1st & Goal: 2021 Week 6 Preview

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

October 1, 2021

The first round of football trophy time has arrived in Michigan. 

MI Student AidTwo weeks ago, Britton Deerfield became the first varsity in the state to claim a share of a league title – enjoying that moment a little earlier than usual because of how its schedule lined up.

But two weeks later, league championship are set to be decided all over, with six of our nine featured matchups below potentially finishing with a league champion and many more games this weekend setting a similar stage for the next week or two.

MHSAA.tv will carry more than 150 games live this weekend, with Bally Sports Detroit broadcasting Friday's Lowell/East Grand Rapids rivalry game on its PLUS cable channel and State Champs! Sports Network streaming Saturday's Warren Fitzgerald/Madison Heights Madison matchup. See the full schedule from the MHSAA Score Center. (Games below are Friday unless noted.)

Bay & Thumb

Reese (5-0) at Bad Axe (5-0)

Three teams remain undefeated in Greater Thumb Conference West play – these two plus Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port Laker – with tonight and the next two weeks potentially necessary to completely wrap up this conference race, although the winner tonight will be much closer to being there at the end. The Hatchets shared the title last year and have won four straight against the Rockets including 17-7 a year ago. After downing GTC East contender Harbor Beach 42-33 on opening night, Bad Axe has given up only 20 points over the last four games – but that defensive unit is sure to be challenged by a Reese offense averaging 41 points per contest.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Croswell-Lexington (4-1) at Almont (3-2), Flint Hamady (3-2) at Burton Bendle (4-1), Ortonville Brandon (5-0) at Goodrich (4-1), Midland (2-3) at Bay City Western (4-1).

Greater Detroit

Clarkston (5-0) at West Bloomfield (4-1)

A share of the Oakland Activities Association Red title is on the line, with Clarkston the reigning league champion. These two have traded regular-season wins since 2014, with the only break from that pattern Clarkston’s still semi-unimaginable 3-2 Division 1 championship game victory in 2017. The Lakers took last season’s meeting 24-21, and quickly got back on track this fall after being doubled up by Rochester Adams in the season opener to move into the No. 16 spot in Division 1 playoff points this week. Clarkston sits at No. 5 coming off a second three-point victory this season and with this matchup looking like the Wolves’ toughest before the playoffs begin.  

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Sterling Heights Stevenson (4-1) at Clinton Township Chippewa Valley (4-1), Detroit Central (5-0) at Detroit Osborn (4-1), Detroit Catholic Central (4-1) at Warren De La Salle Collegiate (4-0), Milan (4-1) at Riverview (5-0).


Portland (5-0) at Lansing Catholic (5-0)

The winner will earn a share of the Capital Area Activities Conference White title, and these two have decided it the last six seasons. Lansing Catholic’s best moment this fall came Week 2 over Williamston, which plays this week in a game that could decide the CAAC Red title, while Portland opened this fall with wins over two teams that could end up league champions in Ovid-Elsie and DeWitt. Portland is riding a 33-game league winning streak stretching back to 2014 – but that doesn’t include a 2-2 playoff record against the Cougars during that time. They are guaranteed to not see each other again this time unless in passing at Ford Field – Portland is in Division 5 and ranked No. 2, while Lansing Catholic has the most playoff points in Division 6.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Comstock Park (5-0) at Belding (4-1), Williamston (3-2) at Haslett (4-1), Pewamo-Westphalia (5-0) at Olivet (4-1), New Lothrop (3-2) at Ovid-Elsie (4-1).

Northern Lower Peninsula

Cadillac (4-1) at Traverse City Central (4-1)

This could begin wrapping up the final Big North Conference championship as we currently know the league, with Central in position to earn a share of the title with a win before leaving with Traverse City West for the Saginaw Valley League next season. Cadillac’s lone loss this fall was to West in Week 3, but a Vikings win tonight would create a three-way tie atop the standings with one conference game to play. Even with that loss to West, Cadillac is giving up only 10.6 points per game, riding the strength that helped the Vikings to last season’s Division 4 Final. But similarly, Central despite an opening loss to DeWitt is averaging 48.2 points per game.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Charlevoix (4-1) at East Jordan (4-1), Sault Ste. Marie (4-1) at Grayling (3-2), Traverse City West (4-1) at Petoskey (3-2), Cheboygan (2-3) at Kingsley (5-0).

