Detroit Cass Tech senior – Football
A year ago, Hall’s junior season ended on the Ford Field sideline, watching Cass Tech fall 41-27 to Romeo in the Division 1 Final after he suffered a lower leg injury two weeks before. But he came back this season fueled by championship motivation, and made it pay off. Hall threw for 220 yards and an MHSAA Finals record-tying five touchdown passes to lead the Technicians to a 49-20 win over Detroit Catholic Central in the Division 1 Final on Saturday and earn the Michigan National Guard “Performance of the Week.”
Hall started a pair of playoff games as a freshman before taking over the varsity fulltime in 2014 and leading Cass Tech to a 12-1 record. The Technicians were a combined 36-3 under him the last three seasons and scored a program-record 619 points (44.2 per game) this fall. The 6-foot-2, 210-pound signal-caller completed 10 of 18 passes in the Final and also ran for 58 yards on only seven carries. He finished this season 142 of 238 passing for 2,535 yards and 28 touchdowns, after a junior season when he threw for 2,232 yards and 20 touchdowns and ran for 1,053 yards and 14 scores.
After admitting Saturday to being a little timid to run at the start of the fall, and with a steel plate still in his ankle, Hall ran for a combined 253 yards and three touchdowns over his final three playoff games. He has committed to sign to play football at Northern Illinois University but said he’s unsure which course of study he’ll pursue. MLive-Detroit reported Hall carries a 3.4 grade-point average in its feature on the Technicians standout as one of 10 finalists for MLive’s High School Football Player of the Year award.
Coach Thomas Wilcher said: Let's say it like this: He lost one game his first year, two games his second year, zero games his third year. That's enough said. ... I think the most important thing about Rodney Hall is you have to look at his stats. He has phenomenal stats. He has a phenomenal win-loss record. I haven't been around anything like that before. I just look at his game – (he's) the gamer. He's always bringing back a victory. We went down to the wire several times, and it was all about him. And I just told him this week, 'Look, I don't need you to run the ball. All I want you to do is throw the ball. You should throw the ball for over 300 yards.’ That’s it. And I told him, just stick with the game plan; no running. And I just kept telling the offensive coordinator, don't let him run. Let him throw it. That's it."
Performance Point: “Just to be able to make it back to this point and play in this game, I was just excited to come play, and glad we won,” Hall said. “The offense was clicking, and guys were open. They did the rest. I just put it to them. … (At last season’s Final) I was crying. I was hurt that I couldn't be out there to help my teammates. I wanted (this year) bad. We made history at Cass because I think we’re the first team to go 14-0 and win the state championship. We just wanted to win this game because we’ve been losing ever since we came into high school. We have a lot of wins, but we’ve been coming up short for the last three years – and it’s great to come out with the championship this year.”
Learning to run again: “I came in (to this season), I was a little timid to run, actually. I didn't want to get hurt again and miss this opportunity. Coach, he's been pressing me to run all year, and when I finally do, I get positive yards.”
Star among the stars: “Quarterback is simple. You just have to keep everybody on the right track and make sure teammates don’t get down when we get behind. The last two weeks we’ve been losing, and I just remind my guys, ‘Come on, we can win this. We’re going to go back and score.’ Just remind them to keep scoring, remind the defense we’re going to keep getting stops, and just keep everybody’s heads up.”
Pass is present: “This year, I’ve been a way better passer. Because all offseason, I haven’t been able to run. I’ve just been working the pocket, making sure I’m looking at everything, making sure I’m reading the defense better. And I’ve had a better passing year this year, I believe.”
Leaving a legacy: “I just can’t believe it’s over with. I just want people to know I was a guy to go out there and give it all I’ve got. Just sell out for the team, and that’s what you should do – and you’ll end up a champion.”
- Geoff Kimmerly, Second Half editor
Every week during the 2016-17 school year, Second Half and the Michigan National Guard will recognize a “Performance of the Week" from among the MHSAA's 750 member high schools.
The Michigan Army National Guard provides trained and ready forces in support of the National Military Strategy, and responds as needed to state, local, and regional emergencies to ensure peace, order, and public safety. The Guard adds value to our communities through continuous interaction. National Guard soldiers are part of the local community. Guardsmen typically train one weekend per month and two weeks in the summer. This training maintains readiness when needed, be it either to defend our nation's freedom or protect lives and property of Michigan citizens during a local natural disaster.
Previous 2016-17 honorees:
Nov. 24: Ally Cummings, Novi volleyball – Read
Nov. 17: Chloe Idoni, Fenton volleyball – Read
Nov. 10: Adelyn Ackley, Hart cross country – Read
Nov. 3: Casey Kirkbride, Mattawan soccer – Read
Oct. 27: Colton Yesney, Negaunee cross country – Read
Oct. 20: Varun Shanker, Midland Dow tennis – Read
Oct. 13: Anne Forsyth, Ann Arbor Pioneer cross country – Read
Oct. 6: Shuaib Aljabaly, Coldwater cross country – Read
Sept. 29: Taylor Seaman, Brighton swimming & diving – Read
Sept. 22: Maggie Farrell, Battle Creek Lakeview cross country – Read
Sept. 15: Franki Strefling, Buchanan volleyball – Read
Sept. 8: Noah Jacobs, Corunna cross country – Read
PHOTOS: (Top) Detroit Cass Tech's Rodney Hall prepares to unload a pass during Saturday's Division 1 Final at Ford Field. (Middle) Hall hurdles a would-be Detroit Catholic Central tackler.
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.)