DETROIT – For a team not used to giving up points – or yards, for that matter – it would have been easy Friday for Hudson to make some big changes at halftime to slow down a Beal City offense that had found success through the passing game.
But the Tigers – who entered the MHSAA Division 8 Final having allowed 107.7 yards and less than a touchdown per game through the Semifinals – didn’t stray from the gameplan.
“Honestly, (the adjustment was) just keep playing,” Hudson coach Dan Rogers said. “They did a great job, their line, we couldn’t get pressure on the quarterback. He could get out on the edge and we struggled getting to him. That made us cover a lot longer than we want to, so we were trying to get to the quarterback a little bit more, keep the receivers in front of us and make plays on the football.”
It worked, as Hudson smothered Beal City in the second half, allowing just 17 yards over the final 24 minutes of its 14-7 victory at Ford Field to claim its second Finals title.
“I can’t even describe it yet; it hasn’t really hit me yet,” said Hudson senior running back and safety Bronson Marry, who had a crucial late-game interception. “I’m just waiting to walk out of the locker room and find our families. It’s going to (hit like) a brick wall.”
While Hudson (14-0) never led by more than one score, Beal City never threatened to overcome it, spending the entirety of the second half offensively on its own side of the field. The Aggies’ five second-half possessions went for 4, -6, 13, 1 and 5 yards, and totaled 5 minutes and 29 seconds.
A fumble, an interception and downs ended the last three drives, with Nick Kopin breaking up the final Beal City pass attempt with 1:51 to play, sealing the game. It was a fitting end to Kopin’s big day, as he also had forced a fumble earlier in the fourth quarter and rushed for 131 yards and both of Hudson’s touchdowns.
“It’s amazing,” Kopin said. “Obviously, I’m going to credit all my runs to our offensive line and our play-calling by coach (Jeremy) Beal. It set up really good cutbacks, and they were blocking real well. Defensively, credit to (Coach Rogers), he’s very strict on us reading our keys and doing our jobs. I think all of us, including myself, just did that, and the game turned out in our favor.”
Kopin’s second score, a 2-yard run, came with 6:58 to play and put the Tigers up 14-7. The two-point pass was no good, however, keeping Beal City within a touchdown. The Aggies received a further boost with the return of quarterback Hunter Miles, who had been injured midway through the third quarter, but Hudson’s defense didn’t allow for a storybook comeback.
“Hunter Miles is Hunter Miles; he’s a warrior,” Beal City coach Brad Gross said. “That’s Hunter Miles. Ankle, ribs, everything else (was hurt). We have a lot of guys dinged up. Cade Block’s had a (injured) shoulder that he’s been playing with for three weeks. Wade Wilson has a broken hand that he played the whole game with. We’re just banged up. We have a bunch of warriors. That’s why we’re here.”
Miles had more success in the first half, mostly on the strength of a pair of big pass plays to Carter Fussman. The first was a 53-yard touchdown pass late in the first quarter. Miles rolled to his right before finding Fussman open near the 10-yard line.
The second was a 56-yard throw and catch on the penultimate play of the first half, which came immediately after Hudson had taken an 8-7 lead on a 2-yard run from Kopin and a two-point conversion pass from Anthony Arredondo to Ambrose Horwath. The big pass play ended with Fussman being hauled down by Horwath at the Hudson 7-yard line with four seconds left in the half.
That tackle wound up being enormous, as an incomplete pass on the next play ended the half with Hudson still in the lead.
“It probably made the conversation at halftime better,” Rogers said. “It was a huge tackle. That’s what we talk about: You just have to keep playing. They’re going to make plays, things are going to happen, and it would have been just as easy to hang your head and he runs into the end zone. Our kids don’t do that, and Ambrose, he made a play, and that’s what we had to have.”
Hudson’s offense had success on the ground, rushing for 282 yards, but strong red zone defense from the Aggies kept them in the game. All five of Hudson’s second half drives – excluding the final one, which consisted of three kneel downs – ended at least within the Beal City 35, but just one led to a score.
“You have to give credit to Beal City, too,” Rogers said. “When we got down there, they stiffened up defensively and took all the inside runs away. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to score and it kept the game close.”
Payton Rogers added 62 yards on the ground for Hudson, while Horwath hauled in the lone completed pass for the Tigers, a 17-yard catch from Easten Strodtman that converted a 3rd-and-long on the Tigers’ fourth-quarter touchdown drive. Kopin led the Hudson defense with six tackles, while Strodtman and Ethan Harris each recorded a sack.
Fussman led the Beal City (12-2) offense with two catches for 109 yards, while Miles finished with 128 yards through the air – all in the first half. Josh Wilson recorded 13 tackles to lead the Beal City defense, while Miles had eight.
PHOTOS (Top) Hudson’s Easten Strodtman brings down Beal City quarterback Jack Fussman during Friday’s Division 8 Final. (Middle) The Tigers’ Ambrose Horwath (10) tries to get a hand on the ball with the Aggies’ Carter Fussman (2) and Jack Fussman defending. (Photos by Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)
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.)