1st & Goal: 2021 Week 8 Preview

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

October 15, 2021

Some weeks during football season need little introduction. Week 8 this fall qualifies.

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By Sunday, the majority of the state’s leagues will have their champions. By Sunday, we also will have a much clearer picture of every team’s chances of making the playoffs with one more regular-season game to go.

Below is a look at many of Friday and Saturday’s matchups that will play parts in determining both.

Bay & Thumb

Lapeer (6-1) at Grand Blanc (7-0)

The Lightning are coming off a solid 37-27 nonleague win over Midland Dow with Saginaw Valley League Red leader Grand Blanc up this week and reigning champion Davison next to finish the regular season. Lapeer likely must defeat both to clinch a third league championship over the last four seasons, but Grand Blanc already has a Davison win and a similarly close one over Dow to match – and closes with winless Saginaw United. That Week 4 win was Grand Blanc’s first over the Cardinals since joining the SVL in 2018, and another tonight would be Grand Blanc’s first victory over Lapeer during the same stretch.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port Laker (5-2) at Bad Axe (7-0), Mount Pleasant (7-0) at Bay City Western (6-1), Essexville Garber (5-2) at Frankenmuth (7-0), Durand (5-2) at Montrose (5-2).

Greater Detroit

Detroit Martin Luther King (6-1) vs. Detroit Cass Tech (5-2) at Detroit Northwestern

These two are lined up for a second regular-season meeting for the second season in a row, this one to decide the Detroit Public School League Blue championship after King won the PSL Division 1 title. King did so thanks to winning the first matchup in Week 3, 41-34, and the Crusaders are sitting comfortably in the No. 2 spot in Division 3 playoff points. Cass Tech sits in a much more uncertain spot in Division 1, making this matchup about much more than a championship. The Technicians currently are in the playoff field, but 30th out of 32 teams in Division 1.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Croswell-Lexington (6-1) at Armada (6-1), Royal Oak Shrine (4-3) at Clarkston Everest Collegiate (6-1), Dearborn Fordson (6-1) at Dearborn (5-2), Detroit Central (7-0) vs. Detroit Pershing (5-2) at Detroit Northwestern.


Canton (5-2) at Hartland (6-1)

These two and Howell are tied for first in the Kensington Lakes Activities Association West with tonight’s games the last on the league schedule. The Eagles are relative newcomers to this level of late-season anticipation, having guaranteed their first overall winning record since 2015, and they are a one-point Week 3 loss to Brighton from being undefeated. Canton is the reigning league champ and more of a regular in these sorts of games – but also lost to Howell 41-21 in Week 2, whereas Hartland downed the Highlanders 29-7 in Week 6. Canton defeated Brighton 35-32 in Week 6. Howell plays at Brighton tonight.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Howell (6-1) at Brighton (4-3), East Lansing (4-3) at Grand Ledge (6-1), Millington (7-0) at Ithaca (5-2), Cadillac (5-2) at Portland (6-1).

Northern Lower Peninsula

Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice (5-2) at Traverse City Central (6-1)

Central again loaded up this season’s nonleague schedule, which in addition to its perfect run through the Big North Conference has the Trojans sitting in the No. 6 spot in Division 2. They also haven’t had a game closer than 32 points since falling to Division 3 top-ranked DeWitt in the season opener. Of course, Brother Rice is another formidable challenge – the Warriors are No. 10 in Division 3 with notable wins over Macomb Dakota and Orchard Lake St. Mary’s and a five-point loss to Division 2 No. 1 Warren De La Salle Collegiate. Central and Brother Rice played each other in 2016 and 2017 – both Rice wins, but by a combined 11 points.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Mancelona (5-1) at Charlevoix (6-1), McBain (4-3) at Manton (3-4), Hopkins (3-4) at Frankfort (6-1), Harbor Springs (1-6) at East Jordan (5-2).

