Drive for Detroit: Playoff R1 in Review

October 31, 2016

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Arguably the greatest comeback season in MHSAA football history came to an end during the first round of the playoffs this weekend. 

But although Breckenridge's turnaround celebration is over, courtesy of Saginaw Nouvel, there are plenty of others that extended rebound runs for at least another week. 

Redford Union, Adrian, Kent City and Norway are just a few which have experienced similar climbs this fall. Read about their latest steps and many more from the first week as we look at some of the most intriguing results from all nine divisions. 

Division 1

Rockford 24, Hudsonville 7

The Rams (7-3) avenged their Week 9 loss to Hudsonville that cost Rockford the Ottawa-Kent Conference Red title outright and awarded the Eagles (8-2) a share. Rockford now plays Grandville – the third team to earn a share of the league title with the Week 9 result – in a District Final this week. Click for more from the Grand Rapids Press.

Also noted:

West Bloomfield 31, Bloomfield Hills 14 – The Lakers (6-4) just made the playoffs with an at-large bid but ended a dream season for Bloomfield Hills (9-1), which was undefeated during the regular season after going 1-8 in 2015.

Southfield Arts & Technology 24, Warren Mott 23 – The first-year Warriors (7-3) have added a first playoff win to a shared Oakland Activities Association Red title, while ending Mott’s best season in the last three at 7-3.

Clarkston 45, Lapeer 21 – The Wolves beat Lapeer 28-7 in Week 1 at Michigan Stadium and ended up responsible for two of three losses for the Lightning (7-3) this fall. 

Detroit Cass Tech 35, Dearborn Fordson 7 – These teams had one loss between them coming in, but Cass Tech (10-0) will play for a seventh straight District title after handing Fordson (8-2) its second loss in three weeks. 

Division 2

Traverse City Central 13, Traverse City West 12

A pair of field goals and the go-ahead extra point by Central kicker Gabe Pickett were difference makers as West wasn’t able to succeed in similar circumstances in the first playoff matchup ever between these rivals. The Trojans (9-1) scored their lone touchdown midway through the fourth quarter to add this victory to a 10-8 win over West (6-4) in Week 3. Click for more from the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

Also noted:

Fenton 49, Flint Carman-Ainsworth 19 – The Flint Metro League champ Tigers (8-2) won this matchup of title winners over the Saginaw Valley League Blue champ Cavaliers (6-4).

Oak Park 26, Detroit U-D Jesuit 17 – The Knights (7-3) bounced back from a Week 9 loss to hand the Cubs (6-3) their second defeat in three weeks.

Pinckney 28, Walled Lake Northern 17 – The Pirates (8-2) downed Northern (6-4) for the second straight week, this time to guarantee their best record since 1989.

Birmingham Brother Rice 35, Warren Cousino 16 – The Warriors (7-3) won their fourth straight and second in three weeks over a league champion, but the Patriots (8-2) can celebrate their best record since 2007 to go with the Macomb Area Conference Blue title.

Division 3

Redford Union 41, Warren Fitzgerald 34

This continues to be a banner season for Redford Union (7-3), which has its most wins since 2005, made its first playoff appearance since 2006, and now has its first playoff win in program history. Union scored the winning points with less than two minutes to play to add to its first winning season since 2007. Fitzgerald finished 8-2, its best record since 2008, and with its only other loss by two points to Madison Heights Madison in Week 7. Click for more from the Observer & Eccentric.

Also noted:

Coldwater 35, Battle Creek Harper Creek 14 – Harper Creek (7-3) may have won a share of the Interstate 8 Athletic Conference title, but in the end third-place league finisher Coldwater (8-2) took two games off the Beavers and will play for a District title.

Mason 35, Fowlerville 28 – What was supposed to be a rebuilding year for the Bulldogs (9-1) has turned into its most successful since 2011, while Fowlerville (7-3) enjoyed its best record since 2009.

Romulus 40, Trenton 14 – The Eagles (9-1) have made the playoffs three straight seasons, but this was their first playoff win since 1999; Trenton ended its third straight playoff season at 6-4.

Grand Rapids Christian 35, Zeeland West 32 – This was the kind of finish expected from traditional west side powers, with the Eagles (9-1) winning a ninth game for the first time since 2012 and West (7-3) suffering its earliest season end since not qualifying for the postseason in 2009.  

Division 4

Marysville 46, St. Clair Shores South Lake 38

The Vikings (10-0) are enjoying their first double-digit wins season since 2000, but will continue to face also-undefeated Detroit Country Day this weekend only because they survived the pesky Cavaliers. South Lake (7-3), which claimed a share of the MAC Silver title this fall, stayed close throughout – but the MAC Gold champions hung on to earn a second District title game berth in three seasons. Click for more from the Port Huron Times Herald.

Also noted:

Escanaba 48, Whitehall 27 – The Eskymos (8-2) earned their first playoff win, since 2011 to give them eight total for the first time since 2009, while leaving Whitehall at 6-4 for the second straight season.  

Allendale 35, Wyoming Kelloggsville 19 – The Falcons (8-2) have enjoyed a momentous two weeks, first earning a share of the O-K Blue title with a Week 9 win and this weekend downing O-K Silver champion Kelloggsville (8-2).

Flint Powers Catholic 20, Lake Fenton 19 – Powers (6-4) scored during the final seconds to move on to a third straight District Final and end Genesee Area Conference Red champion Lake Fenton’s season at 8-2, its best record since 2013.

Adrian 27, Grosse Ile 20 (OT) – The Maples (6-4) have enjoyed one of the state’s best rebound seasons as well, with this playoff victory adding to their first winning season since 2011;  Grosse Ile also bounced back from 4-5 a year ago to finish 8-2, their best since 2012. 

