Colon Finishes Perfect Season with 1st Title
November 23, 2019
By Ryan Stieg
Special for Second Half
MARQUETTE – It was a long trip for the Colon football team, driving all the way from near the Ohio border to the Upper Peninsula for the MHSAA Division 1 8-Player Final
But the Magi made the journey worthwhile.
Behind solid defensive play and the running of fullback Brandon Crawford – who finished with 205 rushing yards – Colon defeated Suttons Bay 26-14 to win its first Finals championship.
Colon head coach Robbie Hattan credited his defense and some thorough conditioning for pushing the Magi over the top. They intercepted four passes and returned one pick for a touchdown.
“In the regular season, our first team defense didn’t give up a point,” he said. “So we get to the playoffs and obviously, when you get to the playoffs, you play at a different level. So we gave up 12 points, 12 points, seven points. Our defense has been the strength of our team.”
“We condition so much,” he said. “During camp, we have different military branches come in to push our kids. We had the Navy SEALs, we had the Army Rangers, Air Force Special Ops. These kids were putting in the work. We figured it out, and we ran 168 miles this season. It’s nuts how much we’ve ran, but we do that and the kids know it. We call it Monday run day. So Monday practices are no fun, but they reaped the rewards tonight and we still had legs in the fourth.”
Even though Suttons Bay’s trip up north fell short, head coach Garrick Opie praised his team for giving everything it had right to the end.
“The great thing about my team and the great thing about our kids, they don’t give up and they never have,” he said. “I think we’ve seen games like Gaylord St. Mary’s and other games being won in the last minute, and I think we still think that way until the last second.
“The one thing that I said to our team was I wanted each player to leave with an empty tank, and they did. So that’s all I can ask for. They did phenomenal.”
Trying to maintain a slim one-point lead at the start of the third quarter, the Magi (13-0) made a huge play defensively. With the ball deep in Suttons Bay territory, Crawford intercepted a screen pass from his defensive lineman spot and ran it into the end zone. After the extra point, the Magi led 14-6.
After forcing a Colon punt, the Northmen answered on their third possession of the quarter. Quarterback Bryce Opie scrambled away from pressure and hit Hugh Periard with a 47-yard pass to the Colon 37. Later, on 4th-and-inches at the Magi 14, Opie sneaked up the middle to the 10. Two plays after that, he scored on a four-yard run. He also picked up the 2-point conversion, and the game was tied 14-14.
Before the end of the quarter, Colon used its rushing attack to march down the field. Crawford plowed his way from the Suttons Bay 43 to the 15, and three plays later quarterback Phillip Alva punched the ball into the end zone from the 1. However, a bad snap on the extra point forced the Magi to pass, and the throw was intercepted in the end zone.
Suttons Bay (12-1) wasn’t shaken though. A 31-yard run from Camryn Knaub helped the Northmen to the Colon 6. But on fourth down, Opie’s pass fell incomplete ,and Colon took over on downs. Just two plays later, Crawford rumbled down the Magi sideline for a 94-yard touchdown. The conversion failed and Colon led by 12 with 7:36 left.
Suttons Bay had one last real chance to get back in the game after blocking a Colon punt with about six minutes remaining, but Jonathan West ended the rally with another interception.
“They just kept trying to push me out of bounds and didn’t really try to tackle me, so I just kept my feet going,” Crawford said of his touchdown. “I think that and the interception by Jonathan were the turning point. Those really helped us.”
“Brandon is a heck of a football player,” Hattan said. “That kid is going to be playing college football someday. He loves having the ball in his hands in big situations. We know we can rely on him, and he really took care of business today.”
While the second half was a little more explosive, the first half was fairly quiet offensively. Colon got on the scoreboard first on its second possession of the game, on a Crawford 24-yard run. With the extra point, Colon led 7-0 with 7:31 to go in the first quarter.
After forcing a Magi punt early in the second quarter, the Northmen started to generate some offense. Opie picked up a first down on a run from the Suttons Bay 49 to the Colon 38, and two plays late a costly Magi penalty moved the ball to the 23. On the next play, Opie threw a pass into double coverage in the corner of the end zone, but Lucas Mikesell adjusted and made a leaping catch behind both Magi defenders for a touchdown. The extra point was blocked though, and Suttons Bay trailed 7-6 with 8:26 left in the half – and the score stayed the same heading into the break.
PHOTOS: (Top) Colon’s Brandon Crawford reaches for the end zone while a Suttons Bay defender attempts to prevent the score Saturday. (Middle) Suttons Bay quarterback Bryce Opie works to avoid Justin Miller’s rush. (Photos by Cara Kamps.)
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.)