Drive for Detroit: District Semis in Review

November 5, 2013

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Upsets seemed to fall with the raindrops that unexpectedly cropped up in spurts during the first weekend of the 2013 MHSAA football playoffs. 

From Romeo to Dowagiac, Britton-Deerfield to Wayland with Parchment and Bath in between, teams celebrated wins that probably weren't expected by most when the brackets were revealed during the Sunday Selection Show.

A telling stat: While teams with higher playoff points averages host during the first three rounds, nearly 23 percent (31 of 136) of road teams won last weekend.

Here’s a look at the results from each division that stuck out most from the 11-player District openers and 8-player Regional Semifinals:

Division 1

Detroit Catholic Central 35, Northville 14

Detroit Catholic Central (8-2) opened the playoffs against Northville (8-2) for the second time in three seasons and with hopes of again starting off smoothly on a third straight trip to the MHSAA Finals. This opener certainly was closer than the 2011 56-6 DCC win, but the result was the same as the Shamrocks ended an outstanding run by the Kensington Lakes Activities Association overall champion. Click to read more from the Detroit Free Press.

Also noted:

Macomb Dakota 19, Warren DeLaSalle 14: DeLaSalle (6-4) gave Dakota (10-0) its closest game this season and was the first to come within single digits of the Cougars since opening night.

Walled Lake Western 44, Canton 41: Western (9-1) advanced to the District Final for the third straight season but only after holding off a late comeback by Canton (8-2).

Romeo 24, Lake Orion 21: Likely considered an upset because of Lake Orion’s playoff history, there is some back story. In three playoff games during 2005-08, Lake Orion (7-3) beat Romeo all three times by a combined six points – but this time the Bulldogs (6-4) captured a close one. 

Brighton 14, Grand Blanc 7: Grand Blanc (7-3) won the KLAA West thanks to a 44-21 win over Brighton in Week 4, but the Bulldogs remain alive after entering the postseason 5-4.

Division 2

Birmingham Seaholm 17, Southfield 16

Seaholm (9-1), the Oakland Activities Association Blue champion, scored twice during the final seven minutes to eliminate OAA White winner Southfield (7-3).  The Maples will play in their first District Final since 2001, the last time the team also won nine or more games. Click to read more from The Oakland Press.

Also noted:

Wyandotte Roosevelt 45, Ypsilanti Lincoln 40: Downriver League champion Roosevelt (10-0) outlasted another league title winner, Southeastern Conference White winner Lincoln (7-3).

Midland Dow 30, Fenton 21: The Chargers (8-2) returned to the playoffs for the first time since 2010 and opened by beating Flint Metro League co-champ Fenton (8-2).

Pinckney 14, South Lyon 10: In its first playoff appearance since 2001, Pinckney (7-3) won its first playoff game ever and finished a season sweep of South Lyon (6-4), also its opening-night opponent.

Detroit U-D Jesuit 37, Warren Woods Tower 14: Jesuit’s first winning season since 2002 will continue; the Cubs (6-4) ended quickly the first playoff appearance for Warren Woods Tower (6-4) since 2007.

Division 3

Grand Rapids Christian 14, Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern 13

The reigning Division 3 champion got a scare from Forest Hills Northern (7-3), which led 13-0 in the third quarter of its first playoff game since 2002. The Eagles (8-2) made an impressive comeback to move on to their fourth straight District Final. Click to read more from the Grand Rapids Press.

Also noted:

Zeeland West 44, Zeeland East 13: The Dux (9-1) received their lone loss from East (5-5) in Week 2, but this one wasn't as close as that six-point defeat.

Byron Center 28, Battle Creek Harper Creek 3: Harper Creek (7-3) made the Semifinals the last two seasons, but were stopped quickly this time by the Bulldogs (7-3).

Wayland 38, Plainwell 28: A year after finishing 0-9 (after three straight ending 1-8), Wayland is 6-4 and knocked out a solid contender in Plainwell (8-2).

Eaton Rapids 49, Charlotte 21: Although Eaton Rapids (6-4) beat Charlotte in Week 3, it was expected by at least a few that the Greyhounds’ first playoff appearance would be a short one since Charlotte (7-3) had won five straight.

Division 4

Dowagiac 21, Edwardsburg 17

Dowagiac has been exceptional over the last three seasons – the Chieftains (7-3) are playing to reach 10 wins for the third straight. But it was hard to see this one coming with Edwardsburg (9-1) undefeated and having beaten Dowagiac 36-0 only two weeks ago to decide the Wolverine B West championship. Click for to read more from the Kalamazoo Gazette.

Also noted:

Belding 21, Spring Lake 20: This spoke to the strength of the O-K Blue, as third-place Belding (7-3) beat Lakes 8 Conference champion Spring Lake (8-2).

Allendale 24, Grand Rapids Catholic Central 21 (OT): Also from the O-K Blue, league runner-up Allendale (8-1) survived a scare from frequent playoff power GRCC (6-4).

Battle Creek Pennfield 21, Paw Paw 17: The Kalamazoo Valley Association was pretty strong too, with Pennfield (9-1) one of three co-champs and the winner in this one over Wolverine B East champ Paw Paw (8-2).

Saginaw Swan Valley 14, Yale 13: Swan Valley’s hope of returning to the Semifinals – and going to Ford Field – nearly ended until the Vikings (10-0) scored the go-ahead points with two minutes to play to escape Yale (6-4).

Division 5

Parchment 40, Jackson Lumen Christi 35

In a weekend full of upsets, this was the one that rang the statewide bell loudest. Parchment has had a nice run in a tough KVA and is 7-3 overall after finishing 3-6 only a year ago. But Lumen Christi had the highest playoff point average in Division 5 by a substantial chunk and was considered a definite contender as it pursued its first MHSAA championship since 1999. Click to read more from the Kalamazoo Gazette.

