Harbor Springs Earning Historic Opportunities

October 5, 2018

By Chris Dobrowolski
Special for Second Half

HARBOR SPRINGS — This isn’t your brother’s Harbor Springs football team.

This year’s Rams are putting together a season on the gridiron that hasn’t been seen here in quite some time.

They are off to a 6-0 start, their best since 1999, and with that has come talk of ending some long, infamous streaks in the school’s football history.

“For me, as a player, honestly it’s been really cool because we’ve never been able to do this before,” said senior running back Jackson Wells. “Harbor Springs has been known for bad football in the past. Now, everyone is like, ‘Congratulations, how does it feel to be 6-0?’ We’re the first team to do this in decades, and it’s really cool.”

Even with three weeks to go in the regular season, Harbor Springs’ six wins have matched its most for a season since 2000. While their unblemished record has already earned the Rams a third trip to the postseason in the past four years, they aren’t satisfied by simply being a postseason participant.

There are bigger goals still to achieve, and longstanding barriers to break down.

Consider this: The last Harbor Springs team to capture a conference title was the 1987 squad that went 7-2 overall and 6-1 in the Ski Valley Conference to share the championship with Indian River Inland Lakes. Then there is the playoff drought, as the Rams are 0-5 all-time in the postseason.

“It’s a sticking point in everybody’s mind,” said senior tight end Brett Vandermus of trying to get a playoff win. “We clinched a spot, but now we’re worried about getting another win this week.”

On Friday, Harbor Springs faces Johannesburg-Lewiston in a matchup that could end the Rams’ 31-year conference title dry spell. The two teams square off in a battle of undefeated teams atop the Northern Michigan Football League Legacy division. The Cardinals come in having won five straight games, but must travel to Harbor Springs’ Ottawa Stadium. A Rams’ win would earn them a share of the championship.

“A conference title would be awesome,” said Vandermus. “I’ve had four older brothers play, and none of them (won a conference title). We just have a more solid roster than what’s been at Harbor’s disposal, and we have a lot of discipline.

“Hopefully it’s just packed, because normally we’re not used to coming out and having huge home crowds.”

Excitement definitely is building around school and across town for the Rams, who finished 4-5 a season ago as a young team.

“I wouldn’t say I expected this, but we had a really good summer and the guys worked really hard,” said head coach Rob Walker, who is in his eighth year.

The Rams have been motored by a quick, veteran backfield of Wells, Connor Williams and Jeep Damoose. That trio has been a three-headed monster in Harbor Springs’ wing-T offense, sharing the workload and limelight, while making it difficult for opponents to try and game plan to slow down all three. Jason Proctor, Matt Walker, Vandermus, and fellow tight end David Harrell are among the key cogs on the offensive line. Sophomore quarterback Grant Richardson has been a huge addition since the season began. The first-year signal caller has not only brought athleticism to the position, but he’s also injected an aerial aspect with seven touchdown passes to an offense that traditionally likes to establish the running game.

“He just keeps getting better and better,” Walker said of his quarterback. “There have been games where he’s the best athlete on the field.”

If there was a defining moment for Harbor Springs, it came in the second week of the season in a 14-7 victory over Frankfort — a team that has rightfully earned a reputation as a football powerhouse.

“I would say that was definitely an eye-opener for us to show we could beat a big-time team like that,” said Wells, who set the tone when he scored on a 75-yard run on the first play from scrimmage. “That was definitely a momentum booster right there. It showed we have the talent and that we can work as a team to beat some big-time teams in our area.”

This year it’s the Rams that are looking like one of those elite teams. It’s put them in a spot they’ve dreamed of but aren’t necessarily accustomed to — as the squad gunned for by every opponent.

“I feel like momentum is piling on, which is a motivator,” said Vandermus. “But at the same time, it puts a target on our backs for the other teams we have coming up.”

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 sports@antrimreview.net 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.

PHOTOS: (Top) Harbor Springs players salute the crowd after a victory this fall. (Middle) Grant Richardson takes off running against Newberry in Week 3. (Below) Center Matt Walker is set to snap the ball during a Week 1 win over East Jordan. (Photos courtesy of the Harbor Springs football program.)

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.)