Lumen Christi Legacy Grows with D6 Triumph

November 23, 2018

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
 

DETROIT – Herb Brogan’s teams over 39 years coaching Jackson Lumen Christi have succeeded in part by regularly capitalizing on opportunities.

Give the Titans an inch … and in Friday’s case, they’ll take 28 straight points.

Halftime came just in time for Lumen Christi as all momentum had been lost during the Division 6 Final at Ford Field. But when Montague couldn’t keep the swing going into the second half, the Titans took the opportunity and made school history.

Lumen Christi rode a defensive stop and four straight touchdowns to a 42-28 win over the Wildcats – clinching the program’s 11th MHSAA football championship and third straight, a program first.

“The whole year, and really since freshman year, we’ve been talking about it,” Titans senior Nick Thomas said of the three-peat opportunity. “We had two good grades above us. We said we’re going to do it with those two grades, and we’re going to become the first team to make history.

“That just became a major motivator, during those early morning grinds, getting there an hour early instead of a half-hour early. You’re already sweating before anybody else gets there. We were working before anybody else gets up, and that was a big emphasis the whole season – and it paid off 10 times over.”

Lumen Christi last season became the program’s third repeat champion, and Friday’s win was the Titans’ 23rd straight – they finished 13-0 this season, with an open date Week 9.

Brogan improved his career record to 356-83 since taking over the program in 1980. He sits fifth all-time for state football coaching wins, and this season pulled within five of fourth place and longtime Waterford Our Lady coach Mike Boyd’s 361.

Although senior Bryce Stark gave Montague the game’s first lead with a 57-yard scoring run midway through the first quarter Friday, Lumen Christi tied it up with a 57-yarder by Thomas two minutes into the second. Senior Cy’Aire Johnson scored on a 40-yard pass from senior Joe Barrett a little more than two minutes later, and after senior Bobby Willis’ interception on Montague’s next possession, it seemed like the Titans might break away.  

But not yet. Three plays after throwing the interception, Montague sophomore Drew Collins recovered a fumble, and Stark ran for his second touchdown to tie the score with 1:17 to go in the first half.

Lumen hustled to get to Montague’s 28-yard-line during the next minute – but Wildcats senior Sebastian Archer snagged an interception.

The score stood tied at halftime. And Montague (11-3) was set to get the ball first in the third quarter.

“It was a question mark: who was going to wear who down? They wore St. Francis down last weekend (in the Semifinal), and if you talked to those guys, they were tired,” Brogan said. “One of the things we talked about at halftime, it just comes down to playing with pain. You’re going to be uncomfortable for the next 24 minutes, but what are the results going to be if you can put up with that level of discomfort, push yourself and make plays and make some memories.”

The first possession of the third quarter didn’t include a score, but it should be memorable as the start of Lumen’s final surge.

Montague took the opening kickoff, and over three plays went backward one yard. Lumen scored on its next four possessions, twice getting the ball back on turnovers and a third time after a turnover on downs when the Wildcats had driven to the Titans’ 24.

“We ran out of gas today. They’re folding guys in all the time, and we just don’t have those guys,” said Montague coach Pat Collins. “Our guys worked hard. I’m proud of our guys. That’s who we are. We have nine guys going both ways … they’ve got a whole bunch of guys playing football, and that’s tough.

“If it was a video game, and your guys don’t get tired, that would be a closer game and maybe the ‘Cats would be on top. But it wasn’t; this is real life. … I love my guys. They’re great players. They just got tired.”

The Titans used 22 players to Montague’s 18, and Collins said the difference was most noticeable up front as the game wore on.

Lumen Christi ran for 216 of its 348 rushing yards during the second half.

“Our running backs always push us to try to be better and better every day,” Lumen junior lineman Keegan Smith said. “After every play, they’re saying ‘one more, one more.’ And ‘we’ve got 24 minutes (left)’ at halftime. They pushed us and we told each other, let’s do it for the brotherhood of the line and just try to make history.”

Thomas finished with 249 yards on 28 carries and scored twice. Barrett threw two touchdown passes – senior Dayton Keller caught the second, and Johnson and senior Brock Fitzpatrick also ran for scores. Thomas had a team-high 10 tackles.

The Wildcats cut the deficit to 14 late with two touchdown passes from Collins to junior Brennan Schwarz. Stark ran for 156 yards and three scores on 19 carries. Junior Mark Vanderleest had 12 tackles and Schwarz nine for Montague, which was playing in its first MHSAA Final since winning back-to-back titles in 2008 and 2009.

The Wildcats’ only defeats this fall were to Lumen Christi, Division 5 finalist Portland and Division 5 District champ Reed City. Montague is 39-8 over the last four seasons and 22-4 over the last two.

“Since my freshman year, the seniors set the bar pretty high,” Archer said. “Sophomore year, the seniors did their part. Junior year, I love each and every one of those seniors and they’re great guys.

“This year I felt like we raised the bar.”

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) Jackson Lumen Christi’s Nick Thomas (10) breaks past a defender during Friday’s Division 6 Final at Ford Field. (Middle) Thomas, Delton Langley (35) and Bobby Willis celebrate the Titans’ championship.

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.)