1st & Goal: 2021 Playoff Week 2 Review

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

November 8, 2021

As the first leaves begin to turn colors at the start of fall, hardware starts stacking up high at the MHSAA office in East Lansing.

MI Student AidBut now that we're into November, trophies are flying out of here like birds heading south for winter.

In addition to two more sports ending over the weekend and tournaments advancing in one more of the two sports still being played, we saw 72 football trophies find homes over the weekend as 11-player District and 8-player Regional champions were crowned.

Below is a glance at just more than half of those deciding matchups as we move another step closer to awarding the biggest trophies of all.  

11-Player Division 1

HEADLINER Sterling Heights Stevenson 38, Clinton Township Chippewa Valley 35 This region’s two District Finals were rematches from the Macomb Area Conference Red regular season, and Stevenson (9-2) managed to hold off a mighty challenge again after also defeating Chippewa Valley 36-32 in Week 6. Jordan Kwiatkowski became the program’s all-time leading tackler, and Kyler Castle drilled the game-winning field goal on the final play. Chippewa Valley finished 7-4, its defeats by a combined 12 points. Click for more from the Macomb Daily.

District Digest Macomb Dakota 35, Romeo 20 On the other side of the bracket from Stevenson, Dakota (8-3) avenged a 14-10 Week 3 loss over the MAC Red co-champion Bulldogs (9-2), claiming its first District title since 2015. Rockford 38, Grandville 7 The Rams (11-0) won decisively this time after needing double overtime to defeat Grandville (7-4) in Week 4. West Bloomfield 35, Detroit Catholic Central 21 The Lakers (10-1) have reached 30 points in six straight games and scored the most – by 18 – that DCC (8-3) had given up since Week 1.

11-Player Division 2

HEADLINER Caledonia 49, Muskegon Mona Shores 12 After five straight sub-.500 seasons, Caledonia has reached double-digit wins for the first time since 2008 with their first District title since 2012. And in the process, the Fighting Scots (10-1) avenged last season’s eight-point District Final loss to Mona Shores (8-3), ending the two-time reigning Division 2 champion’s 18-game winning streak and dealing the Sailors their first playoff exit short of Ford Field since 2017. Click for more from FOX 17.

District Digest South Lyon 34, East Lansing 13 The Lions (11-0) are District champs for the first time since 2004 after holding East Lansing (7-4) to less than half its scoring average of 30 points per game. Livonia Franklin 27, Livonia Churchill 20 Franklin (6-5) may have been one of the teams questioned entering this playoffs at 4-5, but no longer after avenging a 42-14 Week 6 loss to Churchill (8-3) to win a second District title in four seasons. Roseville 41, Port Huron Northern 2 The Panthers (7-4) have outscored their two playoff opponents by a combined 68-2, with top-ranked Warren De La Salle Collegiate up next.

11-Player Division 3

HEADLINER Cedar Springs 21, Muskegon 14 The Red Hawks’ first District title since 2018 coincided with Muskegon’s earliest playoff exit since 2011, as the Big Reds (9-2) had eliminated Cedar Springs (9-2) the last three seasons (including in a Regional Final in 2018). The Red Hawks scored first this time, then first again to break a halftime tie and then one more time early in the fourth quarter to go ahead 14. Ryan West scored both second-half touchdowns. Click for more from the Grand Rapids Press.

District Digest DeWitt 50, Mount Pleasant 26 The Panthers (10-1) ran their District title streak to six while dealing Mount Pleasant (10-1) its only defeat. Detroit Martin Luther King 33, River Rouge 12 The Crusaders (10-1) stopped another high-powered offense, as reigning Division 3 runner-up River Rouge (7-3) entered averaging 42 points per game. District Semifinal opponent Warren Fitzgerald was averaging 50 and also scored only 12 against King two weeks ago. Parma Western 41, Battle Creek Harper Creek 28 The Panthers (8-3) pulled off a major reversal against the Interstate 8 Athletic Conference co-champion Beavers (7-4), avenging a 50-22 Week 3 loss.

11-Player Division 4

HEADLINER Freeland 37, Lake Fenton 6 The Falcons (10-1) finishes a sweep of Flint Metro League Stars champions over the last two weeks, adding this victory to its District Semifinal win over Goodrich. The District title was Freeland’s third straight and continued a strong defensive showing, as the Falcons have given up only six points per game on average since their lone loss Week 5. Lake Fenton finished its winningest season since 2006 at 9-2. Click for more from the Midland Daily News.

