1st & Goal: Playoff Week 4 in Review

January 10, 2021

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Every chance to compete is an opportunity to accomplish something never achieved before.

The return of MHSAA football Saturday loudly reminded us how much we’ve been missing those moments.

Among four 8-Player Semifinals winners, one earned the championship game trip for the first time and two more will get another chance at claiming a first title. Stories were unfolding as well all over the 11-Player Regional Finals as the sun seemed to shine extra brightly on teams playing the first January football games in Michigan high school history.

Below is a glance at all of those games, with highlights from those that especially jumped off the page. Keep up-to-date by visiting the MHSAA Football Playoff Home and watch many of this weekend’s games on demand on MHSAA.tv.


Division 1

SEMIFINAL Adrian Lenawee Christian 47, Martin 12 The Cougars (10-0) will play for a championship for the first time after yet another big win – Lenawee Christian’s average margin of victory this season is 50 points. Martin (8-2), which was making its first Semifinal appearance since 1987, is a combined 18-3 over two seasons of 8-player. Click for more from the Adrian Daily Telegram.

SEMIFINAL Suttons Bay 1, Indian River Inland Lakes 0 The reigning Division 1 runner-up Norseman advanced to the championship game due to an Inland Lakes forfeit.

Division 2

SEMIFINAL Powers North Central 50, Marion 2 The Jets (10-0) launched to a 36-0 first-quarter lead to get back to the championship round for the first time since 2016. North Central has given up only 24 points total over four playoff games. Marion finished its winningest season since 1992 at 8-2. Click for more from the Iron Mountain Daily News.

SEMIFINAL Portland St. Patrick 34, Kinde North Huron 12 The Shamrocks (10-0) will play in the championship round for the third time in four seasons and second straight. This was the third time in those four seasons these two met in the playoffs. North Huron finished 8-1, its best since 2017. Click for more from the Lansing State Journal.


Division 1

HEADLINER Davison 20, Detroit Catholic Central 7 Davison quarterback Brendan Sullivan (now at Northwestern) is one of the most high-profile seniors who has moved on to college football, and it’s fair to say most expected that to be an additional boost for Detroit Catholic Central (9-1). But the reigning Division 1 champion Cardinals (10-0) instead enjoyed an incredible breakout performance by new quarterback Dion Brown Jr. plus a defensive effort that held the Shamrocks 22 points below their season average. Click for more from the Flint Journal.

Regional Roundup Belleville 43, Detroit Cass Tech 16 This was arguably the most high-profile Division 1 game heading into the weekend, and the Tigers (10-0) put up their most impressive victory of what’s now a fourth-straight double-digit win season, holding Cass Tech (9-1) to 25 points below its average. Rockford 40, Saline 17 The Rams (8-0) are headed to the Semifinals for the first time since 2012 after locking up a Saline offense that averaged 40 points per game during an 8-1 start. West Bloomfield 52, Romeo 14 The Lakers (9-1) clinched their first Regional title since 2017 with a third-straight scoring output of 50 points or more thanks in part to four Donovan Edwards touchdowns. Romeo (5-5) still has much to celebrate after entering the postseason 2-4.

Division 2

HEADLINER Muskegon Mona Shores 24, East Lansing 21 The reigning Division 2 champion Sailors (10-0) advanced by connecting on a 25-yard field goal as time expired. The Regional championship was Shores’ third straight. East Lansing (9-1) meanwhile came back to tie in the fourth quarter before falling short; the Trojans also had come up just three points short in its most recent previous Regional run in 2017.  Click for more from the Muskegon Chronicle.

Regional Roundup Oak Park 30, Livonia Churchill 23 The long break didn’t derail Oak Park’s dream postseason, as the Knights improved to 5-5 after entering the postseason 1-5 with only a forfeit win. Churchill (6-3) reached the Regional Finals for the second-straight season. Traverse City Central 50, North Farmington 22 The Trojans (9-1) are headed to the Semifinals for the first time since 1988, which came before the old Traverse City High split into Central and West. North Farmington (7-3) saw the end of its deepest tournament run since 1978. Warren De La Salle Collegiate 45, Warren Mott 3 The Pilots (6-4) entered the playoffs 2-4 and have outscored its four postseason opponents on average 44-6. Mott (8-2) can celebrate its winningest season since 2013, which came despite the abbreviated schedule.

Division 3

HEADLINER River Rouge 33, Detroit Martin Luther King 30 The reigning champion Panthers (13-1) won another classic matchup with King, which had won their 2018 playoff meeting by a point. Like Mona Shores in Division 2, River Rouge clinched its Regional title with a late field goal. King (6-4) had won five straight Regional titles. Click for more from the Detroit Free Press.

Regional Roundup Muskegon 24, East Grand Rapids 0 The Big Reds (9-1) claimed a fifth-consecutive Regional title with their first shutout of the season, stopping the Pioneers (6-4) who had entered averaging 31 points per game. This was the third straight season Muskegon defeated EGR in the playoffs, and second straight in this round. Chelsea 38, Flint Kearsley 22 The Bulldogs (10-0) secured a third-straight Regional title and third-straight double-digit win season, while ending the deepest postseason run for the Hornets (6-4) since 1998. DeWitt 1, Stevensville Lakeshore 0 The Panthers advanced to the Semifinals as Lakeshore withdrew from the tournament.

