The first MHSAA football champion of 2011 will be crowned Friday, and by the end of Saturday we’ll know who will play for the rest Thanksgiving weekend at Ford Field.
Here’s one take of the most significant results from the postseason’s third weekend, plus links to coverage from the biggest games and a brief look at all 16 Semifinals coming up Saturday.
Let us know if I missed a game or a highlight I should've mentioned by posting below. And click here for results, schedules and more. (Rankings below by The Associated Press' panel of media voters.)
1st and 10
DIVISON 1: Detroit Cass Tech 6, Warren DeLaSalle 0 – Before 2010, Cass Tech had never won a Regional championship. Now, the Technicians have won two straight.
DIVISION 2: Walled Lake Western 21, Port Huron 20 (2OT) – A celebration for one and heart break for the other as Walled Lake Western left with its first Regional title since 2001.
DIVISION 3: East Grand Rapids 42, Holland 21 – The Pioneers avenged a Week 2 loss to the Dutch to extend their playoff winning streak to 28.
DIVISION 4: Grosse Ile 18, Battle Creek Pennfield 13 – Best win in Grosse Ile history? Gotta be up there. Pennfield was ranked No. 3, Grosse Ile unranked, and the victory gave the Red Devils their first 10-win season and second Semifinal berth ever.
DIVISION 5: Grand Rapids West Catholic 55, Menominee 34 – It came a game earlier this season, but West Catholic knocked Menominee out for the second in a row. West Catholic is ranked No. 7 and Menominee No. 5.
DIVISION 6: Ithaca 22, Montague 19 (OT) – The top-ranked Yellowjackets have had few scares during their 26-game winning streak, but No. 7 Montague likely gave them their biggest of the run.
DIVISION 7: Hudson 35, Detroit Loyola 0 – So much for rankings on this one. Loyola was No. 2 and Hudson No. 3, but the Tigers extended their own 26-game win streak in a big way.
DIVISION 8: St. Ignace La Salle 27, Crystal Falls Forest Park 14 – An Upper Peninsula team might again represent in the Division 8 Final in two weeks. But No. 4 St. Ignace will get its shot this time after knocking off near-annual Finals road-trippers, the Trojans, who came in ranked No. 6.
8-PLAYER: Rapid River 40, Engadine 0; Carsonville-Port Sanilac 47, Marine City Cardinal Mooney 0 – A coincidence that these Semifinals both ended in decisive shutouts. But they appear to be equally decisive statements about which teams belong in Friday’s first-ever MHSAA 8-player Final.
26 – Winning streaks by both Hudson and Ithaca thanks to Regional wins. Hudson is the reigning Division 7 champion and Ithaca won the Division 6 title in 2010, when both finished 14-0.
42 – Combined rushing touchdowns scored this season by Carsonville-Port Sanilac quarterback Hayden Adams and running backs Ryan Davis and Dan Rickett. All have at least 11 scores on the ground.
20 – Number of completions, in 20 attempts, Lansing Catholic quarterback Cooper Rush strung together to begin Friday’s win over Dowagiac. The streak tied the MHSAA record.
6 – Seasons, out of the last eight, that Rockford has advanced at least to the MHSAA Semifinals. The Rams will play in their second straight Saturday, and have won three MHSAA championships during that run.
MORE FANTASTIC FINISHES
Detroit Cass Tech 6, Warren DeLaSalle 0 – A bit of continuation on the above comment, as the Technicians clinched that second-straight Regional title with a touchdown run with 1:38 to play. Click to read more from the Detroit Free Press.
Rockford 30, Grand Blanc 28 – Rockford got up 23-7 before holding off a late charge by a Grand Blanc team averaging 54 points in this season’s playoffs heading into the night. Read more about it in the Grand Rapids Press.
Mount Pleasant 28, East Lansing 20 – East Lansing led by six with 11 minutes to play before Mount Pleasant, and especially its defense, took over. Find out more from the Mount Pleasant Morning Sun.
Almont 31, Jackson Lumen Christi 21 – Almont has strung together six straight winning seasons, but its only other Regional final of the 256-team playoff era ended in a loss to Lumen Christi in 2008. Two late touchdowns sent the Raiders to their first Semifinal. Click for more from the Jackson Citizen-Patriot.
UP NEXT – 8-player FINAL and 11-player SEMIFNALS
8-PLAYER: Rapid River (11-1) vs. Carsonville-Port Sanilac (11-1) – 7 p.m. Friday at Northern Michigan’s Superior Dome – The inaugural MHSAA 8-player Final matches teams separated by 382 miles and Mackinaw Bridge.
