Drive for Detroit: Playoff R3 Review

November 14, 2016

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

We’ve reached the final two weeks of another Michigan high school football season. Our field of 272 teams four weeks ago is down to only 34. And some of these key games are coming down to every last inch and minute.

Six of nine divisions this weekend saw at least one winner emerge by three or fewer points. Edwardsburg and Chelsea went to overtime. Detroit Cass Tech and Saline entered undefeated and ended only a point apart.

See below for a glance at those two games and all 32 11-player Regional Finals and both 8-player Semifinals, with links to media coverage of notable results in each division. 

Division 1

Detroit Cass Tech 43, Saline 42

It was hard to expect more from a matchup of undefeated Division 1 powers than what these two delivered Friday. Cass Tech (12-0) won an incredible seventh straight Regional championship in part on the running of Donovan Johnson, who gained 285 yards and scored four touchdowns on the ground – which balanced out nicely 241 yards and five running scores by Saline’s Connor Hibbard. The Hornets finished 11-1 for the second straight season after winning a third straight District title. Click for more from the Detroit News.

Other Regional Finals:

Detroit Catholic Central 28, Grandville 14 – This run has made it hard to remember that the Shamrocks (12-0) had a rare down year only two years ago, finishing 4-5; Ottawa-Kent Conference Red co-champion Grandville (10-2) was the latest playoff opponent to not come within two touchdowns of DCC, but did finish with its most wins since 1996.

Romeo 41, Clarkston 7 – The reigning Division 1 champion Bulldogs (9-3) needed a little time to really get rolling this fall, but like DCC they’ve also beaten all three playoff opponents by double digits; Clarkston (9-3) did finish two wins better than a year ago.

Utica Eisenhower 42, Southfield Arts & Technology 7 – The Eagles (12-0) have guaranteed their best record since 2003 with their first Regional title since 2011 after a second-straight five-touchdown win this postseason; Southfield Arts & Technology finished its inaugural season a strong 8-4.

Division 2

Lowell 22, Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central 19

Lowell’s climb against the Rangers wasn’t as steep as when the Red Arrows came back from a 17-point deficit to win their first meeting in Week 7. But Lowell still needed to score last – on a touchdown run by quarterback David Kruse six seconds into the fourth quarter – get ahead of Forest Hills Central for good. The second straight Regional title gave Lowell (12-0) that many wins for the second straight season as well; Forest Hills Central (9-3) finished off one of the best rebound runs statewide after going 2-7 in both 2014 and 2015. Click for more from the Grand Rapids Press.

Other Regional Finals:

Walled Lake Western 61, Fenton 21 – The Warriors (11-1) scored their season high to win a second straight Regional title and end a nine-game winning streak for Flint Metro League champion Fenton (9-3).

Detroit Martin Luther King 21, Temperance Bedford 7 – The reigning Division 2 champion Crusaders (10-2) have beaten all of their playoff opponents this time by at least 14; Bedford (9-3) gave King one of its closest games and finished five wins better than a year ago.

Birmingham Groves 44, Grosse Pointe South 10 – Groves (11-1) earned its first Regional title and attained 11 wins for the first time as well, running for 428 yards led by Ernest Allen’s 157 and Collin Heard’s 101; South (8-4) improved a win from last year and doubled its total from only two years ago.

Division 3

Edwardsburg 42, Chelsea 40 (OT)

The Eddies’ substantial run of success this decade now includes a second Regional title in three seasons and the first 12-win season in program history – and Edwardsburg (12-0) earned them by holding off a comeback by Chelsea and stopping a two-point conversion try in overtime. The Eddies’ last Semifinal appearance, in 2014, came in Division 4. Chelsea (11-1) was Division 3 runner-up last season and finished this two-year run a combined 23-3. Click for more from the South Bend Tribune.

Other Regional Finals:

Muskegon 62, Byron Center 7 – The O-K Black champ Big Reds (9-3) won their fourth Regional title in five seasons while ending the winningest season for O-K Green champ Byron Center (10-2) since 2000.