District Digest Chelsea 49, Milan 12 The Bulldogs (11-0) clinched their fourth-straight District championship by locking down a Milan offense that had scored 35 points per game. Grand Rapids South Christian 38, Hastings 14 The Sailors (8-3) repeated as District champions, ending I8AC co-champion Hastings’ winningest season since 1990 at 9-2. Detroit Country Day 49, Livonia Clarenceville 8 The reigning champion Yellowjackets (7-3) are on playoff stride again, tying their most points in a game this season to up their scoring margin over the last two weeks to a combined 84-14.

11-Player Division 5

HEADLINER Grand Rapids Catholic Central 44, Grand Rapids West Catholic 6 The John Passinault to Nolan Ziegler passing connection did some major damage early with three first-half touchdowns as GRCC (11-0) ran its District championship streak to six seasons. West Catholic finished 9-2, both defeats coming to teams that remain unbeaten. Click for more from the Grand Rapids Press.

District Digest Kalamazoo United 21, Berrien Springs 14 The Shamrocks (10-0) hadn’t given up more than 19 points in a game heading into the weekend, and United (8-3) also held Berrien Springs to 26 points below their season scoring average. Kingsley 32, Clare 6 The Stags (10-1) made it six opponents held to single-digit scoring this season as they won their third District title in four years. Corunna 20, Armada 8 The Cavaliers (7-4) clinched their first District title since 2016 by ending Armada’s first winning season since 2012 and best season since 2004 at 7-4.

11-Player Division 6

HEADLINER Lansing Catholic 28, Millington 8 The Cougars (10-1) scored 21 unanswered points over the final three quarters to hand Millington (10-1) its lone loss and clinch a third-straight District championship. The Cardinals entered the game scoring 38 points per, but Lansing Catholic has won its two playoff games by a combined 65-14. Click for more from the Lansing State Journal.

District Digest Michigan Center 28, Constantine 18 The Cardinals (10-1) eliminated their second undefeated league champion in two weeks, adding Constantine (10-1) to Jonesville on the way to repeating as District champs. Montague 35, Reed City 22 The reigning Division 7 champion Wildcats (8-3) may have closed the regular season with two losses, but will have a big say in this playoff bracket after also knocking off a league champion in the Coyotes (9-2). Calumet 24, Negaunee 19 The Copper Kings (9-2) avenged their 35-21 Week 2 loss that eventually led to a shared Western Peninsula Athletic Conference Copper championship between these two and Ishpeming Westwood, and after also falling to Negaunee by a point in last year’s District Final.

Ishpeming Westwood football

11-Player Division 7

HEADLINER Pewamo-Westphalia 53, New Lothrop 21 The Pirates won their 10th District title over the last 11 years in one of their most impressive fashions, putting out their best offensive performance since mid-September while holding the reigning Division 7 champion to nearly half of its average of 39 points scored per game. P-W (11-0) improved to 3-1 in their last four meetings with the Hornets (7-4). Click for more from the Lansing State Journal.

District Digest Ishpeming Westwood 30, Charlevoix 28 The Patriots (10-1) claimed their first District championship, after putting together a double-digit lead and needing every point to hold off the Rayders (8-2) as they too were pursuing a first District title. Detroit Loyola 18, Detroit Central 14 The Bulldogs (6-4) defeated a second league champion in as many weeks, this time also handing Central (10-1) its only loss. Jackson Lumen Christi 21, Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central 12 In this repeat of last season’s District Final, Lumen Christi (10-1) was victorious again to advance to Regionals for the eighth-straight season.

11-Player Division 8

HEADLINER Hudson 28, Addison 8 Everyone knew this District featuring these two, Centreville and Reading would be one of the most competitive in any division with all four teams ranked among the top 14. Hudson (11-0) emerged as the champion, outscoring its two opponents by a combined 50-8. A defense giving up only seven points per game was nearly unbeatable again facing an Addison offense scoring 42 points per game entering the day. The Panthers finished 9-2. Click for more from the Adrian Daily Telegram.

District Digest Breckenridge 41, Fowler 32 The Huskies (9-2) scored 20 unanswered points over the final 10 minutes to get past the Eagles (7-4). Carson City-Crystal 35, Muskegon Heights Academy 26 This was much closer than the Eagles’ 41-14 Week 8 win over the Tigers (6-5), but Carson City-Crystal (10-1) held on to repeat as a District champion. Ottawa Lake Whiteford 54, Sand Creek 14 This playoffs that has seen its share of rematches go the other way, but Tri-County Conference champ Whiteford (10-1) finished a season sweep of league runner-up Sand Creek (7-4).

