close out a 14-play drive. Schmuckal’s second score, also a two-yard run, came with 6:46 to play and immediately followed a blocked punt by St. Francis’ Jimmy Muzljakovich. 

“I felt like we played a doubleheader today,” St. Francis coach Josh Sellers said. “The score of the first game was 35-7, and the score of the second game was 28-7. Unfortunately, the math didn’t work out in our favor. We let too many big plays go in the first half, obviously. At 35-7 in the locker room, I told them, ‘You’ve got two choices: you can just pack up the tent stakes and go home now, or go out and try to win the second half,’ and they did. They won the second half with great effort, great belief in one another, and we just fell a little bit short today.” 

St. Francis didn’t go away after Garza’s final touchdown, either, scoring with a seven-yard pass from Peterson to Josh Grove with 1:07 to play. New Lothrop recovered the onside kick, however, and after running three plays, Orr ran off the final seven seconds of the game by rolling to his left and throwing the ball high into the air down the field. 

“We like to pride ourselves in our never-giving-up mentality,” Schmuckal said. “We’ve been a team that has been known to battle back and never give up. Going into that second half, I knew that we were never going to give up and we were going to fight to the bitter end, and that’s what we did.” 

Schmuckal led St. Francis with 101 yards rushing, while Owen Mueller had 71 and Olivier had 69. Joey Donahue led the St. Francis defense with eight tackles, while Schmuckal had seven, including three for loss. 

Orr led the Hornets in passing and rushing, throwing for 222 yards on 11-of-15 passing, and running for 122 yards on 17 carries. Alec Mangino led the New Lothrop defense with 12 tackles, while Garza had nine. Muron and Bryce Cheney each had an interception.

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) New Lothrop’s Julius Garza looks to make one of his many big plays Saturday at Ford Field. (Middle) Hornets quarterback Cam Orr reaches the end zone as Traverse City St. Francis’ Gavin Nickodemus (15) and Gabe Olivier (20) bring him to the turf. (Click for more from Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)

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.)