Baker Gives LCS Star Power in Multiple Roles
August 16, 2019
By Doug Donnelly
Special for Second Half
ADRIAN – It’s hard to figure out Adam Baker’s best position.
The Adrian Lenawee Christian senior made The Associated Press all-state football squad as a sophomore and junior as a defensive back, but his best position probably is quarterback. If the Cougars are to make the playoffs for a school-record third consecutive season, it’s a good bet it is because of Baker’s arm.
“He’s better than he was last year,” said LCS head coach Bill Wilharms. “He had a really nice summer. He’s got a lot of confidence back there. If we can give him time, he’s going to find someone to throw it to.”
The Cougars kicked off practice this week coming off an 8-2 season and the school’s first-ever Southern Central Athletic Association football championship. Their season ended for the second straight time with a loss to Ottawa Lake Whiteford, but with a host of returning skill players – Wilharms counts 11 potential pass receivers for Baker – Lenawee Christian has high hopes for this fall.
“I think it’s going to be a great season,” said Baker, a fourth-year varsity player. “This group of guys are really close, very tight-knit. Everyone is working hard so far. Our coaches are pouring everything they have into working with us.”
Baker’s stats were fantastic last season. On defense, he counted six tackles for loss among his 73 total stops to go with one sack, two interceptions, five pass-break-ups, and he recovered a fumble. On offense, he rushed for 419 yards, averaging nearly five yards a carry, and passed for 1,618 yards and 22 touchdowns. He completed 65 percent of his 204 passes. And, just to show how he almost never comes off the field, Baker also averaged 30.1 yards on his 16 punts.
“If he has time in the pocket, the defense better be able to cover about 50 yards,” Wilharms said. “We’re going to use all of the field.”
Baker shared the starting quarterback duties as a freshman and grew into the starting signal-caller as a sophomore. Last year he was the leading passer in Lenawee County. This year, Baker will target several familiar receivers, as the Cougars welcome back five of their top six pass-catchers from a year ago.
The list includes Hutson Hohlbein (33 receptions, 630 yards), Michael Braman (16-327), Ahsean Jones (22-222), Jameson Chesser (28-221), Hanson Lilly (11-46) and Isaiah Willett (11 receptions).
“I’ve been throwing the ball to these guys for four years now,” Baker said. “I have a connection to them. I know where they are going to be. It doesn’t matter who gets the ball or who I throw to. I trust all of them.”
Another key receiver on this year’s Cougars squad will be Landon Gallant, the backup quarterback who will get on the field in one of the receiver slots for Wilharms.
“I didn’t get him on the field as much as I would have liked to last year because he was my backup quarterback,” Wilharms said. “He’s going to play this year. He’s probably one of the fastest kids in Lenawee County, but he doesn’t do track because he’s a golfer.”
Chesser is for sure one of the fastest in Lenawee County. He finished fourth in the 200 dash at last year’s MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 4 Finals. He’s a running back but figures big in the Cougars’ pass offense.
“He’s a great running back,” Baker said. “Coach says we are going to be more of a 50-50 team this year with running and passing.”
Wilharms said he spent a lot of the summer with Siena Heights University football coaches learning some ins-and-outs of the run-pass option offense.
“Baker is the kind of kid that if you give him the box, he’s going to take off,” Wilharms said. “If you don’t, he going to throw on you.”
Over the past two seasons, he’s passed for more than 3,000 yards, more than 40 touchdowns and made 150 tackles.
“I enjoy playing both positions,” Baker said. “On offense, I like to try and lead the team, to get the ball to as many different guys as I can. I want to distribute the ball and just drive down the field. On defense, I have my role and I like to tackle.”
Baker, 18, is used to staying busy in a variety of roles. He grew up on a 500-cow dairy farm in Clayton, located just south of Adrian.
“It’s fun,” he said. “You get the opportunity to do a lot of different things, drive a lot of different things. There is a lot of stuff to do.”
The family grows hay, corn and soybeans. Baker loves being raised on a farm.
“I’ve been working with my dad on the farm since I was little,” he said. “It’s what I’m thinking about going to college for.”
Baker said he expects to be more of a team leader this fall. He was named one of the captains Thursday.
“When I was younger, the older guys we had did a lot of teaching,” Baker said. “Now that I am a senior, I try to do that for the younger kids. I’m hoping to be more of a leader for the team. I have a lot of experience, and I’ve been in a lot of different situations.”
Wilharms said the Cougars are excited for the season, especially after playing with only three seniors during the 8-2 run last year. Last year’s youth means this year’s squad knows about winning.
“They’ve taken their lumps and have had some success,” Wilharms said of the class of 2020. “They’ve got some unsettled things they want to take care of. They are focused on getting the job done this year.”
Doug Donnelly has served as a sports and news reporter and city editor over 25 years, writing for the Daily Chief-Union in Upper Sandusky, Ohio from 1992-1995, the Monroe Evening News from 1995-2012 and the Adrian Daily Telegram since 2013. He's also written a book on high school basketball in Monroe County and compiles record books for various schools in southeast Michigan. E-mail him at DougDonnelly@hotmail.com with story ideas for Jackson, Washtenaw, Hillsdale, Lenawee and Monroe counties.
PHOTOS: (Top) Lenawee Christian's Adam Baker runs away from a Pittsford defender. (Middle) Baker, far right, works out during practice this week. (Top photo by Mike Dickie; middle by Doug Donnelly.)
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.
Last 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.
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.”
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.
“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.”
“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 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.)