Drive for Detroit: Semifinals in Review

November 24, 2014

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

The final stretch of this season's Drive for Detroit has begun. 

And if Friday and Saturday's MHSAA Finals are like the Semifinals this past weekend, we should be in for an incredible season-ending series at Ford Field. 

Six Semifinals were decided by seven points or fewer as the final 16 11-player teams earned their spots in championship games. 

Below is just a little on all 16 Semifinals, with links to media coverage. Check back Wednesday for game-by-game previews of all eight Finals, and then full coverage of each throughout the weekend. 


Clarkston 35, East Kentwood 13

The first quarter wasn’t over Saturday and reigning champion Clarkston (13-0) had already built a three-touchdown lead East Kentwood wouldn’t threaten. The Wolves earned the opportunity to repeat and extend their 26-game winning streak, while the Falcons (11-2) can still celebrate their best finish since 2003. Click for more from The Oakland Press.

Saline 30, Detroit Cass Tech 15

The Hornets (12-1) earned their first MHSAA Finals berth by holding a potent Cass Tech offense to its fewest points since last season’s Semifinal loss to Detroit Catholic Central. Saline allowed Technicians standout running back Mike Weber 135 yards on the ground, but kept an offense averaging 34 points per game out of the end zone for most of the afternoon. Cass Tech did finish 12-1 and is 59-8 over the last five seasons. Click for more from


Muskegon Mona Shores 25, Farmington Hills Harrison 24

The good news: Mona Shores defeated 13-time Finals champion Harrison after a late two-point conversion. The bad news: Mona Shores (12-1) did so without star quarterback Tyree Jackson, who was sidelined with a knee injury. The other good news: That the Sailors still pulled off this historic win said plenty about the team’s strength as a whole, in addition to its most well-known player. Harrison (10-3) finished with at least 10 wins for the fourth season in five. Click for more from the Muskegon Chronicle.

Warren DeLaSalle 31, Southfield 7

With Detroit Catholic Central, Birmingham Brother Rice and Orchard Lake St. Mary’s in the same Detroit Catholic League Central, DeLaSalle (10-3) can end up in the background of the football conversation at times. But the Pilots earned their third MHSAA Finals trip in nine seasons by holding a Southfield squad (9-4) filled with college prospects to its fewest points since Week 2 of 2012. Click for more from the Macomb Daily.


Muskegon 20, Zeeland West 0

The Big Reds (12-1) will return to the Finals for the third straight season, this time in Division 3 after solving reigning champion West’s offense like no opponent in that school's history. The Dux (12-1), in existence for 10 years, had never been shut out and hadn’t been held to single digits since Week 4 in 2010 – they entered Saturday averaging 50 points per game this season. Click for more from the Muskegon Chronicle.

Orchard Lake St. Mary’s 51, New Boston Huron 3

Huron (11-2) took a lot of steps as a program this fall, winning five more games than in any season in more than 60 years and six more than a year ago. But St. Mary’s (11-2) has played in 11 MHSAA championship games and surely has had extra motivation this fall after a rare playoff miss in 2013. Click for more from MLive Detroit.


Grand Rapids South Christian 50, Edwardsburg 48

The Sailors (11-2) are headed to Ford Field for the third straight season, but it was hardly that simple. Edwardsburg (11-2) came back from two touchdowns down in the second quarter and a 22-point deficit in the third as it fell one win shy of the Finals for the second time in five seasons. Click for more from the Grand Rapids Press.

Lansing Sexton 28, Detroit Country Day 14

The Big Reds (13-0) advanced to the MHSAA Finals for the first time after coming up just a touchdown shy in 2013. Sexton will be the first Lansing public school to play in a championship game, thanks in part to a group of seniors who scored all of the team’s touchdowns Saturday and helped it rise from 5-4 only two seasons ago. Country Day (8-5) finished with all of its losses to teams that advanced to at least Regional Finals. Click for more from the Lansing State Journal.


Grand Rapids West Catholic 42, Menominee 24

These two have seen each other in the playoffs every season beginning in 2010. This rematch of last season’s Division 5 Final went similarly, with West Catholic winning by 18 after doing so 27-14 in 2013. The Maroons (12-1) hadn’t been held to fewer than 28 points since West Catholic in that game at Ford Field – and hadn’t given up more than 25 since West Catholic (13-0) defeated them 55-34 in a 2011 Regional Final. Click for more from the Grand Rapids Press.

Lansing Catholic 21, Almont 14

High-powered Lansing Catholic will return to Ford Field for the second time in four seasons after escaping one of the toughest defenses it had seen this fall. Almont held the Cougars (13-0) to a season low points total. But Lansing Catholic’s unheralded defense did the same to the Raiders (12-1), who were averaging 50 per game entering Saturday and set a team record for wins this fall. Click for more from the Lansing State Journal.


Ithaca 20, Boyne City 16

The Yellowjackets (13-0) extended their winning streak to 69 – but for the second straight week, not without a dramatic fourth quarter. Boyne City (12-1) reached the 3-yard line with 13 seconds to play, but was stopped by an Ithaca defense that isn’t often noted but gives up only 8.4 points per game. Click for more from the Mount Pleasant Morning Sun.

Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central 28, Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian 0

The Falcons (12-1) earned their first Finals appearance since 2010 and a rematch with Ithaca after falling by 10 to the Yellowjackets in that previous championship matchup. St. Mary gained this weekend's opportunity with its fifth shutout of the season, against a NorthPointe Christian (11-2) team in its seventh of existence and first topping eight wins. Click for more from the Monroe Evening News.


Ishpeming 22, Saginaw Michigan Lutheran Seminary 18

These are not the Hematites of the last two seasons; most of the standouts who carried the program to two straight MHSAA titles graduated. But this group has been similarly strong and is now a win from just as good after its closest win since Week 7 of 2013. Ishpeming (12-0) made it 33 straight victories by pulling away midway through the fourth quarter. Click for more from the Marquette Mining Journal.

Detroit Loyola 41, Pewamo-Westphalia 21

Pewamo-Westphalia (10-3) made it harder on Loyola than any playoff opponent aside from Ishpeming since 2010, but still couldn’t completely slow the Bulldogs’ running back duo of Marvin Campbell and Mideyin Wilson. The ran for four touchdowns together and nearly 270 yards to put Loyola (13-0) back in the championship game for the third straight season. Click for more from MLive Detroit.


Munising 10, Beal City 7

Munising’s best season since 1980 continued with perhaps its most stunning win of an incredible run as it edged the two-time reigning runner-up Aggies (10-3) on a 33-yard field goal in the fourth quarter. An interesting tie-in: Munising coach Jeff Seaberg was on that 1980 team that won the Class C title but hadn’t won more than seven games in a season since. The Mustangs are 12-1. Click for more from the Iron Mountain Daily News.

Muskegon Catholic Central 42, Harbor Beach 6

The Crusaders’ run continued to roll as impressively as expected – their playoff wins were 56-8 over Fulton, 42-0 over Fowler and 48-7 over Mendon before handing 2012 champion Harbor Beach its lone loss this fall. The Pirates (12-1) hadn’t been held to single-digit scoring since their 2011 Division 7 Regional loss to Saginaw Nouvel. MCC (13-0) has won 25 straight. Click for more from the Muskegon Chronicle.

PHOTO: Ithaca (white with yellow) edged Boyne City in their Division 6 Semfinal to extend its winning streak to 69. (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.)