Tales of the Tape from Bygone Days

September 10, 2014

By Rob Kaminski
MHSAA benchmarks editor

How’s this for a new reality/espionage TV series? Participants have just hours to exchange valuable video to counter-intelligence representatives at random drop points along state highways, then return to home base, study the footage and devise an action plan that same day. 

Oh, and there are no cell phones or any other form of portable communication should plans go awry en route. 

For longtime Escanaba High School football coach Dan Flynn, it’d be like watching reruns of his days as an assistant coach for the Eskymos. As one of the largest schools in the Upper Peninsula, Escanaba’s road through the MHSAA Playoffs almost always meant facing opponents from below the bridge, which made film exchange a challenge to say the least.

“I’ve logged thousands of miles, maybe more than anyone ever, exchanging film, tapes and DVDs with our opponents during the MHSAA Playoffs,” Flynn said. 

“Being in Region 1 geographically, we knew we’d travel,” Flynn added. “And you couldn’t afford to just look at anyone and everyone that you might play. You had to do your homework to narrow down possible opponents if you wanted to go and scout.”

Today, with the MHSAA publishing Football Playoff Points on a weekly basis following Week 4, much of the guesswork as to potential first-round opponents has disappeared. 

Additionally, most schools upload game footage to the web within 24 hours following each contest. On Selection Sunday, within minutes after a school’s Pre-District foe is announced, a coaching staff and players can be watching video of their opponent. 

“We’d started calling coaches or they’d call me in Week 8 or 9, looking at possible matchups and also planning a place to meet to exchange film,” Flynn said. 
Plans had to be firm and communications had to be clear, because once hitting the road, there was no way to contact one another.

“This was before cell phones,” Flynn explained. “I had one of first cell phones, which actually was an old bag phone. I’d accumulate outrageous rates for roaming charges going tower to tower.”

Old-school video exchange might be a thing of the past, but a generation of high school football coaches will never forget gas stations, fast-food joints and 24-hour stores nestled off exit ramps across Michigan.

“On that Sunday night, I’d get in the car, and typically drive to Gaylord, or maybe Grayling. In Gaylord it would be the McDonald’s. In Grayling, it’d be Glen’s Food Market. You’d try to arrange to meet at a place that was open 24 hours,” Flynn recalled. “I always got in the car understanding the meeting would be below the (Mackinac) Bridge. Sometimes we’d get lucky and the meeting place would be the Shell gas station just below the bridge on the Mackinaw City side.”

The 200-mile drive to Gaylord routinely took four hours. The further Escanaba advanced in the playoffs, the more times Flynn wore down the tread on his tires. He specifically recalls a hectic weekend in 1979, when Escanaba traveled to Lansing Sexton and defeated Livonia Stevenson in the MHSAA Semifinals to earn a berth in the Finals the following weekend vs. Detroit Catholic Central. Part of the reward for Flynn was another trip to McDonald’s.

“We came from behind in that Semifinal, and we were thrilled that we were going to the Finals. We got back home late Saturday night, then I got in the car the next morning to meet the Catholic Central coaches at 1 p.m.,” Flynn said. 

“Coach (head coach Jerry) Cvengros had a meeting set for 5 or 6 that night. I made it back in time, but our guys were still feeling good about the win, so I suggested we hold off a day before showing them the CC film (16 mm film, by the way). Those guys were pretty good.”

Indeed they were, winning the Class A title the following weekend. The Eskymos, however, would return to the Final in 1981, winning the crown, 16-6 over Fraser, as Flynn no doubt logged more miles in preparation.

The most pressing concern today might be quality of the online video, lighting at the fields, or angle of the camera.

Back in the day, just getting a tape felt like victory.

“One year, I traveled all the way to the southeast part of the state, and the opposing coach simply wouldn’t exchange,” said Flynn, explaining that playoff film exchange at the time was only a recommendation, not a regulation. “I learned later that the coach had video of us from a friend who lived in Escanaba. I left on Saturday morning and came back Sunday night. We did eventually get some film later in the week. We lost by two points, but as coaches we didn’t make it a big vendetta and were up front with our kids.”

The MHSAA Representative Council, which included Flynn at the time, upgraded film exchange from a recommendation to a playoff policy in 1990, when schools were required to supply one another with the two most recent game films. 

Even so, and as 16 mm film evolved to VHS tapes and then DVDs, coaching delegates still had to make itineraries for October and November weekends. Sometimes twice in the same weekend.

“Even with advancements in technology as we progressed from DVDs to digital, you still need people to operate the devices,” Flynn said. “I met another coach at the Shell station at the Bridge, but he said our software wasn’t compatible with theirs. I drove back the next day, pushed a button, and it worked. I drove all that way to push a button; 16 mm film would have been better.”

Today’s coaches might be a bit more well-versed in technology than those of Flynn’s era, and it’s a good thing. They likely need MapQuest and a GPS to traverse the regions in Northern Michigan that Flynn and his cohorts knew like the back of their hands.

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.)