Southeast & Border

Addison (7-0) at Napoleon (5-2)

Last week’s Michigan Center 12-7 win over Napoleon took a bit of thunder out of this matchup, but it still will have plenty of impact in multiple ways. Addison can clinch the Cascades Conference championship outright, which would be the Panthers’ third straight, but a Napoleon win would create a three-way shared title with these two and Michigan Center. As noted a few times this season, the Pirates have bounced way back after going 1-6 last year and a combined 3-13 over the last two, but they remain in a tough spot for playoff qualification at No. 37 in Division 6 with two games to play.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY St. Joseph (5-2) at Chelsea (7-0), Parma Western (5-2) at Jackson Lumen Christi (6-1), Petersburg Summerfield (5-2) at Ottawa Lake Whiteford (6-1), Dexter (5-2) at Saline (7-0).

Southwest Corridor

Kalamazoo United (5-2) at Constantine (7-0)

Constantine is one of the best teams we haven’t talked about enough this season, sitting No. 3 in Division 6 and up to a combined 24-5 over the last three seasons while coming off a 2020 run to the Semifinals. The Falcons have won every game by double digits this fall, but United is likely at least the top in-state team Constantine will see this regular season. Both are undefeated in Southwestern Athletic Conference Lakeshore play, with United able to clinch the title outright and Constantine able to clinch a share with one more league game left. United sits No. 16 in Division 5, its only losses to Division 4 and 3 teams that are both 6-1.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Stevensville Lakeshore (6-1) at Battle Creek Lakeview (4-3), Reading (5-2) at Homer (5-2), Paw Paw (5-2) at Vicksburg (6-1), Portage Central (5-2) at Battle Creek Central (3-4).

Upper Peninsula

Ishpeming Westwood (6-1) at Bark River-Harris (5-2)

Bark River-Harris will face Ishpeming in a Week 9 winner-take-all matchup for the Western Peninsula Athletic Conference Iron title, but first will meet the West-PAC Copper-leading Patriots in a game that won’t impact league standings but may impact if the Broncos continue into the postseason. They’re currently in at No. 28 in Division 8, and the Division 7 Patriots are the strongest opponent they’ll have seen so far. Westwood is ranked No. 10 in its division and has clinched a share of the Copper title with a chance to win it outright against Negaunee in Week 9.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Hancock (4-3) at Calumet (5-2), Ishpeming (3-3) at Iron Mountain (4-3), Traverse City West (6-1) at Marquette (5-2), Houghton (4-3) at Negaunee (6-1).

West Michigan

Grand Rapids Catholic Central (7-0) at Cedar Springs (6-1)

These two are tied for first in the Ottawa-Kent Conference Gold with two games to play and the winner tonight clinching a share of the league title. Grand Rapids Catholic Central would be earning a seventh-straight league championship, and the Division 5 top-ranked Cougars also are carrying a 30-game winning streak. But Cedar Springs also has done its work well to get here, sitting No. 11 in Division 3 with its only loss to Division 1 top-ranked Rockford. GRCC won last season’s meeting 42-28.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Byron Center (6-1) at Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central (6-1), Montague (6-1) at Whitehall (6-1), Coopersville (5-2) at Hudsonville Unity Christian (7-0), Centreville (6-1) at Muskegon Catholic Central (6-1).


Peck (5-2) at Kinde North Huron (7-0)

North Huron earned a share of the North Central Thumb League Stripes championship last week and can lock up a repeat outright title. But Peck will be loaded with motivation stretching past a possible championship share. One more win this season will guarantee the Pirates’ best record since 2015 and would break a streak of eight straight losses to the Warriors, who defeated Peck during both the regular season and playoffs the last two years.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Rogers City (7-0) at Mio (6-1), Marion (6-1) at Vestaburg (5-2), Colon (6-1) at Climax-Scotts (5-2). SATURDAY Crystal Falls Forest Park (7-0) at Lake Linden-Hubbell (5-2).

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PHOTO Mount Pleasant, here on defense against Holland West Ottawa during a Week 2 win, is among teams that can clinch a league championship this weekend. (Click for more from High School Sports Scene.)

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.)