1st & Goal: Week 4 Preview

September 17, 2020

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

After a slight delay, we’re back – and landing right in the heart of the 2020 Michigan high school football season.

After missing the previously-scheduled first three weeks due to COVID-19 precautions, there’s no time for teams to ease into the action. This week’s schedule is loaded with some of the major matchups we circle every fall.

Below is a look at storylines coming out of every region of the state and 8-player for this opening weekend (we’re going to continue calling it Week 4). We’ll again be tracking scores in real time with the MHSAA Score Center. And remember, attendance limits are in place – but we’ll have at least 32 games broadcast Friday and Saturday on MHSAA.tv. (Nine games kicked the varsity season off Thursday night, and you can catch one of those as well on demand.) 

Records below are for the 2019 season.

Bay & Thumb

Beaverton (10-1) at Sanford Meridian (8-4)

The Beavers are coming off their best season ever, after claiming the Jack Pine Conference championship and closing the regular season with four straight shutouts. The zero streak began with a 20-0 win over Meridian, which went on to finish third in the JPC but then claimed a District title. The Mustangs are hoping to next beat Beaverton for the first time since their best season ever, in 2015.

Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Linden (4-5) at Flushing (5-5), Frankenmuth (9-2) at Freeland (9-3), Flint Carman-Ainsworth (2-7) at Grand Blanc (5-5), Ubly (10-3) at Harbor Beach (10-1).

Greater Detroit

Detroit Martin Luther King (11-3) at Detroit Cass Tech (7-5), Saturday

The Detroit Public School League kicks off with its annual game of the year. These rivals will play in different divisions of the PSL again and could meet a second time, as is frequent, in the PSL championship game in five weeks. King is coming off a big win in last season’s matchup after a similar Cass Tech victory in 2018 – so another classic may be due.

Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Macomb Dakota (6-5) at Clinton Township Chippewa Valley (9-1), West Bloomfield (10-2) at Oak Park (8-2), Utica Eisenhower (9-3) at Sterling Heights Stevenson (8-5) SATURDAY Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice (6-5) at Warren De La Salle Collegiate (5-5).


Portland (8-3) at DeWitt (10-3)

Both will look to hit the ground running in what should again this season be one of the best matchups in the Lansing area. The Panthers’ three losses last year came by a combined 28 points, and their closest was a 29-27 defeat to the Raiders in Week 2. Portland scored the most points DeWitt gave up last fall, but arrived in a similar spot later with three losses over its final four games and by a combined 29 points.

Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Williamston (5-5) at Fowlerville (7-4), Pewamo-Westphalia (14-0) at Laingsburg (6-4), Saginaw Nouvel (7-5) at Ithaca (8-2), Saginaw Swan Valley (8-4) at Alma (4-5).

Northern Lower Peninsula

Traverse City West (7-3) vs. Traverse City Central (8-2) at Thirlby Field

Talk about a different look this season. The “Patriot Game” between these rivals generally brings about 10,000 fans to downtown Traverse City. But this region is allowed a maximum of 500 people (including players) at outdoor games under Phase 5 of the MI Safe Start Plan. Still, smaller crowds won’t change the meaning for the teams on the field. Central’s 32-0 win last year was the first double-digit victory in the series since 2012, and it decided the Big North Conference title.

Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Kingsley (12-1) at Cheboygan (4-5), Boyne City (4-5) at Maple City Glen Lake (12-2), Lake City (6-4) at McBain (6-5) SATURDAY Sault Ste. Marie (7-4) at Traverse City St. Francis (8-4)

Southeast & Border

Dexter (8-2) at Chelsea (12-1)

Dexter – remember one of the great stories of 2018 when it made the playoffs for the first time – continued its surge last fall with its most wins during at least the MHSAA playoff era. And the Dreadnaughts were close to accomplishing possibly much more, with last year’s defeats by a combined seven points. Chelsea’s 22-17 win over Dexter in Week 1 ended up deciding the Southeastern Conference White title, making this rematch potentially another of the “right into the fire” moments of this season’s start.

Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Ida (4-5) at Clinton (9-1), Hanover-Horton (4-5) at Michigan Center (4-5), Pittsford (4-5) at Sand Creek (8-3), Dundee (5-5) at Blissfield (6-4).

Southwest Corridor 

Constantine (8-3) at Schoolcraft (10-2)

These were two of three teams that shared the Southwestern Athletic Conference Lakeshore title last season, thanks to Schoolcraft’s 27-24 win of their matchup. The Eagles have won six straight meetings with Constantine, including two in the playoffs – and this game will still mean a lot to both although the teams are in different divisions of the SAC this fall.

Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Portage Northern (10-2) at Stevensville Lakeshore (4-5), East Lansing (7-3) at Portage Central (5-5), Fennville (4-5) at Lawton (10-1), Jackson Lumen Christi (12-1) at Marshall (6-5).

Upper Peninsula 

Menominee (7-4) at Marquette (5-5)

This rematch could be one of the best regular-season games north of Mackinac Bridge this fall. Marquette is the reigning Great Northern Conference champion as both of these teams made the postseason a year ago. Marquette’s 28-21 win over the Maroons broke a seven-game losing streak against the annual league foe.

Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Harbor Springs (6-4) at St. Ignace (5-5), Kingsford (4-5) at Calumet (10-2), Gwinn (1-8) at Hancock (5-4), Manistique (3-6) at Negaunee (6-4).

West Michigan

Hudsonville (8-4) at East Kentwood (6-5)

The Eagles have had to wait all offseason and then some for a chance to avenge a painful 2019 loss. Despite falling to Rockford the previous week last season, Hudsonville came into last year’s matchup with East Kentwood still tied for first in the Ottawa-Kent Conference Red – and then was upset 31-20 by the eventual fourth-place Falcons. Maybe it wasn’t an upset though, as East Kentwood has beaten Hudsonville in three straight and picked up a playoff win over Rockford at the end of last fall.

Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central (8-3) vs. Grand Rapids Christian (7-3) at Forest Hills Eastern, Muskegon Mona Shores (12-2) at Muskegon Reeths-Puffer (5-4), Jenison (4-5) at Rockford (8-2), East Grand Rapids (5-5) at Lowell (1-8).


Deckerville (10-1) at New Haven Merritt (8-2)

Deckerville’s only loss last season came in a Regional Final, and the Eagles yearly are one of the strongest statewide contenders. Merritt is looking to make that jump. The Mustangs have reached the playoffs five of the last six seasons, and they’ll get two serious tests – plus major postseason prep – right away this month in Deckerville and Morrice as a new member of the North Central Thumb League Stars.

Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Camden-Frontier (6-4) at Climax Scotts (9-3), Martin (10-1) at Wyoming Tri-unity Christian (5-5), Cedarville (6-5) at Engadine (8-2), Bellevue (6-4) at Colon (13-0).

PHOTO by Robert Batzloff. 

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.)