Orchard Lake St. Mary’s 35, DeWitt 28 – The Panthers (10-2) led into the third quarter before St. Mary’s (8-4) outscored them 21-7 in the fourth to win a third straight Regional title.

Dearborn Divine Child 28, Allen Park 21 – The Falcons (10-2) continued another of the state’s great comeback seasons, adding a 10th win and Regional title for the first time since 1985 after going 4-5 a year ago; Allen Park (11-1) finished a win better than last season and with its most since 2004 in winning a second straight District title.

Division 4

Detroit Country Day 28, Corunna 13

Country Day won its third straight Regional title and fourth in five seasons by holding the Cavaliers to 133 yards of total offense and getting some key tosses from quarterback Jalen Graham (10 of 15 passing for 123 yards and a touchdown). The Yellowjackets (12-0) jumped out to a 21-7 lead and now have their most wins in a season since 1995. Corunna (9-3) continued its climb from 2-7 two seasons ago to 8-2 last year and this fall its most wins since 2002. Click for more from the Oakland Press.

Other Regional Finals:

River Rouge 57, Adrian 20 – The Panthers (11-1) have won their playoff games by 61, 12 and now 37 points on the way to a second straight Regional title; Adrian finished its rebound season 7-5 after three straight 2-7 seasons and four straight with sub-.500 records.

Grand Rapids Catholic Central 34, Escanaba 0 – The Cougars (11-1) are in their first Semifinal since their championship season of 2010 and with their third shutout in four weeks; Escanaba (9-3) can celebrate another jump in its revival after improving from 5-5 a year ago with its most wins since 1989.

Hudsonville Unity Christian 36, Lake Odessa Lakewood 16 – The Crusaders’ first Regional title came in part on the legs of running back Alec Headley, who averaged 16.1 yards per carry gaining 177 of 424 rush yards total for Unity Christian (10-2); Lakewood’s winningest season ended at 10-2 as well.

Division 5

Frankenmuth 28, Ithaca 20

Frankenmuth (11-1) won its first Regional title since 1997 by handing Ithaca (11-1) only its third loss over the team’s last 100 games and first not in an MHSAA championship game since 2009. The Eagles are 48-8 over their last five seasons but had made only one other Regional Final appearance since their last win at that level of the tournament. Three Frankenmuth runners had at least 99 yards on the ground, led by Kris Roche with 161, as the team came back from a 14-0 deficit. Click for more from the Saginaw News.

Other Regional Finals:

Menominee 40, Reed City 14 – The Maroons (11-1) won their fifth Regional title in seven seasons with a fourth straight game scoring 40 or more points; Reed City (11-1) hadn’t given up 40 in a game since its 2014 Regional Final, but did finish with its most wins in a season ever.  

Grand Rapids West Catholic 40, Berrien Springs 7 – The Falcons (10-2) have survived three road games to also win a seventh straight Regional title, continuing their travels by ending a third straight playoff season for the Shamrocks (8-3).

Algonac 38, Ida 22 – Last season Ida won its first Regional title; this time Algonac (11-1) celebrated its first Regional championship by downing the Bluestreaks (10-2).

Division 6

Leroy Pine River 42, Ravenna 14

The mood had to be a little low for Pine River heading into the playoffs coming off two straight losses, but you’d never be able to tell. The Bucks (9-3) – also just 4-5 last season – won their first Regional title in a big way over Ravenna (9-3), a traditional power but also a nice comeback story coming off a 3-6 finish in 2015. Click for more from the Big Rapids News.

Other Regional Finals:

Maple City Glen Lake 14, Calumet 0 – The Lakers (10-2) reached 10 wins for the first time since 2001 with their first Regional title since 1996, ending the first 10-win season ever for Calumet (10-2), which was coming off its first District title since 2006.

Millington 22, Detroit Central Collegiate 20 – The Cardinals (11-1) came back from a 20-0 halftime deficit to win their first Regional title since 2010 and third since 2009; Central Collegiate (7-5) capped a third straight playoff season with its most wins since 2010.