Breckenridge football

8-Player Division 1

HEADLINER Suttons Bay 53, Indian River Inland Lakes 18 Among a season of dominating performances, this one is shining brightest for Suttons Bay as both entered this Regional Final undefeated. The Norseman (11-0) tied the score 12-12 midway through the second quarter and by the end of the first half were up double digits. Inland Lakes (10-1) was averaging 58 points per game entering the day. Click for more from the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

Regional Roundup Rudyard 28, Newberry 0 The top four from the Great Lakes Eight Conference East were part of the same Regional, and Rudyard avenged a Week 5 loss to Newberry (8-3) to emerge as champion after both had been among three league runners-up. Martin 41, Mendon 22 The top two finishers in the Southwest Michigan 8-Man Football League Tier 1 met again, with Martin (11-0) adding to its 28-20 Week 7 victory over the Hornets (8-3). Adrian Lenawee Christian 41, Britton Deerfield 0 The Cougars (11-0) have opened the playoffs with two shutouts, their third and fourth over their last five games. Deerfield finished 9-2, its only losses to Lenawee Christian twice over the last three weeks.

8-Player Division 2

HEADLINER Colon 29, Morrice 22 The Magi (10-1) are rumbling through undefeated opponents this playoffs, this time handing Morrice (10-1) its lone loss after doing the same to Portland St. Patrick in the Regional Semifinal. The Orioles led most of the game and 22-8 with a quarter to play before Colon surged to lock up its third Regional title in four seasons. Click for more from JoeInsider.com.

Regional Roundup Powers North Central 65, Crystal Falls Forest Park 8 Reigning Division 2 champion North Central (11-0) downed the rival Trojans (8-3) for the second time in three weeks to return to the Semifinals. Marion 54, Hillman 0 The Eagles (10-1) also will be returning to the Semifinals for a rematch with the Jets after defeating Hillman (7-4) for the second-straight playoffs. Au Gres-Sims 48, Kinde North Huron 42 The Wolverines (11-0) will return to the Semifinals for the second time in four seasons after holding off North Huron (10-1) right to the end of a matchup of undefeated league champions.

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PHOTOS [1] Detroit Country Day’s Parker Yearego (3) reaches for the end zone during his team’s win over Livonia Clarenceville. [2] Ishpeming Westwood's Zach Carlson (2) gains several yards before being tackled by Charlevoix's Landon Swanson (21). [3] Breckenridge’s Luke Saunders (12) breaks into the open against Fowler.(Photos by Doug Bargerstock [1], Cara Kamps [2] and High School Sports Scene [3].)

For Their Teams, For Each Other, St. Mary Seniors Team Up 2 More Times

By Tom Spencer
Special for MHSAA.com

March 17, 2023

Shawn Bramer and Dylan Barnowski, as middle schoolers, attended the MHSAA Boys Basketball Finals every year.

Northern Lower PeninsulaLast year, they nearly played in the Division 3 title game – falling in a Semifinal but almost making a dream come true for the then-juniors and their Lake Leelanau St. Mary coach, Matt Barnowski, also Dylan’s father.

That dream began for some when the boys were coached by Matt as third graders, and they made serious strides last season. Before last winter, the last time the Eagles had won a Regional championship was 1950 – and no St. Mary boys basketball team had reached the Semifinals. Bramer and Dylan Barnowski – along with current seniors Jack Glynn, Drew Thompson and Nick Linguar – had high hopes of making more history this winter.

The dream ended Wednesday night with a Regional Final loss to Frankfort, which St. Mary had defeated 54-41 during the regular season. This time, the Eagles were faced with a large number of K-12 students succumbing to illness – with all five of its starters at least somewhat sick – as nearly a third of the school’s tiny enrollment was out of school the day after the loss to the Panthers.

But you won’t hear any of the players or coaches making excuses. They give all the credit to Frankfort, and they’re ready to move on. And many in the LSM family know reaching the Regional Finals this season and Breslin Center in 2022 had absolutely no probability had Bramer and Barnowski not made an iron-clad agreement last summer. 

Eagles coach Matt Barnowski coaches up his team during last week’s Regional Semifinal win over Mesick.The two friends vowed to help each other despite their personal, opposing challenges.

