Drive for Detroit: Playoff Week 2 Preview

October 31, 2018

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

The field of 288 a week ago became 144 teams still playing. Starting tonight, 11-player teams will compete for District titles and 8-player contenders will aim to celebrate Regional championships.

And this round presents more than a few familiar matchups from either earlier this fall or recent MHSAA Playoffs.

There again are ample opportunities to watch playoff games from the comforts of home if you do not choose to take a seat in the stands. FOX Sports Detroit’s Prep Zone matchups this week are Detroit Catholic Central at West Bloomfield in Division 1, Birmingham Brother Rice at Birmingham Groves in Division 2 and Flint Powers Catholic at Williamston in Division 4. Those all will stream free of charge on and on the FOX Sports app. At least five more games will be viewable on, either live with subscription or free after 72 hours.

Below are a few notes on games of particular intrigue in each division. Games are tonight unless noted. “Drive for Detroit” is powered by MI Student Aid

Division 1

Macomb Dakota (8-2) at Clinton Township Chippewa Valley (10-0)

The Big Reds beat Dakota 24-17 in Week 5 on the way to the Macomb Area Conference Red title and their first perfect regular season since 1975. After winning another MAC Red rematch last week over Utica Eisenhower, Chippewa Valley will look to remain the only conference team still alive – but must avoid a 2016 scenario, when it beat Dakota during the regular season and lost to the Cougars in the playoffs.

Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Oxford (8-2) at Lapeer (10-0). SATURDAY East Kentwood (9-1) at Saline (9-1), Dearborn Fordson (9-1) at Detroit Cass Tech (10-0).

Division 2

Warren DeLaSalle (8-2) at Oak Park (9-1)

Oak Park has won at least one playoff games six of the last seven seasons and seems to be inching closer to a trip to Ford Field – but for the second straight season, DeLaSalle stands in the way. The Pilots won last year’s playoff meeting, 14-7 in a Regional Final, on the way to claiming the Division 2 championship. The Knights have won four games by eight or fewer points this fall and should be prepared for another close one.

Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Midland Dow (6-4) at Midland (7-3), Jenison (7-3) at Muskegon Mona Shores (9-1), Birmingham Brother Rice (7-3) at Birmingham Groves (8-2).

Division 3

Zeeland West (8-2) at Zeeland East (9-1)

East won the teams’ first meeting, 48-34 in Week 8, on the way to clinching the Ottawa-Kent Conference Green title. But the Chix as well have a scenario they want to avoid: In 2012, 2013 and 2017, East won the first matchup but West won the playoff rematch. The Dux’ only losses this season were to league champions – East and Grand Rapids Christian.

Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Cedar Springs (9-1) at Mount Pleasant (10-0), Grand Rapids Christian (8-2) at Muskegon (10-0), Detroit Martin Luther King (8-2) at Warren Woods Tower (9-1).

Division 4

Farmington Hills Harrison (7-3) at Detroit Country Day (7-2)

Of course not to slight possible Regional and Semifinal opponents, but Country Day has accomplished the most of late of any team standing between Harrison and finishing its final season at Ford Field. The Yellowjackets have reached the Semifinals four times this decade and finished Division 4 runners-up in 2016 before falling below .500 last fall for the first time since 2005. Country Day opened these playoffs by downing MAC Bronze champ Center Line 42-6.

Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Paw Paw (8-2) at Edwardsburg (10-0). SATURDAY Escanaba (8-2) at Alma (9-1), North Branch (8-2) vs. St. Clair (8-2) at East China Stadium.

Division 5

Clare (9-1) at Reed City (10-0)

The intrigue here is based in part on Clare’s win last week – 42-28 over Manistee, which like Reed City was perfect during the regular season. The Pioneers’ lone loss came Week 4 to Jack Pine Conference foe Roscommon, and the two ended up sharing the title with Beaverton – all three are still alive in the playoffs. Reed City, meanwhile, has won 42 of its last 46 games, including 34-7 over Clare in last season’s District Final.

Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Lansing Catholic (9-1) at Portland (10-0), Muskegon Oakridge (9-1) vs. Hudsonville Unity Christian (8-2) at Jenison, Hopkins (9-1) vs. Kalamazoo United (10-0) at Vicksburg.

Division 6

Calumet (10-0) vs. Traverse City St. Francis (10-0) at Thirlby Field, Saturday

This is another playoff rematch from 2017, when St. Francis opened the postseason with a 28-6 win over the Copper Kings. That Calumet team entered 6-3, while this one makes the trip downstate coming off its first perfect regular season since 1996 and with a school-record 10 wins. The Copper Kings will need another big performance from a defense giving up only 5.3 points per game; St. Francis is scoring nearly 49 on average.

Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Michigan Center (9-1) at Jackson Lumen Christi (9-0), Blissfield (6-4) at Brooklyn Columbia Central (9-1). SATURDAY Ecorse (8-2) at Flint Hamady (10-0).

Division 7

Saugatuck (9-1) at Pewamo-Westphalia (10-0)

This is not only a playoff rematch, but a replay of last season’s Division 7 championship game. These two actually are meeting in the playoffs for the fourth time in five seasons – P-W has won all four meetings including last season’s Final 21-0, but the Indians gave the Pirates two of their toughest games of the last four seasons in falling by six in 2016 and 10 in 2015. Get the scoreboard ready: Saugatuck’s offense has blown through 500 points for the third time in four seasons, while the Pirates with 537 points already have outscored last year’s championship team.

Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Detroit Loyola (7-3) at Madison Heights Madison (10-0), Centreville (9-1) at Cassopolis (10-0), Cass City (8-2) at New Lothrop (9-1).

Division 8

Ottawa Lake Whiteford (10-0) at Reading (10-0)

These two have thoroughly dominated their competition to this point. It’s tough predicting what’s going to give now that they’ll share the same field. Reigning Division 8 champion Whiteford has won 24 straight games and 37 of its last 38, this season outscoring opponents 54-8 on average. Reading is outscoring its opponents only 52-9 per game – although Pittsford may have given the Bobcats some ideas putting up 48 to Reading’s 65 in last week’s opener.

Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Iron River West Iron County (8-2) at Ishpeming (10-0), Johannesburg-Lewiston (9-1) at Breckenridge (10-0), Ubly (8-2) at Harbor Beach (9-1).

8-Player Division 1

Morrice (10-0) vs. Wyoming Tri-unity Christian (10-0) at Grandville Middle School, Saturday

The Orioles blazed a trail with their first 9-0 regular season and now will play to reach their first Semifinal since 1996. Just as impressive, if not more so – Morrice hasn’t given up a point since Week 4, a stretch of outscoring their last six opponents by a combined 313-0. The Defenders are playing to reach the Semifinals for the second time in three seasons. Counting last week’s win over Webberville, they’ve beaten five playoff teams and reigning champion Central Lake this fall.

Other Regional Finals: FRIDAY Suttons Bay (9-1) at Pickford (10-0). SATURDAY Deckerville (8-2) at AuGres-Sims (10-0), Bellevue (9-1) at Colon (9-1).

8-Player Division 2

Brethren (7-3) at Onekama (8-2)

The West Michigan D League champion Bobcats keep earning respect, adding to the league title last week’s win over intriguing contender Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart, 42-26. Brethren has its most wins in a season since 1990, and now takes on another team with championship aspirations. Onekama’s two losses came by a combined seven points to Midwest Central Michigan Conference West foes still alive in 8-player Division 1. The Portagers are 17-4 since moving to 8-player last season after three straight making the 11-player playoffs.

Other Regional Finals: FRIDAY Crystal Falls Forest Park (6-4) at Rapid River (7-3), Cedarville (6-4) at Posen (8-2). SATURDAY Tekonsha (6-4) vs. Portland St. Patrick (6-4) at Portland High.

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: Clarkston’s punter winds up to send the ball back to Lake Orion during last week’s Division 1 District win. (Photo by Terry Lyons.)

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.)