Wassink, Sailors Take Back Championship

November 28, 2014

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

DETROIT – The first time Jon Wassink led Grand Rapids South Christian to Ford Field, he spent the 2012 MHSAA Division 4 Final on the sideline with a broken collarbone as his back-up took the team the rest of the way to a title.

Wassink brought the Sailors back to Detroit in 2013 – but they couldn’t keep pace with Marine City despite his three touchdown passes and two scoring runs.

Friday night against Lansing Sexton was Wassink’s last chance to be part of an MHSAA football champion – and play a physical part in a championship game win. 

And he didn’t let it slip by. The Sailors' senior quarterback threw for 179 yards and three touchdowns and ran for 122 and another score as South Christian edged Sexton 28-27 for its second Division 4 title in three seasons.

Oh, and Wassink also had four tackles and an interception from his defensive back spot and averaged 39.8 yards on six punts. 

“Two years ago when we won it, I was just happy for the team and the community. Part of me obviously wanted to play too, so that was really disappointing but (I was) really happy at the same time,” said Wassink, who was injured in the Semifinal win that season.

“(Last year) was the driving force behind our whole season. We just didn’t want to end our season like we did last year.” 

But Sexton came so close to sending Wassink to Western Michigan University with another runner-up finish instead.

The Big Reds (13-1), undefeated on the way to their first MHSAA Final appearance, scored on the game’s opening drive, 2 minutes and 22 seconds into the first quarter. 

South Christian (12-2) scored the next two touchdowns, and Sexton then answered. The Sailors took a 21-13 lead into halftime after a Wassink touchdown pass with seven seconds to go before the break and extended the advantage on his 68-yard touchdown run 13 seconds into the third quarter. But the Big Reds battled back with two more scores to pull within a point of the lead with 10:43 to play.

“They’re a scary team. They have all of those great athletes and big bodies,” South Christian coach Mark Tamminga said. “We knew going in they scored a lot of points during the second half and wear you down with all of those big bodies. Our kids just stepped up and made plays when they had to.” 

The first set of offensive plays didn’t result in a score – but burned 5:16 off the clock to give the Big Reds only 5:25 to work with as it drove to take the lead.

The second set of difference-making maneuvers actually came on the same play – and on defense. Sexton had a new set of downs at its 38-yard line when senior linebacker Sam Heyboer burst into the Big Reds' backfield for a 12-year sack. In the process he helped cause a fumble that was recovered by another senior linebacker, Nick Bosch. 

But again, South Christian didn’t score – yet took an additional 2:13 off the clock before Wassink was stopped short on a fourth down run by Big Reds senior lineman Isaiah Brown. Only 1:35 remained, and Sexton could advance only 32 yards to its 39-yard-line before the clock ran out.

“Our defense had a heck of a goalline stand down there, and I’m proud of my kids. They fought hard against a really good football team,” Sexton coach Dan Boggan said. “We’re an outstanding football team ourselves, and it could’ve gone either way. I’m disappointed, but I’m not broken.” 

Sexton allowed only 63 more second-half yards after Wassink’s long scoring run during the first half-minute of the third quarter. But Sexton also had three turnovers total, while the Sailors never turned over the ball, and missed an extra point after its final touchdown that would’ve tied the score. The Sailors also held a Sexton rushing attack featuring two 1,000-yard rushers to only 101.

Big Reds quarterback Malik Mack finished an outstanding varsity career with 224 yards and two touchdowns passing and another score on the ground. Both of his touchdown passes went to sophomore tight end Kahari Foy-Walton, and senior Rayshawn Wilborn added eight catches for 84 yards and eight tackles at linebacker. 

Junior lineman Marshaun Blake had a game-high nine tackles and his teammates combined for six tackles for losses and three sacks. “They were one of the best, if not the best we played all year,” Wassink said. “Fast, physical, just really tough.” 

Heyboer finished with two of his team’s three sacks and also caught one of Wassink’s three touchdown passes. Seniors Ryan Veenstra and Eric VanVoorst caught the others, and senior Geff Plasman finished his career with 80 more rushing yards to end up with 1,300 for this fall. 

Wassink’s final numbers for his final season set the bar high for those who follow. Adding in his Ford Field heroics, Wassink finished with 1,426 yards and 18 touchdowns rushing and 2,494 yards and 28 touchdowns passing.

And he'll graduate as a two-time MHSAA champion – this time having had something to say about the final result. 

“He’s been driven all year. This is what he wanted,” Tamminga said. “He felt he didn’t play the best here last year, and he wanted to go out with a state championship.

“What a tremendous athlete.” 

Click for full statistics.

PHOTOS: (Top) Lansing Sexton’s Malik Mack (4) and Ardis Davis (9) work to wrap up a South Christian ball carrier Friday night. (Middle) Mack prepares to unload a pass with the Sailors’ Jake Wierenga applying pressure. (Click for action photos and team photos from Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)

VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS:

WASSINK'S OFF TO THE RACES - Grand Rapids South Christian scored touchdowns on its last possession of the first half and its first of the second half against Lansing Sexton. Here's the second TD, a 68-yard run by quarterback Jon Wassink. The TD and extra point that followed turned out to be the winning scoring sequence in a 28-27 Sailors win.
 
SEXTON TIGHTENS IT UP - Early in the fourth period, Lansing Sexton pulled within a point of Grand Rapids South Christian on a 29-yard pitch/catch/run play from Malik Mack to Kahari Foy-Walton. It was the second time the duo connected for a score in the game.

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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.)