By Chris Dobrowolski
Special for Second Half
There’s nothing that could spoil Jerry Angers’ mood right now.
When you love coaching football as much as Maple City Glen Lake’s varsity leader, being able to continue preparing your team deep into the playoffs trumps any tough situations that might come along.
That’s why an early-season snowstorm that hammered Leelanau County and shut down a number of schools in the area hardly registered as problematic for Angers, who is guiding his Lakers into a Division 6 Regional championship game against Calumet on Saturday — a clash of 10-1 squads aiming to advance to the Semifinal round.
“It’s totally awesome,” said Angers, in his 11th year in charge of the Lakers. “We’re getting pounded with snow up here, and we’ve got guys plowing our field off. We practiced in the gym today because it was snowing so bad. We were told we had to go home early. I wouldn’t trade that adversity for anything.”
This will be the second time in the last four years Glen Lake has ventured to the Upper Peninsula to face the Copper Kings. In 2016 the two teams met in the same round of the postseason, with the Lakers pulling out a 14-0 win on the way to reaching the Division 6 Final against Jackson Lumen Christi, which won the title with a 26-14 victory. Nearly all of the 16 seniors on Glen Lake’s roster were freshmen on the 2016 team and have the experience of an eight-hour bus trip to the Keweenaw Peninsula under their belts.
“That’s a really cool similarity because those kids have experienced this trip,” said Angers. “They weren’t playing, but they experienced what it took to get there.”
Angers makes the experience more than just playing the game. Getting in a practice on the way to Calumet, the team meals, the hotel stay — each aspect becomes part of the joy of the journey.
“It’s fun getting on the bus and basically spending two days with the kids and experience all the different things,” said Angers. “It’s like college football life on the high school level.”
There’s little doubt this is a business trip for the Lakers, though.
“When we got into film session on Sunday, Coach just told us it’s college football 101,” said senior running back/linebacker Johnathan Wright. “Long bus ride. We’ve got to stay focused.
“(They are) definitely a typical U.P. power team. They want to run downhill and run the clock out and just keep smashing you in the mouth.”
Angers admits to being superstitious enough that he’s trying to mimic as much of the trip this time to the one in 2016 in hopes that it can lead to a similar outcome. Just maybe not an exact mirror, however.
Right as the Lakers were getting ready to head from the hotel to the field in that Regional contest in 2016, they realized they had been locked out of their bus. Without panicking, players had to file into parents’ vehicles to transport them to the game in time. The Lakers managed to overcome that moment of turmoil by winning the game.
“So, if that’s what goes wrong and you still get to play a game? I was laughing about it,” said Angers. “How many other people are playing football right now?”
The seeds for this season were sown during an up-and-down 5-5 campaign a year ago that included a first-round playoff loss to Beaverton. The senior class — which showed its potential when it got significant playing time and performed well in a postseason victory against Roscommon as freshmen — wanted to leave its own legacy with a deep playoff run like the one the Lakers experienced three years ago.
“That was a huge motivation,” said senior lineman Ben Kroll. “We hated how we exited last year. We did not like the way we played. We do a boot camp every summer before the season starts. It was definitely the best boot camp I’ve been to, how close we all were and how we get along. We’ll fight for each other every day.”
Glen Lake has good athletes at the skill positions. Wright is in his second year starting on offense — he’s also been a three-year starter at linebacker — and is the leading rusher. Quarterback Reece Hazelton, at 6-foot-7, has a greater stature than a typical high school quarterback, though his best sport is basketball. He signed his letter of intent Wednesday to play hoops for Ferris State. His favorite target is junior receiver Finn Hogan.
The line, a position group near and dear to Angers’ heart, is the heartbeat of the team, with seniors Garrett Tremble, Dylan Kilinski, River Dallas and Kroll, and junior tackle Sam Keys.
“Without them nothing would happen,” said Wright.
Angers makes sure everyone on the roster knows they have key roles, whether it’s starting on offense, defense or special teams. Guys who make up the scout team are held in high value. Angers can go down the line and name off kids on his team and big plays they’ve been able to make at some point this season.
“There’s 31 kids I can turn to at any time, and I feel very comfortable and confident that they’re going to go in and get the job done,” said Angers. “Next man up. You’re one play away from being a starter. I think these kids also understand that.”
The Lakers have gone through a brutal schedule nearly unscathed. Five of the nine teams on the schedule qualified for the playoffs, and four of those teams won at least one postseason game. The schedule is specifically created that way for Glen Lake to be properly prepared to handle tough teams during the playoffs.
The one slip up came in the seventh week when Kingsley — which remains undefeated and is playing for a Regional crown in Division 5 — handed the Lakers a 53-14 loss. Angers shoulders the blame, saying he didn’t have the Lakers ready for a game of that magnitude and Glen Lake was uncharacteristically sloppy.
“That was a real wake-up call, and I think that was really good for our team because now in these playoff runs we know we can’t take any days off, any moments off,” said Kroll.
The ultimate goal, of course, is to win the Division 6 championship at Ford Field. Two more wins and Glen Lake will be back in the position it was in three years ago, playing in Detroit with a title on the line. Glen Lake’s last football championship came in 1994 when the Lakers won the Class DD crown with a 20-10 victory against Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes.
“There’s nothing like it,” said Wright. “All the lights are on you. You’re at the center of a huge dome, and it feels amazing. I just want to get back to that.”
The memory of being in Detroit for Thanksgiving weekend is still fresh in Angers’ mind — arriving at the stadium and feeling the electricity in the air as an earlier game unfolded.
“One of the coolest experiences was when we were all walking in from the bus into the tunnel and there was a big play made in the game before us,” said Angers. “The crowd just erupted, and it just ran down that tunnel. My kids, they were just starry eyed and they looked at me and I went, ‘You’re in the big time boys.’”
And nothing could be better than that.
Chris Dobrowolski has covered northern Lower Peninsula sports since 1999 at the Ogemaw County Herald, Alpena News, Traverse City Record-Eagle and currently as sports editor at the Antrim Kalkaska Review since 2016. He can be reached at email@example.com with story ideas for Manistee, Wexford, Missaukee, Roscommon, Ogemaw, Iosco, Alcona, Oscoda, Crawford, Kalkaska, Grand Traverse, Benzie, Leelanau, Antrim, Otsego, Montmorency, Alpena, Presque Isle, Cheboygan, Charlevoix and Emmet counties.
PHOTO: Maple City Glen Lake quarterback Reece Hazelton breaks free from Lake City defenders during a 30-19 Pre-District win. (Photo courtesy of the Traverse City Record-Eagle.)
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.)