By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
DETROIT – Saturday’s celebration began with respect, senior linebacker Paul Engram said, for an opponent that had become familiar and frustrating.
Detroit Loyola hasn’t lost a regular-season game since 2010. But the Bulldogs also hadn’t solved Ishpeming in their first two MHSAA Division 7 Final matchups, falling to the Hematites to end both of the last two seasons despite obvious size and arguable speed advantages.
“We know they could beat us, and they thought they could beat us, and we had to recognize that,” Engram said. “We knew what we can do. We had to believe in ourselves and play as a team.
“Football isn’t always about just playing a game. It’s about life. We really learned a lesson about how to stick together and trust, what love and trust are really all about. Because that’s what we were missing the last couple of years.”
Loyola had all of the above Saturday morning in defeating Ishpeming 29-8 to claim its first MHSAA title.
Just as in 2012 and 2013, Ishpeming scored first. But this time, the Bulldogs responded with 29 unanswered points dominating with the physicality that has helped it build a 65-10 record under coach John Callahan since he took over the program in 2009.
“Passion, motivation. Us losing two times in a row, we just really had a goal,” said senior running back Marvin Campbell, who like Engram had played prominent roles on all three Finals teams. “We just knew we had to get this done.”
Campbell finished with 215 yards on 21 carries with all four of Loyola’s scores – on runs of 47 and eight yards in the second quarter, 66 in the third and five yards in the fourth.
The first touchdown would’ve come earlier – a two-yard scoring run was called back because of a penalty – and Ishpeming junior Thomas Finegan intercepted a Loyola pass on the next play. With junior quarterback Ozzy Corp either running or completing passes on 10 plays, the Hematites responded with a 13-play, 90-yard drive capped by his 1-yard scoring run and two-point conversion pass with 1:03 to go in the first quarter.
But Loyola (14-0) made adjustments – taking opposite tacks for each side of the field.
Callahan had traveled to watch Ishpeming twice this season, including against eventual Division 8 semifinalist Beal City when those teams met in Week 6. Callahan noticed how the Aggies tried to defend Ishpeming’s powerful run – and came back to a defense he’d used coaching Pontiac Notre Dame to a league title before moving to Loyola. The “nitro” defense took all of his players off the line and gave a look of seven linebackers able to range side to side.
Loyola finished Saturday with six tackles for losses and three sacks, with junior lineman Anthony Fitzpatrick leading with 11 tackles.
“(Nitro) gives us better vision,” Callahan said. “With what they ran, they were going one way or the other. It gave our guys the opportunity to move as quick as they were and get to the spot.”
Meanwhile, the Bulldogs did just about the opposite offensively, as the game wore on getting back to the fundamentals of its base power running game that had served so well the last four seasons.
Loyola finished with 297 yards on the ground, with senior Mideyin Wilson picking up 75 on 16 carries.
“Those guys are seniors now, all those guys we played before,” Ishpeming coach Jeff Olson said. “They’re big. They’re strong. They were better than us. There are only so many things you can do, and we tried a lot of different things, a lot of different blocking schemes. They just dominated us at times.”
Corp turned in another courageous performance without senior teammate and top back Ozzy Hakkarinen to assist – the latter was injured in last week’s Semifinal. Corp ran for 198 yards in that game, and added 111 yards passing to the team’s lone score Saturday.
Senior Dominic Suardini had 14 tackles for the Hematites (12-1), which had won 33 straight games entering Saturday – good to tie for eighth-longest winning streak in MHSAA football history and fourth longest among streaks to take place entirely during the playoff era (beginning in 1975).
“People don’t understand how hard it is to get here. When you do it three times in a row and win two, people think it gets easy,” Olson said. “We had some tough teams we had to play along the way, and you’ve got to beat those teams. And those teams are giving you everything they have. You can’t just have talent; you’ve got to have great kids, got to have competitors. We had that.”
PHOTOS: (Top) Detroit Loyola celebrates its first MHSAA football championship at Ford Field. (Middle) Ishpeming quarterback Ozzy Corp prepares to throw with the Bulldogs pressuring. (Below) Loyola’s Marvin Campbell runs away from tacklers for some of his 215 rushing yards. (Click for action photos and team photos from Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)
ISHPEMING PICK - The Ishpeming defense stopped a long game-opening Detroit Loyola drive when Thomas Finegan intercepted a Nicholas Lee pass. The Hematites scored on the ensuing drive.
MARVELOUS MARVIN - Marvin Campbell rushed for 215 yards and four touchdowns for Detroit Loyola in its 29-8 Division 8 victory over Ishpeming. Here's the third score on a 66-yard run.
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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.)