Jackson Lumen Christi 49, Napoleon 6 – The Titans (10-2) won their first Regional title since 2009 by ending Napoleon’s winningest season since 2002 and longest playoff run ever at 9-3.

Division 7

Pewamo-Westphalia 17, Traverse City St. Francis 14

Arguably the most anticipated game statewide this side of Division 1 saw the reigning Division 7 runner-up Pirates (12-0) overcome a second straight undefeated opponent. The Gladiators (11-1) became the first team to hold P-W running back Jared Smith to fewer than 100 yards since his sophomore season two years ago, but the Pirates’ defense held St. Francis to its fewest points since last year’s Regional Final win over Boyne City. Click for more from the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

Other Regional Finals:

Ubly 22, New Lothrop 13 – Make this now the Bearcats’ best season since 2009 as they won their first Regional title and 12 games for the first time since that year; Ubly (12-0) got rushing and receiving touchdowns from Jonathan Brandel as it ended New Lothrop’s seventh straight 10-win season at 10-2.

Cassopolis 51, Concord 14 – The Rangers (11-1) set a program record for wins with their first Regional title by scoring the most points Concord (9-3) had given up since Week 8 of 2014; the Yellowjackets did finish this season with their most wins since 2001.

Detroit Loyola 36, Hudson 13 – The Bulldogs (10-2) attained a sixth straight 10-win season by beating a third league champion in three playoff games; Hudson (10-2) had won a share of the Lenawee County Activities Association title and was making its first Regional Final appearance since 2011.

Division 8

St. Ignace 14, Norway 12

The Saints (11-1) have had only two other close games this season, but secured their second straight Regional title relying on a defense that has given up only 131 points this season and only 38 over three playoff games. Norway, playing for its first Regional title since 2006, also shined defensively holding down a St. Ignace offense averaging 42 points per game heading into the day. The Knights finished 9-3, making a significant jump from 2-7 a year ago. Click for more from the Sault Ste. Marie Evening News.

Other Regional Finals:

Muskegon Catholic Central 35, Frankfort 0 – The reigning Division 8 champion Crusaders (12-2) earned their second straight shutout of the playoffs by holding Frankfort (11-1) scoreless for the first time since 2013.

Saginaw Michigan Lutheran Seminary 28, Royal Oak Shrine 7 – The Cardinals (10-2) clinched a third-straight 10-win season and second Regional title in three seasons; Shrine (9-3) did accomplish a nice bounce-back from 4-5 last season to win its first District title since 2008.

Ottawa Lake Whiteford 38, Climax-Scotts 18 – These two have met two straight postseasons as undefeated teams, and Whiteford (12-0) has won both meetings; the Bobcats made up for three turnovers by getting 100-plus yards rushing from both Logan Murphy and Jesse Kiefer and holding Climax-Scotts (11-1) to its fewest points since the teams met in the same round a year ago.  


Powers North Central 62, Pickford 22

The reigning champion Jets (12-0) earned their return to the MHSAA Final with 40 first-half points and 506 total yards while possessing the ball only 14 minutes. Running back Bobby Kleiman gained 123 yards on only eight carries, scoring three time on the ground, and also caught three passes for 98 yards and a score. The Panthers did finish their winningest season since 1991 at 10-2. Click for more from the Iron Mountain Daily News.

Deckerville 36, Wyoming Tri-unity Christian 6

The Eagles won a matchup of undefeated teams to set up another this weekend, handing Tri-unity Christian (11-1) its first and only loss of the fall. Deckerville (11-0) was held to its fewest points since Week 1, but still hasn’t allowed an opponent to score more than 12 this season. The Eagles had fallen in Semifinals the last two seasons. Click for more from the Huron Daily Tribune.

PHOTO: Pewamo-Westphalia running back Jared Smith breaks into an opening as Traverse City St. Francis defenders converge. (Click to see more from

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.)