Cass Tech, Campbell's Glories Grow

November 24, 2012

By Bill Khan
Special to Second Half

DETROIT — Thomas Wilcher is a former Detroit Public School League football star who has become one of the most successful coaches in the state. 

Perhaps such a future awaits the city’s brightest current star, Detroit Cass Tech quarterback Jayru Campbell. 

Wilcher raved about his sophomore signal caller’s mental grasp of the game after the Technicians became the first PSL team to win back-to-back MHSAA football championships with a 36-21 victory over Detroit Catholic Central on Saturday at Ford Field. 

Campbell has orchestrated the offense during both championship runs, each of which ended with a dominant performance against perennial power Catholic Central. Cass Tech routed the Shamrocks 49-13 in last year’s title game, as Campbell threw for five touchdowns. 

Campbell’s stats weren't as gaudy this time around (4 for 12, 154 yards, one touchdown), but it’s not his physical gifts that drew high praise from Wilcher after the game. 

“I told him on the telephone one night, ‘I don’t care about your arm right now. I just love the way you think on the football field,’” Wilcher said. “That’s what makes him so important to me right now. We’re teaching.” 

As a freshman, Campbell was given limited ability to change plays at the line of scrimmage. As a 10th-grader who has already started 28 varsity games, he has earned more trust from his coaching staff than many seniors. 

“They gave me more of a green light this year,” Campbell said. “Last year, they pretty much told me I could change the play from left to right; that was the most green light I had. This year, I’m changing passes to runs, runs to passes. It’s not getting difficult, but it’s more responsibility on me. I’m up for the challenge.” 

Campbell altered the original call on two of Cass Tech’s biggest offensive plays.

On the Technicians’ first play from scrimmage, he audibled senior receiver Jourdan Lewis from a stop route to a go route. Lewis made a leaping catch between two defenders along the left sideline and took off for an 89-yard touchdown to open the scoring with 9:31 left in the first quarter.

“It was supposed to be a stop,” Campbell said. “The corner was playing so far up, I knew Jourdan Lewis was going to get around him. I just told him to go ahead and do what you do.”

In the fourth quarter, with Cass Tech trying to put the game away, Campbell changed a pass to a draw play to running back Mike Weber on fourth-and-10 from Catholic Central’s 30-yard line. Weber exploded 26 yards to the 4-yard line, setting up a 3-yard touchdown run by Campbell that expanded the lead to 29-7 with 7:59 remaining.

“I saw they had only one linebacker in the back,” Campbell said. “Coach Wilcher really believes in me. He knows I will get the job done. He really trusts me.”

Catholic Central came in looking to avenge last year’s 36-point loss in the Final, but the Shamrocks fell behind 12-0 in the first five minutes on the 89-yard catch by Lewis and a 58-yard fumble return by 260-pound defensive tackle Kenton Gibbs.

The Shamrocks (9-5) slowed the momentum and got back in the game at 12-7 on an 18-yard pass from Garrett Moores to Zach Bock with 2:02 left in the first half. The Technicians (12-2) tacked on a 31-yard field goal by Ken Snapp to take a 15-7 lead into halftime.

A 57-yard run by Weber on third-and-17 set up a 30-yard touchdown run by Deon Drake Jr. on the following play, giving Cass Tech a 22-7 lead on the first series of the third quarter.

“We knew going in from last year’s experience that we can’t make mistakes, because they capitalize well on mistakes, but we did,” Catholic Central coach Tom Mach said. “They made a great throw and catch on the first touchdown. Then we made a couple of mistakes that they capitalized on. We found ourselves in a hole and had to try to get out of that hole. We were doing a good job of that, I thought. Then they exerted themselves and put another touchdown in.”

It became a 29-7 game when Cass Tech went 79 yards in 16 plays, taking 7:14 off the clock before Campbell scored on his 3-yard run with 7:59 left in the fourth quarter.

Catholic Central twice made it a two-possession game in the final 5:57 on touchdown passes by Moores, but the Technicians had an 84-yard interception return for a touchdown by Delano Hill in between them.

“It was no different than last year,” Catholic Central senior running back Anthony Darkangelo said. “We knew last year they were a fast team and we had to keep contain on the edges outside. They executed their game plan and we didn't execute the plan we had for the game.”

Click for full statistics and to watch a replay of the game. See below for the full press conference.

PHOTOS: (Top) Detroit Cass Tech David Dawson hoists quarterback Jayru Campbell (10) during Saturday's Division 1 Final. (Middle) Cass Tech running back Mike Weber runs into a crowd of Detroit Catholic Central defenders including Sean Birney (18) and Dylan Roney (89). (Click for more from Terry McNamara Photography.)

For Their Teams, For Each Other, St. Mary Seniors Team Up 2 More Times

By Tom Spencer
Special for

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 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.)