Also noted:

Reed City 49, Clare 7: The Central State Activities Association champion Coyotes (10-0) continued their dominating play in eliminating Jack Pine Conference champ Clare (7-3).

Millington 28, Almont 21: The Cardinals’ two regular season losses were their most since 2006, but Millington (8-2) is looking strong again after opening with a win over Blue Water Area Conference runner-up Almont (8-2).

Grand Rapids West Catholic 27, Portland 14: This rematch of last season’s Division 5 Final ended the opposite way, with West Catholic (6-4) continuing a five-game winning streak while Portland (7-2) closed with two straight defeats.

Detroit University Prep 42, Clinton Township Clintondale 34: University Prep (8-2) equaled its 2012 record in only its eighth season as a program and handed a first loss to Macomb Area Conference Bronze champion Clintondale (9-1) in one of its best wins during that brief history.

Division 6

Grandville Calvin Christian 14, Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian 12

These two and Hopkins played to a three-way tie for the O-K White championship during the regular season, which resulted in part because of NorthPointe’s 13-8 win over Calvin Christian (7-3) in Week 3. This time the Squires came out on top in a matchup of teams both looking for their first playoff wins. NorthPointe finished 8-2. Click to read more from the Grand Rapids Press.

Also noted:

Montrose 42, Reese 13: The Rams (10-0) won their 10th game for the third straight season and made it two this fall over solid Reese (8-2).

Shelby 35, Montague 23: Montague (6-4) played West Michigan Conference champion Shelby (9-1) closer than in Week 4, but the Tigers (9-1) bounced back from its lone loss, in Week 9, against Division 4 Spring Lake.

Schoolcraft 28, Niles Brandywine 21: Co-KVA champ Schoolcraft (9-1) hasn't lost in two months, although Brandywine (8-2) gave the Eagles one of their closest games in a while.

Constantine 41, Michigan Center 26: This win over Michigan Center (8-2) gave Constantine (6-4) at least one postseason victory in each of the last 12 seasons.

Division 7

Britton-Deerfield 42, Hudson 28

Britton-Deerfield has made the playoffs all three seasons since its creation from the merging of the Britton-Macon and Deerfield districts. In fact, the Patriots reached the Regional Final in just their second season last fall. But Lenawee County Activities Association co-champion Hudson has reached the MHSAA Semifinals three of the last five seasons and had to be considered a possibility to get back again this month. Click to read more from the Adrian Daily Telegram.

Also noted:

Iron River West Iron County 21, Traverse City St. Francis 7: Given St. Francis’ history of postseason success, this seemed ripe for an upset – but West Iron (10-0) broke away from the Gladiators (5-5) in the second half.

Pewamo-Westphalia 57, Saugatuck 21: The Central Michigan Athletic Conference champion Pirates (9-1) bounced back from their lone loss the week before to finish the season for Southwestern Athletic Conference North winner Saugatuck (8-2).

Bath 27, Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port 14: This is not only Bath’s first playoff run since 2000, but first winning season since that fall – and the Bees (6-4) continued with a stunner against Greater Thumb Conference West runner-up Laker (7-3).

Madison Heights Bishop Foley 42, Royal Oak Shrine 10: A Week 3 loss to Shrine (6-4) got Bishop Foley off to a rough start in the Catholic League Intersectional, but the Ventures (7-3) scored their second-most points of the season in this rematch.

Division 8

Detroit Allen 54, Adrian Lenawee Christian 32

Detroit Allen (7-2) built on its first playoff berth with its first playoff win, ending a similarly historic season for Lenawee Christian – the Cougars set a team record for wins in finishing 7-3. Both programs have been in existence for only six seasons, and this fall Allen finished second to much larger River Rouge in the Michigan Metro Athletic Conference. Click to read more from the Adrian Daily Telegram.

Also noted:

Waterford Our Lady, 34, Clarkston Everest Collegiate 7: These two previously were one as a co-op team before splitting this season; Our Lady (8-2) will move on while Everest (7-3) finished an impressive first season on its own.

Powers North Central 35, Munising 21: Although Munising (6-4) made the playoffs for the second time in three seasons, neither of these teams has much recent postseason history – but Powers (8-2) made its own with this first playoff win.

Crystal Falls Forest Park 30, Bessemer 16: The Trojans (10-0) beat the Miners (6-4) for the second time in three weeks and have 10 wins again for the first time since 2010.

L’Anse 52, Lake Linden-Hubbell 34: The Purple Hornets (8-2) bounced back from a Week 9 loss with their most points of the season to outlast one of the best offensive performances as well by Lake Linden-Hubbell (5-5).


Engadine 28, Cedarville 26

Perhaps a little under the radar, Engadine has been arguably the hottest team in 8-player football with five straight wins after beginning this season 1-4. The Eagles’ third loss this fall was 42-16 to Cedarville (8-2) – but in six weeks, Engadine (6-4) found a way to reverse the tide just enough.  Click for more from WWTV 9&10.

Also noted:

Peck 32, Deckerville 14: The 8-player champion could come from the Thumb area for the third straight season; in 2012 it was Deckerville (5-5), and Peck (10-0) is looking like a favorite this time.

Carsonville-Port Sanilac 54, Portland St. Patrick 18: The Tigers (7-3) made it two straight wins and two straight over the Shamrocks (7-3) after also beating St. Patrick 45-12 in Week 9.

PHOTO: Detroit Catholic Central running back Connor Holton (22) prepares to sprint through a hole in the line while Northville linebacker Jack Ernst works to stop him. (See more at 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.)