Super-competitor Peyton Schumacher helping fuel stingy P-E-M defense
The senior defensive back had three of the five Bulldogs' interceptions in the Class AAA state semifinal and has been a key cog for a stout defensive group. It's a big reason why PEM is playing for the program's second state title at 1 p.m. Saturday against Dassel-Cokato at U.S. Bank Stadium.
The best way to describe Peyton Schumacher?
A natural-born competitor.
Whether it’s floor hockey at practice, epic ping pong matches with his older brother Connor or on the football field, he is going to give whatever he's doing his best shot.
“That’s just me. I like stepping up to the challenge,” the Plainview-Elgin-Millville senior two-way standout said. “Having to challenge every game. I just love competing."
Being a bit undersized at 5-feet-10, Schumacher brings an attitude, a chip on his shoulder, that bodes well for him at his defensive back position.
“He’s fearless,” P-E-M football head coach Kevin Lamb said. “He just loves the challenge of competing. He really is just a special kid and we are blessed to have him on our team."
That competitiveness is something that runs in the family. Most evident were those ping pong matches between brothers. Peyton admitted they're both “pretty good” and their showdowns could get pretty intense, sometimes even carrying into football practice — which actually proved beneficial to the team.
“The way those two compete, it’s hard to even quantify that,” Lamb said. “It is a very special quality they have brought to Bulldog football. It comes from their upbringing that I mean, honestly, those two would compete. They would come to practice last year after playing ping pong at home and they would be all fired up because one beat the other one. Then it would carry over. They would be trash talking and getting after each other. That competition has really made our team better.”
Perhaps that has been one of the secrets to the Bulldogs’ dream season this year — one that has them a win away from the program’s second state title when they take on Dassel-Cokato at 1 p.m. Saturday at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Well, that and a defense that has simply been spectacular all season long.
After allowing just 13 points per game in the regular season, the Bulldogs enter Saturday’s Prep Bowl allowing an average of nine points per game in five postseason contests. That includes games against high-flying offenses in Lake City and Cannon Falls. Both averaged more than 35 points per game, with the Bombers leading all of Class AAA at more than 41 points. P-E-M held them to 18.
"I think the biggest thing is we just have a speed advantage from the defensive line all the way back,” Schumacher said. "We might not have the most size but everybody’s just flying around hitting people.”
They really opened eyes across the state against Annandale in the Class AAA semifinals, intercepting five Cardinals’ passes in a 28-6 victory.
Schumacher had three of those, including one he returned 23 yards for a score. It came less than 60 seconds after he broke a scoreless game with a 72-yard receiving touchdown to open the second quarter. Schumacher, though, is the first to say his three interceptions were a total team effort.
“Our defensive coordinator (Daren Wingert) watches a lot of film and always puts us in the right positions,” Schumacher said. "It helps, too, our pass rush just makes the QB get rid of it earlier than he wants and it allows us DBs to go make a play on the ball.”
Wingert and that group will have another tough test against Dassel-Cokato.
The top-ranked Chargers (13-0) a potent rushing attack that averages more than 354 yards on the ground, led by senior tailback Eli Gillman. The University of Montana commit has put up incredible numbers, rushing for 2,061 yards and 39 touchdowns on 271 carries. He had 140 yards and scored all three touchdowns, including the game-winner with 1:26 left, to lift the Chargers past Esko 21-14 in the semifinals.
“From what I’ve watched, he’s just hard to bring down,” Schumacher said. “He keeps running until you totally bring him down. Like he has kids wrapped around him and he somehow could just get out of there and score a touchdown. So the biggest thing is get everybody running to the ball and staying disciplined. And make sure that he’s down.”
But this defense has answered the call every single time over the course of the past month and a half. It will be up to the task on Saturday.
“It's a dream as a kid, you just want to be in the state title game,” Schumacher said.