Division 4

HEADLINER Cadillac 27, Ada Forest Hills Eastern 23 Less than 24 hours after Cadillac had to move its home game to Traverse City, the Vikings (7-2) came back to win its first Regional title in six tries. Forest Hills Eastern (6-4), playing for its first Regional title since 2015, led by 14 points at halftime. The Hawks did complete their best season since that 2015 run, with two more wins than a season ago. Click for more from the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

Regional Roundup Edwardsburg 47, Grand Rapids South Christian 7 The Eddies (9-0) marched to their fourth Regional title in five seasons, continuing a streak of scoring at least 43 points in every game this season. South Christian (8-2) closed its winningest campaign since 2014. Williamston 38, Milan 21 The Hornets (9-1) won their second Regional title in three seasons with their second-highest scoring output of this one to get past Milan (8-2) as it played in a Regional Final for the second-straight season. Detroit Country Day 38, North Branch 0 The reigning Division 4 runner-up Yellowjackets (7-2) slowed a North Branch offense that was averaging 43 points per game during its first run to the Regional Finals. The Broncos finished 9-1, their winningest season since 2006.

Division 5

HEADLINER Frankenmuth 31, Marine City 7 The Eagles scored 24 unanswered points during the second half to clinch a third Regional title in five seasons and first since 2017. Frankenmuth (10-0) was able to get its running game going to break away, while the defense held Marine City (8-2) to 33 points below its average. Click for more from the Saginaw News.

Regional Roundup Grand Rapids Catholic Central 58, Muskegon Oakridge 7 Last season’s Division 4 champion, the Cougars (9-0) are in Division 5 for the first time and won their fifth straight Regional title. The loss was the second for Oakridge (7-3) to a team still undefeated this season. Lansing Catholic 28, Grosse Ile 5 The reigning Division 5 champion Cougars (8-2) pulled within two wins of a repeat with their third single-digit defensive performance of the playoffs and with Grosse Ile (6-4) averaging 33 points per game entering the afternoon. Freeland 1, Reed City 0 The Falcons advanced with a forfeit win.

Division 6

HEADLINER Clinton 13, Warren Michigan Collegiate 12 Defense dominated this matchup, especially during a scoreless second half. In the end, Clinton (9-1) held on for its second-straight win by three or fewer points and first Regional title since 2015. Michigan Collegiate (9-1) completed its fifth straight season with two or fewer losses, keyed by a defense that gave up only 3.1 points per game. Click for more from the Adrian Daily Telegram.

Regional Roundup Grayling 56, Negaunee 26 After two straight three-win seasons, Grayling (7-3) is headed to the Semifinals for the first time after getting past the Miners (6-4). The Vikings found success against a Negaunee defense that had given up only 47 points total over its first three playoff games. Montague 41, Montrose 16 The Wildcats (10-0) reached 10 wins for the fourth-straight season with their third-straight Regional title, as the Rams (8-2) ended in this round for the second-straight season. Constantine 33, Michigan Center 14 The Falcons (9-1) ran their winning streak to nine and now have their winningest season since 2012 and first Regional title since that fall after downing Michigan Center (6-2), which also hadn’t lost since its season opener. The Cardinals can still celebrate bouncing back from their 4-5 finish in 2019.

Division 7

HEADLINER Cass City 50, Ithaca 24 Both entered undefeated, and Cass City (10-0) is moving on to the Semifinals for a second-straight season after getting more than a 100 yards rushing from a pair of backs and two touchdowns rushing and a third passing from quarterback Bryce Fernald. Despite the shortened schedule, Ithaca (9-1) finished with its winningest season in three, improving on eight victories in both 2018 and 2019. Click for more from the Bay City Times.

Regional Roundup Schoolcraft 29, Jackson Lumen Christi 22 In its third-straight trip to the Regional Finals, Schoolcraft (9-1) broke through for its first win in this round since 2001. In the process, the Eagles ended Lumen Christi’s season at 5-5, bringing to a close a streak of 31 consecutive with winning records. New Lothrop 41, Detroit Loyola 7 After missing the Semifinals by a one-point Regional loss last season, New Lothrop is headed back thanks to its sixth single-digit defensive effort of this run. Loyola (8-2) did finish its winningest season since 2016, two victories better than in 2019. Traverse City St. Francis 1, Oscoda 0 The Gladiators advanced after Oscoda withdrew from the tournament.

Division 8

HEADLINER Johannesburg-Lewiston 7, Iron Mountain 6 The Cardinals (10-0) journeyed to the Superior Dome and held on after scoring their lone points during the final minutes of the first half. Iron Mountain (8-2) had gone for two on its touchdown early in the second quarter, but was unable to convert a two-point try. The Regional title was Johannesburg-Lewiston’s first since 1998. Click for more from the Gaylord Herald Times.

Regional Roundup Ubly 36, Carson City-Crystal 6 The Bearcats missed making it to Ford Field a year ago by a one-point Semifinal defeat, and they’ve earned another chance with another impressive defensive effort – they’ve given up a combined 28 points over four playoff games. Carson City-Crystal (6-2) finished its deepest playoff run since 1999. Centreville 8, Sand Creek 0 The Bulldogs (9-0) put up their sixth shutout of the season, this one to earn their first Regional championship. Sand Creek (8-2) completed its deepest playoff run since 2007. Clarkston Everest Collegiate 35, Petersburg Summerfield 0 The Mountaineers (10-0) won their first Regional title, in the process reaching double-digit wins for the first time in the program’s eight-season history. Summerfield (4-6) entered the playoffs just 1-5 but reached the Regional Finals for the first time since 2011.

PHOTO: Muskegon, on offense, returned to the field Saturday with a Division 3 Regional Final win over East Grand Rapids. (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.)