Two top-ranked teams and four of the best from metro Detroit highlight tonight's Prep Zone football games streamed live on FoxSportsDetroit.com.
This is the final week of home field advantage for any opponent. Next week’s Semifinals and 8-player Final all will be played at neutral sites. The winners of two of tonight’s Prep Zone games will meet in a Division 1 Semifinal on Nov. 19.
Here’s a preview of all four Prep Zone games. All kick off at 7 p.m., and all also will be archived for on-demand viewing at MHSAA.tv. (Rankings below by The Associated Press' panel of media voters.)
DIVISION 1: Walled Lake Central (8-3) at Utica Eisenhower (10-1)
Utica Eisenhower entered the postseason ranked No. 3 and is playing in its second straight Regional Final, with its best offensive output since finishing MHSAA runner-up in 2003. That 30-points-per-game effort is led by a pair of juniors – quarterback Joe Zerafa has thrown for 1,301 yards and 12 touchdowns, and junior running back Shane King has rushed for 687 yards and 12 scores. But the Eagles’ strength might be on defense. They haven’t given up a point since the first weekend of October, and have five shutouts total this season with senior linebacker Ray Shepler just two tackles from 100. Unranked Walled Lake Central, meanwhile, might be one of the surprises of this round after knocking out reigning state champion Lake Orion and then No. 8 Clarkston to open the playoffs. But remember, the Vikings did make the Division 2 Semifinals last season. And they are led again by senior quarterback Zac Leimbach, a master running the team’s option offense. He’s rushed for 1,610 yards and 21 touchdowns and thrown for 931 yards and six more scores.
DIVISION 1: Detroit Cass Tech (8-3) at Warren DeLaSalle (9-2), at St. Clair Shores Lake Shore
Considering five Cass Tech defensive players have committed to sign with Division I college programs in February – including hard-hitting linebacker Royce Jenkins-Stone (Michigan) – it’s not surprising that the Technicians haven’t given up more than 18 points in a game since opening night, or more than seven in a game since mid-October. DeLaSalle’s records aren’t always flawless like others going into the playoffs, thanks in part to a tough Catholic League schedule. But the Pilots are playing in their fourth-straight Regional final and were ranked No. 5 in the final Division 2 regular-season poll before moving into Division 1 for the postseason. Those losses came to still-alive Detroit Catholic Central and Orchard Lake St. Mary, so guys like senior quarterback Shane Morris (1,658 yards, 19 TDs passing) and senior running back/safety Mike Abiragi (the team's leading rusher and tackler) have seen their share of star-studded opponents.
Click to read more from Mlive.com.
DIVISION 5: Dowagiac (10-1) at Lansing Catholic (11-0), at Holt Junior High
Lansing Catholic senior quarterback Cooper Rush continues to ascend MHSAA records lists in just about every passing category. His 2,792 yards this fall are good for 17th for one season, and his 33 touchdown passes are tied for 16th. Senior receiver Matt Macksood has caught 69 of those tosses for 1,094 yards and 15 touchdowns, and run for 750 yards and 10 more scores. Both have done that damage in 10 games, with the top-ranked Cougars’ 11th win a forfeit. Dowagiac’s defense could be up to the challenge though – the No. 9 Chieftains haven’t given up more than 14 points in a game this season. They’ve doubled their win total from 2010 and hit double-digit victories for the first time since 1996. Although leading tackler D.J. Hunt has missed all but the beginning of the playoff run with an injury, defensive ends Dontrell Tucker and Carl Grant combined for five sacks against Hopkins last week. They’ll be counted on to keep the rush on Rush.
DIVISION 7: Harbor Beach (11-0) at Saginaw Nouvel (10-0)
Top-ranked Nouvel is off to its strongest effort since winning back-to-back MHSAA titles in 2006-07. The Panthers are averaging 48 points per game and scored fewer than 40 only twice, keyed by a pair of seniors – running back Bennett Lewis has rushed for 1,463 yards and 22 touchdowns, and quarterback Joe Buchalski has thrown for 1,000 yards and 18 scores. Harbor Beach, tied for the No. 7 spot, comes in with much less fanfare. But the Pirates have been here before, winning 12 games in 2007 and 10 in 2003. Junior Sloan Klaski will be a focal point – he leads the team with 146 tackles, and also 1,011 yards and 19 touchdowns running the ball. As a team, Harbor Beach averages 262 yards on the ground and could ride that in an attempt to keep Nouvel's offense off the field. The Pirates rise at crunch time: four of their last seven wins were by 12 points or fewer.
(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.)