1st & Goal: Playoff Week 2 in Review

November 9, 2020

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

We’ll blame this season’s delayed start for taking a few more weeks to uncover some under-the-radar gems this football season.

But this weekend’s second-round 11-player District and 8-player Regional games allowed us to unearth a few more teams that have taken special advantage of the opportunity to get back on the field this fall.

You’ll spot them in our weekly review below (Eastpointe! Evart!), and they all don’t begin with the letter E (even if Essexville Garber does as well).

Historical context is based in part on data at Michigan-football.com.


Division 1

HEADLINER Grand Blanc 42, Clarkston 35 The indications that Grand Blanc (7-1) might be on the verge of a special run have come to fruition as the Bobcats (7-1) outpaced previously-undefeated Clarkston. Their 42 points were double what the Wolves (7-1) had given up in a game this season. The win earned Grand Blanc a rematch this week with Davison, which dealt the Bobcats their lone loss. Click for more from the Flint Journal and see highlights below from State Champs Sports Network.

District Digest Holt 43, Grand Ledge 36 As the Rams (4-3) mourned the death of former longtime coach Mike Smith, they avenged a one-point loss two weeks earlier to the rival Comets (5-3). Rochester Hills Stoney Creek 28, Clinton Township Chippewa Valley 21 The Cougars (7-0) earned their first District Final berth, going ahead of the Big Reds (3-4) for good with a fourth-quarter score. Rockford 42, Hudsonville 7 These Ottawa-Kent Conference Red rivals missed out on playing each other during the regular season, but after the wait the Rams (6-0) ran their winning streak over the Eagles (5-3) to six. Romeo 15, Macomb Dakota 14 The Bulldogs (4-4) turned a six-point loss in Week 8 into a one-point win to reach the District Finals for the first time since 2016 and end Dakota’s season at 6-2.

Division 2

HEADLINER Muskegon Mona Shores 28, Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central 25 The reigning Division 2 champion Sailors (8-0) received their biggest scare of the season, holding on as these teams met in the playoffs for the third time in four seasons. Forest Hills Central (6-2) led by as many as 10 points. Click for more from the Muskegon Chronicle and see highlights below from FOX 17.

District Digest Midland 31, Midland Dow 15 The Chemics (8-0) made it two wins in three weeks over their rival, although Dow (5-3) cut the margin from 26 to 16 in the rematch. Oak Park 27, Detroit U-D Jesuit 21 Few have made a new season of the playoffs more than Oak Park (2-6), which upped its postseason scoring to a combined 62 points after scoring 45 during the regular season. Caledonia 55, Lowell 38 The Fighting Scots (4-4) have found their stride as well over the last three weeks, as they’ve won their last three games since finishing up the O-K Red schedule. North Farmington 44, Fenton 28 The Raiders (5-3) earned their first District title berth and scored their season-high points for the second-straight week while handing Fenton (7-1) its only loss.

Division 3

HEADLINER Eastpointe 57, Warren Fitzgerald 0 From 2011-18, Eastpointe (formerly East Detroit) won at most four games in a season. With this win, the Shamrocks moved to 8-0 this fall and earned their first District Final berth, and the shutout was their sixth this fall. Fitzgerald (5-3) had averaged 41 points per game. Click for more from the Macomb Daily.

District Digest Marquette 21, Mount Pleasant 14 The Redmen (7-1) have tied their winningest season since 2010 and will play in a District Final for the first time since that fall as well after holding the Oilers (6-2) to their fewest points this season. Chelsea 49, South Lyon East 44 The Bulldogs (8-0) are 9-2 in the playoffs over the last three seasons, with now six wins by seven points or fewer after this challenge by the Cougars (5-3). River Rouge 38, Riverview 20 The Panthers (6-1) will play for their sixth District title in seven seasons thanks in part to locking down an offense that had scored 44.5 points per game during a 7-0 start. Detroit Martin Luther King 42, Marysville 17 After a pair of losses to title contenders to close the regular season, King (5-3) is back in stride especially defensively; Marysville (6-2) was averaging nearly 35 points per game entering this contest.

