Drive for Detroit: Playoff Week 2 Preview

November 2, 2017

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

The first week of the 2017 MHSAA Football Playoffs was one of the most memorable in recent memory with a collection of twists and turns, late-game heroics and bracket-shaking upsets.

Welcome to the encore.

This week, we’ve got one of the state’s most heated rivalries, two meetings of undefeated teams, and plenty of matchups fans have been anticipating to decide District titles in 11-player and Regional championships in the 8-player divisions.

We’d love for you to check out one (or more) of the 72 games being played across the state this weekend. We also have eight being broadcast either on Prep Zone by FOX Sports Detroit or The MHSAA playoff scoreboard page is home to results and next week’s games as they’re determined. The MHSAA Playoffs are sponsored by the Michigan Army National Guard, and “Drive for Detroit” is sponsored by MI Student Aid.

11-Player Division 1

Canton (9-1) at Belleville (10-0), Friday

The Chiefs eliminated one popular championship contender last week in downing Saline 42-12, and now get an opportunity against another of similar regard in the undefeated Tigers. Belleville has tied its most wins ever, with 10 for the first time since 1995, giving up 8.3 points per game. Canton will counter with an offense averaging 42 points per game; the Chiefs haven’t scored fewer than 35 since losing to Muskegon Mona Shores on opening night. 

Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Rochester Adams (9-1) at Utica Eisenhower (10-0), West Bloomfield (8-2) at Waterford Mott (9-1), Rockford (7-3) at Holland West Ottawa (9-1), SATURDAY Clarkston (8-2) at Davison (9-1).

11-Player Division 2

Traverse City Central (7-3) vs. Traverse City West (9-1) at Thirlby Field, Friday

One of the state’s best rivalries will write another chapter on the home field they share. West defeated Central 29-27 in their first meeting this season, in Week 3. Central won both of last year’s meetings, by two during the regular season and one in the playoffs as the teams met in the postseason for the first time. Central’s record doesn’t lend it enough credit; since falling to West the first time the Trojans have taken nonleague losses to playoff teams Portage Central and Birmingham Brother Rice, and then stunned Midland 21-13 on the road last week. West has kept churning too, downing Benton Harbor and bouncing back from a Week 9 loss to Coldwater (both opponents also playoff bound) to beat Midland Dow by 30 in their playoff opener.

Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Muskegon Mona Shores (9-1) at Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central (10-0), Livonia Franklin (8-2) at Livonia Churchill (8-2), Flushing (8-2) at Fenton (9-1), Detroit East English (9-1) at Detroit Martin Luther King (9-1).

11-Player Division 3

Cedar Springs (7-3) at DeWitt (9-1), Friday

Cedar Springs opened the playoffs last week with arguably the biggest upset win in the state, downing undefeated East Grand Rapids at EGR. The Red Hawks won’t sneak up on anyone else. They’ve set a record with 401 points this season and even put up 44 in a loss to Grand Rapids Christian, but will be challenged by a DeWitt defense giving up only 10.3 points per game. The Panthers also lost to Grand Rapids Christian this year, in Week 1, but avenged that loss with a 42-10 victory over the Eagles in their playoff opener. No opponent has gotten within 24 points of DeWitt since Division 1 playoff qualifier Grand Ledge in Week 2.

Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Stevensville Lakeshore (9-1) at Battle Creek Harper Creek (10-0), Riverview (9-1) at Gibraltar Carlson (9-1), Haslett (8-2) at East Lansing (8-2), Farmington Hills Harrison (7-3) at Warren Woods-Tower (8-2).

11-Player Division 4

Grand Rapids Catholic Central (10-0) at Wyoming Kelloggsville (10-0), Friday

These teams both are averaging nearly 42 points per game behind two of the state’s most powerful rushing attacks. That would seem to point to the other side of the ball; both defenses are giving up a little more than two touchdowns per game. But GRCC’s biggest wins (over Comstock Park and Grand Rapids West Catholic) were in close games where the scores got big, and it could be that kind of back-and-forth offensive display in this one as well with both offenses so loaded.

Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Three Rivers (8-2) at Edwardsburg (9-1), River Rouge (8-2) at Chelsea (9-1), Alma (8-2) at Escanaba (8-2), SATURDAY Detroit Mumford (7-3) at Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood (9-1).

11-Player Division 5

Clare (9-1) at Reed City (9-1), Friday

Reed City quietly has one of the most consistently successful programs in Michigan. One more win and the Coyotes will have 10 for the sixth time in seven seasons, and even as their 18-game regular-season winning streak ended on opening night against Montague – Reed City hasn’t lost since. Clare is similarly consistent, especially in Jack Pine Conference play, and also hasn’t lost since opening night (to Ithaca) to reach nine wins for the first time since 2012. Both have similarly sizable wins against playoff qualifier Remus Chippewa Hills – Clare’s last week to avenge a 2016 playoff loss – indicating this might be a tightly contested matchup.

Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Menominee (7-3) at Kingsford (8-1), Carrollton (7-3) at Saginaw Swan Valley (9-1), Lansing Catholic (8-2) at Portland (9-1), Marine City (8-2) at Frankenmuth (10-0).

11-Player Division 6

Kent City (10-0) at Montague (10-0), Friday

Few teams this season have as impressive a resume as Montague, which in addition to handing the lone losses to Reed City and Muskegon Catholic Central has six shutouts over its 10 games. The Wildcats now also have a chance to avenge last year’s one-point playoff opener loss to Kent City, which has built a likewise impressive body of work this fall. The 10 wins are a program record, and a District title would be the Eagles’ first in this sport.

Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Michigan City (9-1) at Jackson Lumen Christi (8-1), Detroit Central (8-2) at Warren Michigan Collegiate (10-0), Houghton Lake (7-3) at Millington (9-1), SATURDAY Maple City Glen Lake (7-2) vs. Traverse City St. Francis (9-1).

11-Player Division 7

Pewamo-Westphalia (9-1) at New Lothrop (10-0), Friday

The Hornets are hoping their annual regular-season success pays off this fall with a first MHSAA Finals trip since 2006. The Hornets are a combined 86-6 since the start of 2010 and only one of those losses came during the regular season – they’ve reached the Semifinals three times this decade but just missed taking that next step again. A game like the Week 1 win over Lake Fenton surely was meant to prepare the Hornets for matchups like this one with the reigning Division 7 champion Pirates, who despite graduating the second-leading rusher in MHSAA history is riding a nine-game winning streak and scoring 43 points per game versus last year’s 46.

Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Reading (8-2) at Cassopolis (9-1), Riverview Gabriel Richard (9-1) at Madison Heights Madison (10-0), Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port Laker (9-1) at Cass City (9-1), SATURDAY Ishpeming Westwood (9-1) at Lake City (10-0).

11-Player Division 8

Muskegon Catholic Central (8-1) at Mendon (10-0), Saturday

This might be the most anticipated small-school matchup in Michigan so far this season – the reigning four-time Division 8 champion against an 11-time MHSAA title winner now revived. The Hornets ran for 415 yards in last week’s 28-12 win over St. Joseph Lake Michigan Catholic, and that ability to hold onto the ball will be necessary against a Crusaders attack led by dynamic dual threat quarterback Cameron Martinez (see 2H feature Tuesday).

Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Norway (9-1) at Iron River West Iron County (9-1), Harbor Beach (9-1) at Saginaw Nouvel (10-0), Climax-Scotts (8-2) at Pittsford (9-1), SATURDAY Frankfort (7-2) at Gaylord St. Mary (10-0).

8-Player Division 1

Morrice (9-1) at Deckerville (9-1), Friday

Morrice broke Deckerville’s 16-game regular-season winning streak with a 33-32 Week 5 win that announced the Orioles as MHSAA championship contenders – even though they were then beaten by Kingsford a week later. Morrice avenged that loss last week and now must avoid falling by the same fate to the reigning Finals runner-up Eagles, who have amped up the offense by scoring 250 of their 496 points this season over the last four weeks.

Other Regional Finals: FRIDAY Cedarville (8-2) at Stephenson (8-2), Suttons Bay (7-3) at Central Lake (10-0), Lawrence (5-5) at Bellevue (9-1).

8-Player Division 2

Onekama (9-1) at Pickford (10-0), Saturday

Perhaps the most impressive part of Pickford’s dominance this season has come on the defensive side of the ball. The Panthers are giving up only 9.6 points per game, which just doesn’t happen much in the wide-open 8-player game – and is half as many points as they gave up while reaching the Semifinals a year ago. Enter Onekama, averaging 51 points per game – only a few behind Pickford’s 56 and against a similarly competitive slate.

Other Regional Finals: FRIDAY Engadine (8-2) at Crystal Falls Forest Park (7-2), Bay City All Saints (7-3) at Kinde-North Huron (9-1), SATURDAY Flint International Academy (8-2) at Portland St. Patrick (9-1).

Second Half’s weekly “Drive for Detroit” previews and reviews are powered by MI Student Aid, a part of the Student Financial Services Bureau located within the Michigan Department of Treasury. MI Student Aid encourages students to pursue postsecondary education by providing access to student financial resources and information, including various student financial assistance programs to help make college more affordable for Michigan students. MI Student Aid administers the state’s 529 savings programs (MET/MESP) and eight additional aid programs within its Student Scholarships and Grants division. Click for more information and connect with MI Student Aid on Facebook and Twitter @mistudentaid. 

PHOTO: Clare, here against Ithaca in Week 1, will play for a District title tonight against Reed City. (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.)