Barnowski and Bramer, through LSM’s cooperative agreement with Suttons Bay, went 3-for-3 playing in 8-Player Division 1 Football Finals during their first three years of high school. But through last summer Barnowski, who quarterbacked the Norseman, had no interest in football.  

Bramer, meanwhile, had been nursing a quad tendon injury since his sophomore football season and battling two bad knees but was thinking he could suffer though football and sit out the basketball season to recover. The all-state running back experienced training difficulties and even had his strength training severely hampered.

Football was king for Bramer, and he also loved basketball too. Basketball is number one to Barnowski. The longtime friends decided cut a deal to help each other — and their teammates — out.

“I was kind of on the edge,” said Bramer, who plays with braces on both knees. “After talking to each other, we both ended up just playing. 

“I really shouldn’t be playing sports, but I couldn’t miss out playing with my friends,” he continued. “We just figured it was our last season so we might as well just do it.”

Dylan Barnowski and Brammer also teamed up during successful football careers. Barnowski had been considering ending his football days immediately after the Norse fell short in their third-straight trip to the Finals, at Superior Dome in Marquette in Fall 2021. That loss was at the hands of Adrian Lenawee Christian 31-20.

The Norseman graduated most of their offensive and defense lines last spring and expected to be small in numbers. Until this fall, they had lost only one regular-season game on their way to three straight title game appearances. This year they finished 3-5.

The big linemen losses — Barnowski’s protection — was forcing him to weigh his injury risk against having a senior basketball season.

“We did it for each other,” Barnowski said. “I talked with Shawn, and we knew we had a big community behind us and it would be hard for them if we just quit. 

“I knew we weren’t going to have the same powerhouse team we had,” he continued. “We weren’t very good this year, but we still had a blast.”

This week’s loss put an end to the possible Breslin championship finish, but it left the friends happy with the decision to play both sports. The Eagles finished 20-4.

Barnowski led St. Mary in scoring. He averaged better than 20 points a game with more than seven rebounds and five assists. Bramer averaged just under 15 points per game, and almost 10 rebounds.

The two big men each scored 11 in the season-ending loss. Thompson scored 14. This year’s senior-dominated team likely will be remembered for its basketball success for some time. Barnowski, Bramer and Glynn experienced only one loss in District play over their four seasons.

“It’s a really special groups of kids,” Coach Barnowski said. “These kids kind of transformed St. Mary’s basketball.  

St. Mary’s seniors, from left: Shawn Brammer, Jack Gwynn, Dylan Barnowski, Drew Thompson and Nick Linguar. “They’ve really built the program,” he continued. “It’s been a roller coaster ride.”

Bramer and Dylan Barnowski also played baseball in the past for the Eagles, but that likely won’t happen this spring. Barnowski plans to golf, and Bramer expects to sit the spring season out and heal.

“We’ll never forget these last four years of varsity we played,” Barnowski said. “I‘ve decided to go a more relaxing route, and I’m going for some golf.”

With their Breslin dream over, the friends are ready to enjoy the St. Mary’s community support and move on. They’re bummed so many were sick in the end but won’t use it as an excuse.

“Hats off to Frankfort,” Barnowski said. “They did an incredible job of shutting us down.”

Bramer agreed.

“They just played their game better than we did,” he said. “They took the lead at the end of the third quarter, and it was a battle from there.”

Tom SpencerTom Spencer is a longtime MHSAA-registered basketball and soccer official, and former softball and baseball official, and he also has coached in the northern Lower Peninsula area. He previously has written for the Saginaw News, Bay County Sports Page and Midland Daily News. He can be reached at tomspencer@chartermi.net with story ideas for Manistee, Wexford, Missaukee, Roscommon, Ogemaw, Iosco, Alcona, Oscoda, Crawford, Kalkaska, Grand Traverse, Benzie, Leelanau, Antrim, Otsego, Montmorency, Alpena, Presque Isle, Cheboygan, Charlevoix and Emmet counties.

PHOTOS (Top) St. Mary’s seniors Dylan Barnowski, left, and Shawn Bramer hold up the team’s District championship trophy last week. (2) Eagles coach Matt Barnowski, center, and assistant Sander Scott coach up their team during last week’s Regional Semifinal win over Mesick. (3) Dylan Barnowski and Bramer also teamed up during successful football careers. (4) St. Mary’s seniors, from left: Shawn Bramer, Jack Glynn, Dylan Barnowski, Drew Thompson and Nick Linguar. (Sideline photo by Tom Spencer; player photos by Emmerson Lamb Photography.)