Lessons Learned, Goodrich Laughs Last

By Paul Costanzo
Special for MHSAA.com

October 25, 2017

The joke wasn’t incredibly original, nor was it incredibly funny, especially if you had any connection to the Goodrich football program.

But when you suffer through a winless season like the Martians did in 2016, people are going to have jokes.

This one was a knock-knock joke, and Owen was at the door. Owen Nine.

Goodrich senior defensive back and captain Ryan Aylmer can at least smile now when he tells it, because with the Martians having just completed an 8-1 regular season, there are no more jokes.

“This year, people go through the school and they talk about who we got next week, and what we’re looking like in the playoffs,” Aylmer said. “Now teachers are talking about the games in school, and I’ve got little kids recognizing who I am. People are back into the program now that we’re succeeding. It feels great, especially after last year when it felt like we were nothing, that forgotten team. But now we’re back in the community.”

This isn’t a story of some moribund program finally finding its way to the postseason. In fact, when Goodrich hosts Pontiac Notre Dame Prep on Friday in the first round of the MHSAA Division 4 playoffs, it will be in a familiar spot.

From 2008 through 2015, Goodrich qualified for the playoffs six times, and had a losing record just once.

The question in Goodrich was how does 0-9 happen?

“That team we had last year, they weren’t an 0-9 team,” Goodrich coach Tom Alward said. “I should have done a better job last year, and we should have won several games. It just didn’t happen. This year, kids are making things happen that we couldn’t make happen last year.”

Alward took over the Goodrich program in 1993, and in 1995 led the Martians to the postseason for the first time ever. His 146 wins since are the most in program history, and he already has been inducted into the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame.

Despite all of that previous success, a moment at the end of last season led Alward to say he had never been more proud of any team he had ever coached.

“After our ninth game last year at St. Johns, when we just got beat 52-0 to finish an 0-9 season, that entire team stayed on the St. Johns football field for probably a half hour, 40 minutes just talking to one another, hugging one another -- they knew it was the end,” Alward said. “They played their tails off all year. I can’t say enough about them. I just feel so bad that they have that 0-9 stigma. I’ve got that stigma myself from when I played at Tampa on the 0-14 team (for the NFL’s Buccaneers in 1976). But I just feel bad, because they didn’t deserve that.”

Alward and his staff didn’t panic and make drastic changes following the winless season, but in his 25th with the Martians, he was able to look at all aspects of the program, including himself, to see where things needed to be different.

“We did exit interviews at the end of last year, because we were concerned about the culture,” Alward said. “We’ve been able to win here for a number of years, and we didn’t want to all of the sudden have kids thinking that they couldn’t win because we went 0-9. We wanted to address that part of it, so we did exit interviews, we did a lot of offseason bonding exercises, team building and all of that stuff. This team is pretty close. We were fortunate to get off to a good start, and the rest has kind of just taken care of itself.”

That bond, players say, is what has sparked the rebound.

“We would go out to dinner together, we would do everything together all summer long,” senior defensive lineman and captain Sebastian Foglio said. “We would work out together, we would push each other. There’s no age, there’s no ‘freshmen get the water,’ none of that stuff. We just came together and did what we had to do. Everybody is close with everybody, nobody dislikes anybody. If we do, we’ll talk and change that.”

And the start, well, it couldn’t have been much better.

In Goodrich’s opening game against Burton Bendle, freshman Tyson Davis returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown. It was an immediate announcement that the 2017 season would be different.

“It was a sigh of relief,” Aylmer said. “Last year we scored (66) points all year. Seeing, literally, the first play of the brand new year getting taken back, and scoring (44) points our first game, it was just a sigh of relief getting that out of the way and realizing that we can do that this year.”

Goodrich rolled to a 3-0 start, outscoring opponents by a combined score of 132-12 before falling 20-7 in Week 4 against Genesee Area Conference Red rival Lake Fenton. But a resounding 42-0 win the next week against Otisville-LakeVille started a five-game winning streak to end the regular season for the Martians, who outscored opponents by an average of nearly 26 points on the year.

Suddenly all of the social media chatter from the area was gone, along with the jokes. But the lessons learned from an 0-9 season were not.

“There’s been a chip on our shoulder,” Aylmer said. “It seems like every week these guys last year thought we were bad, or we played them last year and they beat us. We had a chip on our shoulder and everybody has taken it to heart, and it seems like we’ve been fighting every week as an 0-9 team, but we’re really a good team this year.”

Paul Costanzo served as a sportswriter at The Port Huron Times Herald from 2006-15, including three years as lead sportswriter, and prior to that as sports editor at the Hillsdale Daily News from 2005-06. He can be reached at paulcostanzo3@gmail.com with story ideas for Genesee, Lapeer, St. Clair, Sanilac, Huron, Tuscola, Saginaw, Bay, Arenac, Midland and Gladwin counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) Goodrich celebrates seeing itself on the playoff bracket during Sunday’s selection show on FOX Sports Detroit. (Middle) Goodrich freshman Tyson Davis contends for a loose ball during the season opener against Burton Bendle; he returned the opening kickoff that game for a touchdown. (Top photo by Paul Costanzo; bottom photo by Terry Lyons.)

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.)