Southeast & Border

Jonesville (5-0) at Reading (4-1)

Somewhat quietly amid Reading’s attention-grabbing Division 8 state dominance of the last few seasons, Jonesville also has become a force in the Big 8 Conference with 14 wins over its last 15 league games including a 4-0 title run in 2020. A victory tonight would clinch a share of a repeat championship, and the Comets have outscored their first five opponents this fall by an average score of 47-7 while tying for No. 8 in Division 6. The Rangers finished second in the Big 8 a year ago, falling to Jonesville 44-18 in the title decider, and they’re facing a must-win to hope for a share this time after a 26-20 defeat against Union City two weeks ago.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Dexter (4-1) at Ann Arbor Huron (4-1), Temperance Bedford (4-1) at Monroe (3-2), Petersburg Summerfield (4-1) at Sand Creek (3-2), Blissfield (2-3) at Clinton (3-2).

Southwest Corridor

Centreville (4-1) at Cassopolis (4-1)

A share of the Southwest 10 Conference title goes to the winner, and Centreville is attempting to repeat after ending Cassopolis’ two-year title reign in 2020. The Bulldogs showed with last week’s win over previously-undefeated White Pigeon that any assumptions of their demise after an opening night loss to Niles Brandywine were premature. Cassopolis’ lone loss also was to Brandywine, in Week 2, and minus those defeats both teams are giving up less than eight points per game. It’s very possible as well this will be just chapter one this season – Centreville is tied for No. 16 and Cassopolis is No. 13 in Division 8 (and White Pigeon is tied for No. 8).

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Watervliet (4-1) at Constantine (5-0), Paw Paw (4-1) at Edwardsburg (5-0), St. Joseph (5-0) at Portage Central (3-2), River Rouge (3-2) at Portage Northern (2-3).

Upper Peninsula

Clare (4-1) at Marquette (4-1)

There are some important league matchups in the Western Peninsula Athletic Conference especially that will take precedence for most this week, and for logical reasons. But from a statewide point of view, Marquette’s tough downstate matchups are always intriguing – and this one starts a four-game run that will include a possible league-title decider next week against Menominee and then two Big North meetings against Traverse City West and Petoskey. Clare is tied for first in the Jack Pine Conference, and similarly will welcome Gladwin next in what could be a matchup of that league’s leaders. This should be a fine tune-up and more as both prepare for those high-stakes Week 7 games.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Iron Mountain (3-2) at Calumet (3-2), Ishpeming Westwood (4-1) at Hancock (3-2), Negaunee (4-1) at L'Anse (3-2), Escanaba (1-4) at Menominee (3-2).

West Michigan

Hudsonville Unity Christian (5-0) at Spring Lake (5-0)

Four teams in the Ottawa-Kent Conference Blue are 3-0 in league play, and the other four 0-3, but this week will at least help sort out the leaders a bit with Grand Rapids West Catholic and Coopersville meeting as well. What makes this matchup just a slice more intriguing is Unity Christian is the reigning league champion and plays all three of these teams over the next three weeks – plus is ranked No. 4 in Division 4 with Spring Lake at No. 5. The Lakers also need just one more win to guarantee their best record since 2014.   

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Grand Rapids West Catholic (5-0) at Coopersville (5-0), Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central (4-1) at Grand Rapids Christian (3-2), Muskegon Catholic Central (4-1) at Muskegon Heights Academy (4-1), Central Montcalm (4-1) at Reed City (4-1).


Portland St. Patrick (5-0) at Vestaburg (5-0), Saturday

With its first 5-0 start since 2006, Vestaburg has put itself in position for its best finish in more than a decade regardless of what happens against the Shamrocks. But the potential is there for much more. Those two are tied atop the first-year Central Michigan 8-Man Football Conference, with the winner of this matchup guaranteed a share of the league title. Vestaburg has reached 60 points three times in four games played (one win was a forfeit). Reigning Division 2 runner-up St. Patrick will match with a defense giving up 19 points per game, especially impressive in the high-flying 8-player format.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Gaylord St. Mary (4-1) at Pellston (5-0), Climax-Scotts (4-1) at Adrian Lenawee Christian (5-0), Rudyard (4-1) at Munising (3-2), Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart (3-2) at Peck (5-0).

Second Half’s weekly “1st & Goal” previews and reviews are powered by MI Student Aid, a part of the Office of Postsecondary Financial Planning located within the Michigan Department of Treasury. MI Student Aid encourages students to pursue postsecondary education by providing access to student financial resources and information. MI Student Aid administers the state’s 529 college savings programs (MET/MESP), as well as scholarship and grant programs that help make college Accessible, Affordable and Attainable for you. Connect with MI Student Aid at www.michigan.gov/mistudentaid and find more information on Facebook and Twitter @mistudentaid.

PHOTO Muskegon Catholic Central, here Week 1 against North Muskegon, takes on Muskegon Heights Academy this weekend with a chance to clinch a share of the Lakes 8 Activities Conference title. (Photo by Tim Reilly.)

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.)