DIVISION 1: Rockford (11-1) vs. Detroit Catholic Central (11-1) – 1 p.m. at Battle Creek Central; Utica Eisenhower (11-1) vs. Detroit Cass Tech (9-3) – 1 p.m. at Troy Athens – Rockford, DCC and Utica Eisenhower are ranked 1-3, respectively, and Cass Tech didn’t make the top 10 heading into the playoffs. But the Technicians have proven their merit. The Rockford/DCC game is a rematch of the 1998 Class AA Final, which DCC won before these players had started elementary school. Eisenhower is playing for its fifth Finals berth, and first since 2003.
DIVISION 2: Lowell (11-1) vs. Walled Lake Western (11-1) – 11:30 a.m. at Central Michigan; Birmingham Brother Rice (8-4) vs. Detroit Martin Luther King (9-3) – 1 p.m. at West Bloomfield – Brother Rice beat King on opening night 28-21 and entered the postseason tied for No. 7 in the state poll with Wyandotte-Roosevelt, which King shut out last week. Lowell and Walled Lake Western aren’t completely unfamiliar either – they faced off on opening night 2010. The Warriors have won their three playoff games by a combined 11 points, and will look to harness a Lowell offense that has scored fewer than 35 only once during October and November.
DIVISION 3: Mount Pleasant (12-0) vs. East Grand Rapids (9-3) – 1 p.m. at Ferris State; Battle Creek Harper Creek (12-0) vs. Orchard Lake St. Mary (10-2) – 1 p.m. at Jackson’s Withington Stadium – Three of the top four in the Associated Press poll plus the reigning state champ making up this field, and the No. 1 Oilers are the next to try to halt EGR’s playoff winning streak (see above), which has included wins over Mount Pleasant three of the last four seasons. Orchard Lake St. Mary also is a regular in this round, coming off three MHSAA runner-up finishes in the last four seasons. Harper Creek's last Semifinal appearance, in 1999, also was against the Eaglets.
DIVISION 4: Comstock Park (10-2) vs. Zeeland West (12-0) – 1 p.m. at Jenison; Grosse Ile (10-2) vs. Marine City (12-0) – 1 p.m. at Birmingham Groves – Top-ranked Marine City and No. 2 Zeeland West are likely heavy favorites against unranked opponents. But like Grosse Ile (see above), Comstock Park is riding high in the underdog role and is in its first Semifinal since 1983.
DIVISION 5: Grand Rapids West Catholic (10-2) vs. Lansing Catholic (12-0) – 1 p.m. at East Kentwood; Almont (11-1) vs. Flint Powers Catholic (8-4) – 1 p.m. at Ortonville Brandon – Last season’s champion West Catholic must now defend against this fall’s top-ranked favorite Lansing Catholic. But the other game has similar intrigue: Almont is No. 4 and knocked off annual giant Jackson Lumen Christi, while Flint Powers knocked off a giant itself on the way here in No. 3 Millington.
DIVISION 6: Iron Mountain (11-0) vs. Ithaca (12-0) – 1 p.m. at Northern Michigan; Constantine (10-2) vs. Ecorse (10-1) – 1 p.m. at Gibraltar-Carlson – Top-ranked Ithaca is headed back to the Superior Dome for the second straight season, and knocked off No. 3 Iron Mountain in the same round, same location on the way to last year’s MHSAA title. Constantine is looking to break through playing in its third straight Semifinal, but faces an Ecorse team that has won 10 games for the first time.
DIVISION 7: Traverse City St. Francis (11-1) vs. Saginaw Nouvel (11-0) – 2:30 p.m. at Central Michigan; Pewamo-Westphalia (12-0) vs. Hudson (12-0) – 1 p.m. at Vicksburg – All four of these teams entered the playoffs ranked among the top six, and St. Francis, Nouvel and Hudson have combined to win an MHSAA championship six straight seasons (Nouvel’s two came in Division 6). P-W has never played in a final – but also has never been 12-0.
DIVISION 8: St. Ignace La Salle (12-0) vs. Fowler (10-2) – 1 p.m. at Traverse City’s Thirlby Field; Mendon (12-0) vs. New Lothrop (12-0) – 1 p.m. at Howell – Mendon has taken down two top-eight teams so far this postseason, but No. 3 New Lothrop might be the toughest still with a defense giving up 3.9 points per game. The winner will take on a rejuvenated power – St. Ignace is playing for its first MHSAA Final berth since 1985, while Fowler is looking to get back to Detroit for the first time since 1998.
(Photo courtesy of Terry McNamara Photography.)
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.)