Davison Finds Answers During Fast Start

By Paul Costanzo
Special for MHSAA.com

September 11, 2019

It would have made sense if this were a transition year for Davison football.

The Cardinals have just six seniors on this season’s team, four returning starters on defense and five on offense – including two who were playing different positions last fall – and graduated 2018 Flint Area Player of the Year, quarterback Cannon Hall.

As expected, after two games, Davison is … possibly better than a year ago?

The Cardinals, who finished 7-3 last season, are tied at No. 6 in the latest Associated Press Division 1 poll, sitting at 2-0 with big wins against Fenton (54-27) and Bay City Western (69-13). And nobody in the locker room is surprised by it.

“I feel like all of the work we put in the offseason as a group, we kind of expected this outcome,” junior quarterback Brendan Sullivan said. “The mindset that we have at Davison is that no one is going to outwork us. And that work we put in during the offseason gave us confidence coming into the season.”

Sullivan is a major reason for the Cardinals’ early-season success. The quarterback-turned-receiver-turned-quarterback has thrown for 547 yards and nine touchdowns over two weeks. In Week 2, Sullivan threw for 283 yards and five touchdowns – all during the first half.

While those outside the program wondered how the production of Hall would be replaced, the people inside were confident Sullivan was up to the job.

“In 14 years of coaching, he’s the best quarterback I’ve ever been around,” Davison coach Jake Weingartz said. “Last year, he started at wideout for us, and he was all-league at that. This year, he’s worked very hard in the offseason. We knew how good he was, and obviously other people probably did not. He’s not just a thrower, either. We haven’t had to run him a lot, but in Week 1, he carried it for 80 yards and a touchdown.”

Weingartz believes Sullivan is a Power 5 conference Division I college prospect, and notes that his current lack of offers comes from the fact he hadn’t been a varsity starter at the position until this season. The 6-foot-4, 190-pounder does hold a basketball offer from Saginaw Valley State. 

“It’s crazy to see how he doesn’t have any offers,” said Davison senior linebacker Logan Pasko, who is committed to Youngstown State. “He brings the passing aspect to the offense. Cannon was a good thrower, but (Sullivan) really brings accuracy and a deep threat. If he was a Madden player, he’d be 99 overall.”

Sullivan’s favorite target this season has been Latrell Fordham, who has caught 10 passes for 248 yards and five touchdowns to lead the team. Sullivan has spread it out, though, as he’s completed passes to seven receivers. A.J. Terry (two), Gabe Smith and Payton Pizzala have each caught a touchdown pass.

“I think it’s very hard to defend us,” Sullivan said. “I can pick which receiver to throw to every play, and the running backs we have are just studs. We’re hard to defend at every level. It makes it easier when you have receivers you can trust and a running back you can trust.”

The Cardinals are averaging 230.5 yards per game on the ground, led by Caleb Smith (145 yards, two TDs) and Carter Cryderman (121 yards, 1 TD). They’re running behind a completely retooled offensive line, which was another major question mark coming into the season that appears to have been answered.

Junior Lucas Edgar is the only returning starter on the line, and he moved from tackle to left guard. He’s joined up front by sophomore Isaac Norton, junior CJ Brady, senior Cam Hunt and junior Yousef Dukuly. The group still has work to do, but has impressed thus far.

“Obviously, they’re all really young, and we have a lot to improve on, which is exciting for our staff to know that group has only played two games together,” Weingartz said. “Essentially, they’ve really only played two halves of football.”

With just six seniors, the other lingering question about the Cardinals would have been leadership, but that’s been handled as well.

“(The junior class has) been pretty strong, but all credit to those six seniors leading that class and leading us to where we are right now,” Sullivan said. 

Pasco, who has paced the defense with 17 tackles through two weeks, said the team doesn’t need much leadership, because “it’s just there.” He’s not afraid to speak up when he has to, though.

“For me and Caleb Smith, we’ve been waiting for this moment since our sophomore year,” Pasco said. “Now that it’s here, it feels like the easiest thing. Whenever something needs to be said, we know that someone is going to step up and say it.”

The Cardinals showed their maturity right away, dominating a veteran-laden Fenton team that has high hopes of its own this season, and doing so with a weather delay that forced the game to be played over the course of two days.

“It was a big game,” Weingartz said. “For our guys to come out and play the way they did, and be mature about it and play the way they did over the course of two days was great to see.”

More big tests await, as the Cardinals’ Saginaw Valley League Blue schedule features three playoff teams from a year ago – Flint Powers Catholic, Grand Blanc and Lapeer. Davison also has nonconference matchups against Grand Ledge and two-time reigning Division 2 champion Warren De La Salle Collegiate.

“I think we’re going to be prepared,” Pasco said. “We stay ready so we don’t have to get ready. All of us know what we have to do and what our jobs are. We don’t want any pushovers on our schedule. We want to go out of our comfort zone and really show the state what we have to offer.”

Paul Costanzo served as a sportswriter at The Port Huron Times Herald from 2006-15, including three years as lead sportswriter, and prior to that as sports editor at the Hillsdale Daily News from 2005-06. He can be reached at paulcostanzo3@gmail.com with story ideas for Genesee, Lapeer, St. Clair, Sanilac, Huron, Tuscola, Saginaw, Bay, Arenac, Midland and Gladwin counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) Davison defenders bring down a Fenton ball carrier during their Week 1 win over the Tigers. (Middle) Cardinals quarterback Brendan Sullivan locks on to his target. (Photos by Terry Lyons.)

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.)