1st & Goal: Week 5 Preview

September 24, 2020

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Most years, we’d talk this weekend about Michigan high school football teams being in midseason form.

They’re getting there quickly – and with another series of big-time matchups these next few days helping all of us get back up to speed.

Major rivalries will play out again in Muskegon, Flint and Metro Detroit among various communities all over the state. Some of the most noteworthy games are briefly previewed below. Check out the MHSAA Score Center beforehand for kickoff times and locations of all games, and come back Friday and Saturday for scores as they’re reported.

This week we’ll also have 53 varsity football games broadcast on MHSAA.tv; click the link for listings.

Bay & Thumb

Flint Hamady (1-0) at Flint Beecher (1-0)

Anthony Branch’s coaching tenure after Courtney Hawkins left for Michigan State began with a 27-19 win over Ann Arbor Father Gabriel Richard last week. The Bucs’ biggest game of the regular season is up next, and Branch has plenty of experience in Hamady matchups after serving previously as an assistant coach and having played in the Beecher program. The Hawks have won all three regular-season matchups with the Bucs since the teams rejoined the same league in 2017.

Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Davison (1-0) at Grand Blanc (1-0), Frankenmuth (1-0) at Saginaw Swan Valley (1-0), Sandusky (1-0) at Harbor Beach (1-0), Saginaw Nouvel (0-1) at Saginaw Michigan Lutheran Seminary (1-0).

Greater Detroit

Sterling Heights Stevenson (1-0) at Macomb Dakota (1-0)

These two finished fifth and fourth, respectively, in the Macomb Area Conference Red in 2019. But together last week they defeated reigning champion Clinton Township Chippewa Valley (Dakota 29-20) and runner-up Utica Eisenhower (Stevenson 7-3). Dakota owns a five-game regular-season winning streak against the Titans, including last year by a 40-14 score. But Stevenson may be continuing a surge that took it to last year’s Division 1 Semifinals – a run which included a 38-35 win over Dakota in the District Final.

Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Dearborn Fordson (0-1) at Belleville (1-0), Detroit Mumford (1-0) at Detroit Cass Tech (1-0). SATURDAY Detroit Catholic Central (1-0) at Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice (1-0).


Midland Bullock Creek (1-0) at Ithaca (1-0)

These two are in different divisions of the Tri-Valley Conference West this fall. But a year ago they were in the same division and shared the championship, breaking Ithaca’s streak of nine straight outright league titles. The Yellowjackets won last year’s matchup 35-21, but Bullock Creek was able to grab a championship share after Ithaca fell to Hemlock 30-6 in the league finale. Both opened last week with wins over 2019 playoff teams, Ithaca over Saginaw Nouvel and Bullock Creek over Carrollton.

Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY DeWitt (1-0) at Grand Ledge (1-0), LeRoy Pine River (1-0) at Beal City (1-0), Leslie (0-1) at Stockbridge (1-0), St. Johns (0-1) at Williamston (1-0).

Northern Lower Peninsula

Ogemaw Heights (1-0) at Kingsley (1-0)

Ogemaw Heights is coming off its first winning season since 2013 after going 8-3 a year ago. Kingsley, meanwhile, posted its best finish since 2005 at 12-1 and with a run to the Division 5 Semifinals. A 36-19 Week 2 win over Ogemaw Heights was among seven victories total the Stags posted against teams that finished with winning records. And this matchup should mean more in the future as Ogemaw Heights has joined Kingsley in the Northern Michigan Football Conference Legends division.  

Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY East Jordan (1-0) at Harbor Springs (1-0), Traverse City St. Francis (0-1) at Grayling (1-0), Petoskey (1-0) at Traverse City Central (1-0), Oscoda (1-0) at Rogers City (1-0).

Southeast & Border

Breckenridge (1-0) at Reading (1-0)

Added just this week, this might be one of the top small-school matchups in the state this season. Reading has won the last two Division 8 championships and defeated Breckenridge 39-20 in the 2018 title game. This could be a preview of another playoff matchup to come. Together they defeated their season-opening opponents last week by a combined score of 95-6.

Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Blissfield (1-0) at Hillsdale (1-0), Brooklyn Columbia Central (1-0) at Clinton (1-0), Riverview (1-0) at Milan (1-0), Battle Creek Pennfield (1-0) at Parma Western (1-0).

Southwest Corridor

Saugatuck (1-0) at Schoolcraft (1-0)

This might have gotten a little more attention a year ago, as these two frequently are the best or near the top of their divisions of the Southwestern Athletic Conference. Schoolcraft was a co-champion in the Lakeshore last season, but Saugatuck finished sub-.500 overall for the first time since 2006. Saugatuck got off to a winning start last week, however, as did Schoolcraft – and this fall both are in the SAC Valley.

Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Marshall (0-1) at Coldwater (1-0), Portage Northern (1-0) at Mattawan (1-0), Decatur (0-1) at Cassopolis (1-0), Coloma (1-0) at Kalamazoo United (1-0). 

Upper Peninsula

Sault Ste. Marie (1-0) at Marquette (1-0)

Granted, it’s just one week to go on. But based on early returns, these might be the best in the Upper Peninsula this fall. Sault Ste. Marie opened with a seven-point win over Traverse City St. Francis, while Marquette downed Menominee by 23. Marquette has beaten the Blue Devils in four straight including 31-0 a year ago, but despite last year’s defeat Sault Ste. Marie went on to its winningest season since 2013. A win tonight could end up the Sault’s highlight of this shortened season.

Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY West Iron County (1-0) at L'Anse (1-0), Hancock (1-0) at Bessemer Gogebic (0-1), Menominee (0-1) at Marinette, Wis. (0-0), Norway (0-1) at Houghton (1-0).

West Michigan

Muskegon Mona Shores (1-0) at Muskegon (1-0)

This easily is the headliner of the week, matchup up a pair of teams that reached Ford Field a year ago. A 53-0 Muskegon win over Shores in Week 8 was among dominating victories that pushed the Big Reds to a Division 3 runner-up finish. The Sailors, meanwhile, didn’t lose again after that night, stringing together a series of mostly close wins on the way to the Division 2 title. Muskegon has a five-game winning streak in this rivalry matchup, but a much closer finish than last year’s has to be the expectation this time.

Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Montague (1-0) at Muskegon Oakridge (1-0), Rockford (1-0) at Caledonia (1-0), Byron Center (1-0) at Grand Rapids Christian (0-1), Hudsonville Unity Christian (1-0) at Grand Rapids West Catholic (1-0).


Colon (1-0) at Adrian Lenawee Christian (1-0), Saturday

Colon’s move to 8-player in 2018 proved beneficial and then some as the Magi went a combined 23-2 over the last two seasons and won the 8-player Division 1 title a year ago. Lenawee Christian’s move this fall could usher in similar dominance for the Cougars, who finished 10-2 and just missed defeating eventual Division 8 champion Reading in the Regional Final last year. Lenawee opened its 8-player era with a 62-0 win over another first-year 8-player team Athens last week, while Colon downed frequent playoff qualifier Bellevue 45-6.

Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Portland St. Patrick (1-0) at Vestaburg (1-0), Merrill (1-0) at Atlanta (1-0), Pickford (1-0) at Cedarville (1-0). SATURDAY Newberry (0-1) at Munising (1-0).

PHOTO: Johannesburg-Lewiston opened last week with a 47-14 win over Mancelona. (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.)