Division 5

Almont 28, Richmond 27

The upset of the week statewide arguably came in this Blue Water Area Conference rematch, as the Raiders avenged a 34-21 Week 6 loss to the champion Blue Devils. Almont (7-3) has advanced to a District Final three years in a row and now will face Algonac, the BWAC runner-up which beat the Raiders 14-7 in Week 2. Richmond (8-2) hadn’t lost since falling to Marysville on opening night. Click for more from the Port Huron Times Herald.

Also noted:

Remus Chippewa Hills 32, Clare 27 – The Warriors (9-1) made their third straight District Final (and earned a rematch with rival Reed City) by edging the Jack Pine Conference champion Pioneers (8-2).

Grand Rapids West Catholic 28, Lansing Catholic 6 – The reigning Division 5 champion Falcons (8-2) are on the road to start this playoffs, but didn’t seem to mind traveling to down Lansing Catholic (8-2) for the fourth straight postseason.

Dowagiac 28, Buchanan 25 – The Chieftains (7-3) guaranteed their best record since 2013 and will play for their first District title since 2011 after handing Buchanan (5-4) its second loss in three weeks.

Southfield Bradford 38, Brooklyn Columbia Central 33 – In their first playoff game ever, the Bulldogs (8-2) earned their first postseason win as well, ending the Golden Eagles’ second straight playoff run at 7-3. 

Division 6

Kent City 20, Montague 19

The Eagles’ turnaround season just keeps getting better as well. They’ve gone from 1-8 in 2015 to 8-2 with their first playoff berth and win since 2001 after also clinching a shared Central State Activities Association Silver championship. Montague (7-3) ended its season with three losses by a combined 12 points after finishing second in the West Michigan Conference. Click for more from the Local Sports Journal.

Also noted:

Calumet 42, Boyne City 8 – The Copper Kings (9-1) added a ninth win for the first time since 2009 by holding Boyne City (6-4) to only 159 yards.

Montrose 52, Laingsburg 21 – The Rams (7-3) secured their most wins since 2013 by earning their fourth straight while handing Laingsburg (8-2) only its second defeat.

Napoleon 25, Michigan Center 24 – The Pirates stayed alive in their first playoff run since 2005 by edging Michigan Center (6-4) for their first playoff win since 2000.

Detroit Central Collegiate 12, Byron 7 – The Trail Blazers have bounced back from a 1-4 start to move to 6-4 for the fourth time in five seasons; Byron finished its fifth playoff season over the last six at 7-3. 

Division 7

Gobles 50, Lawton 12

Count Gobles among the handful that have battled back from a regular-season loss to claim a playoff rematch. The Tigers (8-2) had fallen to Lawton 31-21 in Week 5 and actually had dropped four straight to the Blue Devils (8-2). Gobles now will play for its first District title since 2005.

Also noted:

Iron Mountain 46, Gwinn 32 – The Mountaineers (8-2) continued their best season since 2011 by ending the best for Gwinn (6-4) since 1999.

Unionville-Sebewaing 18, Cass City 14 – The Patriots have built from 1-8 in 2014 to 5-5 last fall and now 9-1 after defeating Cass City (6-4) for the second time this season by four or fewer points.

Concord 21, Springport 14 – A Week 6 loss to Springport cost Concord (8-2) the outright Big 8 Conference title, but this avenging ended the Spartans’ best season since 2011 at 7-3.

Detroit Loyola 45, Madison Heights Madison 12 – The Bulldogs (8-2) firmed up further their status as favorite on their side of the Division 7 bracket by eliminating the MAC Silver co-champ Eagles (6-4). 

Division 8

Saginaw Nouvel 21, Breckenridge 6

The greatest turnaround in MHSAA playoff era history came to an end with Nouvel’s ousting of Breckenridge, which finished 9-1 and was undefeated during the regular season after not winning a game in 2015. No team dating to at least the first playoff season of 1975 had accomplished a winless-to-undefeated turnaround. The Panthers (7-3) held the Huskies to their fewest points this fall. Click for more from the Saginaw News.

Also noted:

Royal Oak Shrine 21, Fowler 14 – Shrine (8-2) earned a chance at its first District title since 2008 by handing Fowler (6-4) its first playoff-opening loss since 2010.

Clarkston Everest Collegiate 22, Waterford Our Lady 21 – Everest (8-2) set a program record for wins by avenging a three-point Week 6 loss to Our Lady (6-4).

Newberry 16, Gaylord St. Mary 14 – The Indians (8-2) held on for their first playoff win since 2004, ending St Mary’s first playoff season since 2009 at 6-4.

Norway 15, Iron River West Iron County 14 – The Knights (8-2) continued to put last year’s 2-7 into distant memory with their first playoff win since 2006.


Engadine 38, Cedarville 30 (OT)

Their Week 7 meeting – a 52-42 Engadine win – was one of the top 8-player games statewide this season. So it made sense they’d follow with a classic. Engadine moved to 10-0 for the first time as an 11 or 8-player program after trailing by 14 points during the fourth quarter, and the Eagles also are now 3-1 against Cedarville (6-4) in playoff games over the last six seasons. Click for more from 9&10 News.

Also noted:

Portland St. Patrick 34, Camden-Frontier 28 – The Shamrocks (10-0) have won only two games by single digits this season, and becoming the latest opponent to make that push was not a bad way for Camden-Frontier (8-2) to end its first season of 8-player.

New Haven Merritt 52, Owendale-Gagetown 14 – Merritt (10-0) continued the best season of its five-year history with its first playoff win; the Mustangs handed Owendale-Gagetown (8-2) both of its losses this fall.

PHOTO: Pinckney defenders close in on a Walled Lake Northern ball carrier during Friday's Pirates win. (Photo by John Johnson.) 

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.)