Division 4

HEADLINER Detroit Country Day 21, Pontiac Notre Dame Prep 14 The Irish (6-2) already had pushed Country Day to its closest win, a 10-0 Yellowjackets victory in Week 6. But Country Day (5-2) – the reigning Division 4 runner-up – prevailed this time with a fourth-quarter comeback to return to the District Finals. Click for more from the Oakland Press.

District Digest Paw Paw 24, Hastings 22 The Saxons (6-2) were one of the best stories of the regular season with their first winning record since 2012. But Paw Paw (6-2) has bounced back from two losses to contenders at the end of the regular season by earning a third-straight District Finals trip. Battle Creek Pennfield 63, Marshall 42 One of the highest-scoring games of the season saw Pennfield (5-3) match its winningest season since 2013. The Panthers had missed out on their annual regular-season meeting with the Redhawks (3-5) but avenged last year’s 35-point loss. Ortonville Brandon 33, Goodrich 6 The Blackhawks (7-1) claimed their second win over Goodrich (6-2) after the first eventually decided the Flint Metro League Stars title. North Branch 35, Croswell-Lexington 6 Similar story with this rematch, as the Broncos (8-0) had previously defeated the Pioneers (6-2) in the game that went on to decide the Blue Water Area Conference championship.

Division 5

HEADLINER Olivet 28, Kalamazoo United 14 The Eagles (7-1) have played in the postseason 13 years in row. After five straight first-round losses – including three by seven points or fewer – Olivet will return to the District Finals. Kalamazoo United (6-2) was averaging 44 points per game, but the Eagles still haven’t allowed an opponent to score more than 17. Click for more from JoeInsider.com.

District Digest Grand Rapids Catholic Central 41, Belding 6 The reigning Division 4 champion Cougars (7-0) are well on their way again; they held the Black Knights (6-2) 37 points below their average. Howard City Tri Country 40, Grant 21 The Vikings (4-4) opened this season with a one-point loss to Grant (3-4), but by winning the rematch will play in a District Final for the first  time since 2004. Frankenmuth 28, Almont 0 The Eagles (9-0) will play in a District Final for the ninth-straight season after shutting out the reigning Division 5 runner-up Raiders (3-3). Essexville Garber 21, Saginaw Swan Valley 14 The Dukes (7-1) are headed to their first District Final since 2013, adding a second win this season over Swan Valley (4-4) after two defeats to the Vikings in 2019.

Division 6

HEADLINER Montague 50, Clare 7 The Wildcats continued their playoff dominance of the last four years, claiming this matchup of undefeated league champions to advance to the District Finals for the fifth time in six seasons. Montague (8-0) of course was impressive on offense, but perhaps more so on the other side of the ball as Clare (7-1) entered the game scoring 50 points per game. Click for more from the Muskegon Chronicle and see highlights below from MI Sports Now.

District Digest Clinton 42, Erie Mason 24 These two switched leagues before this fall, Erie Mason (7-1) going on to win the Tri-County Conference title and Clinton (7-1) finishing second in the Lenawee County Athletic Association after they played in the opposite leagues for years prior. Boyne City 29, Maple City Glen Lake (OT) After losing to the reigning Division 6 runner-up 22-6 in their season opener, Boyne City (6-2) held on to avenge as the Lakers (5-3) went for the win after their overtime touchdown. Calumet 29, Menominee 14 The Copper Kings (4-3) made it two playoff wins in a row over Menominee (4-3) after they also met in a District Final in 2019. Negaunee 42, Ishpeming Westwood 14 These two were supposed to meet in a regular-season finale that was canceled, but two weeks later Negaunee (5-3) broke a three-game losing streak against the league rival Patriots (5-2).

Division 7

HEADLINER Evart 34, McBain 31 We see these every year, and they make high school football like no other level. Six weeks ago, McBain defeated Evart 52-16. The Wildcats (6-2) haven’t lost again and will play this weekend in their first District Final since 2012. The Ramblers had given up a total of 55 points this season before Evart’s latest 34. Click for more from the Cadillac News.

District Digest Oscoda 33, Beaverton 27 The Owls (8-0) have won eight games for the third straight season and now earned the opportunity to play in a District Final for the first time since 2000. Beaverton finished 6-2, its defeats by a combined 11 points. Cass City 14, Sandusky 12 (OT) This was as good as expected from two undefeated teams, with Cass City (8-0) moving on with an overtime conversion stop as Sandusky (7-1) attempted to tie. Madison Heights Bishop Foley 34, Detroit Central 30 The Ventures (7-1) have won two playoff games by a total of seven points to put themselves in a District Final for the first time since 2013. Lawton 21, Homer 19 Lawton (7-1) moved to 17-2 over the last two seasons and earned a rematch this week with Schoolcraft, which defeated the Blue Devils in Week 8.

Division 8

HEADLINER Bark River-Harris 22, West Iron County 6 The Broncos (5-2) quietly have won five straight with a defense that’s held all but one opponent to 20 or fewer points. (That other opponent is Iron Mountain, up next.) They didn’t get to face West Iron County (7-1) in scheduled league play this fall because of the late season start, but took this opportunity to break a two-game losing streak against the Wyakins (7-1). Click for more from the Escanaba Daily Press.

District Digest Beal City 31, Breckenridge 19 The Aggies (7-1) gradually broke away from the Huskies (6-2) to return to the District Finals for the second-straight season. Ubly 20, Unionville-Besewing 14 (OT) The Bearcats (6-2) ran their winning streak over USA (5-3) to seven after the teams previously missed out on their league game that was to open this fall. Petersburg Summerfield 29, Detroit Southeastern 20 The Bulldogs (3-5) have enjoyed the majority of their success this season over the last weeks, and this was a stunner as Southeastern (6-2) was scoring nearly 42 points per game. Royal Oak Shrine 28, Auburn Hills Oakland Christian 19 The Knights (6-2) will be playing for a third District title in five seasons after ending the Lancers’ run at 6-2.


Division 1

HEADLINER Adrian Lenawee Christian 78, Mayville 14 How strong might the Cougars be? Both of these teams entered unbeaten, but Lenawee Christian (8-0) actually upped its scoring average three more points to 56 ppg with the win. Regardless, take nothing away from the Wildcats (7-1), who put together their winningest season since 1987. Click for more from the Adrian Daily Telegram.

Regional Roundup Morrice 38, Merrill 20 Awaiting Lenawee Christian this week will be the Orioles (8-0), who held Merrill (6-2) to its season low and scored the most the Vandals gave up this fall. Marcellus 26, Lawrence 22 The Wildcats (5-2) tied their most wins in a season since 2012 by completing a two-game sweep of the Tigers (6-2), with those victories by a combined 10 points. Indian River Inland Lakes 46, Pellston 18 This win gave the Bulldogs (7-1) as many this season as the last five years combined and came against a Pellston team that was undefeated and had allowed only one opponent to come within 20 points. Suttons Bay 44 Whittemore-Prescott 0 After winning their first meeting 39-20, the Norsemen (8-0) were even better this time posting their fourth shutout to end the season for the Cardinals (5-3).

Division 2

HEADLINER Cedarville 28, Rapid River 20 Only one Division 2 game was decided by fewer than 20 points this week, but this met expectations as Cedarville (7-1) added to a 32-20 win over the Rockets (6-2) from Week 6. The Trojans have reached the Regional Finals six of the last seven seasons. Click for more from MI Sports Now. 

Regional Roundup Marion 51, Hillman 16 The Eagles (7-1) are undefeated since opening weekend and returning to the Regional Finals for the first time since 1996 after avenging last year’s playoff loss to the Tigers (3-5). Kinde North Huron 34, Peck 14 The Warriors (7-1) have won eight straight over Peck (4-4) and with this victory reached the Regional Finals for the third time in four years. Hale 44, Brethren 8 At 7-1, Hale is enjoying its best season since 1999, with this win over the Bobcats (5-3) its most impressive yet. Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart 51, Bay City All Saints 12 Only two weeks ago the Irish (7-1) edged All Saints (4-3) by eight points, but apparently picked up a few things to help them advance to the Regional Finals for the first time in three seasons of 8-player.

PHOTO: Beal City (on offense) moved on in Division 8 with a 31-19 win over Breckenridge. (Click to see more from HighSchoolSportsScene.com.) 

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.)