Drive for Detroit: Week 4 Preview

September 15, 2016

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Predicting anything after three weeks of a high school football season is a fruitless endeavor, as so much can change over the next six weeks of play.

But no fewer than 16 leagues across Michigan could eventually see this fall’s championship races affected significantly by what plays out on fields over the next 48 hours.

This week’s “Drive for Detroit” preview – powered by MI Student Aid – highlights a handful of key matchups and mentions many more below; we’ll discuss all of the ramifications that emerge in Monday’s weekend in review.

(Games below are Friday; for the full weekend schedule including Thursday and Saturday games, visit the MHSAA Score Center.)

Bay & Thumb

Alma (3-0) at Freeland (3-0)

Freeland is 7-1 against Alma over the teams’ last eight meetings and off to another fast start after making Division 5 Regional Finals and losing only one regular-season game over the last two seasons. But Alma beat Saginaw Swan Valley last week for the first time since 2011 to earn a 3-0 start for the first time since 2012 – the same season the Panthers got that most recent win against tonight’s Tri-Valley Conference Central opponent.  

Others that caught my eye: Roscommon (3-0) at Beaverton (2-1), Almont (2-1) at Croswell-Lexington (2-1), Linden (2-1) at Flushing (2-1), Saginaw Nouvel (2-1) at Bay City John Glenn (2-1).

Greater Detroit

West Bloomfield (2-1) at Farmington Hills Harrison (2-1)

These Oakland County neighbors re-stoked their rivalry last season for the first time since 2006, with West Bloomfield claiming a 20-14 Week 9 win. The Lakers are following the strong arm of quarterback Bryce Veasley, who has thrown for 543 yards and five touchdowns over his team’s last two games. But he’s taking on a defense this week that has given up more than 20 points only three times – twice to East Kentwood and the third in a Division 2 Semifinal – over its last 17 games.  

Others that caught my eye: Detroit East English (2-1) at Detroit Denby (3-0), St. Clair Shores South Lake (3-0) at Warren Fitzgerald (3-0), Clinton Township Chippewa Valley (2-1) at Utica Eisenhower (3-0), Birmingham Brother Rice (2-1) at Warren DeLaSalle (2-1).


Lansing Catholic (3-0) at Portland (3-0)

This Capital Area Activities Conference White rivalry game is always a matchup of differing styles, and the result has been an even split of their last eight meetings. The Cougars’ wide open attack is led this year by dual-threat quarterback Michael Lynn III, with Portland’s physical running game paced by Logan Lefke among a collection of backs. Lynn threw for 161 yards and ran for 80 and two touchdowns in last week’s win over Everett, but the Raiders didn’t give up a point over the last two weeks to Hillsdale and Fowlerville – and are able to control the clock by grinding out yards on the ground.

Others that caught my eye: DeWitt (2-1) at Mason (3-0), Lake City (2-1) at Beal City (1-2), Flint Hamady (2-1) at New Lothrop (3-0), Bath (2-1) at Pewamo-Westphalia (3-0).

Northern Lower Peninsula

Portage Central (3-0) at Traverse City Central (3-0)

Some potential league title-deciding games from this region are mentioned below, but it’s tough not to highlight a matchup of undefeated powers who went a combined 17-3 a year ago. Traverse City Central is coming off an emotional 10-8 win over rival West last week and is giving up a meager 174 yards of offense per game. That sounds a lot like Portage Central, which downed rival Stevensville Lakeshore 37-0 in Week 3 and has given up eight points this season.

Others that caught my eye: Leroy Pine River (2-1) at McBain (3-0), St. Ignace (2-1) at East Jordan (3-0), AuGres-Sims (3-0) at Lincoln Alcona (2-1), Maple City Glen Lake (2-1) at Onekama (3-0).

Southeast & Border

Temperance Bedford (3-0) at Saline (3-0)

The difference in Bedford this season can be measured in part by its results against the same early opponents over the last two years; the Mules have outscored Toledo St. Francis de Sales, Fenton and Ann Arbor Pioneer by a combined 117-70 this fall after those three outscored Bedford by a combined 109-76 in kicking the Mules off to an 0-3 start a year ago. Next up is Saline, which beat Bedford 43-0 in 2015 and just got past winless Ann Arbor Skyline 24-21 last week – but also is 26-2 without a regular-season loss since falling on opening night in 2014.

Others that caught my eye: Ida (3-0) at Brooklyn Columbia Central (2-1), Hudson (3-0) at Dundee (2-1), Manchester (2-1) at Grass Lake (3-0), Sand Creek (3-0) at Morenci (2-1).

Southwest Corridor

Paw Paw (2-1) at Edwardsburg (3-0)

The Eddies are absolutely rolling, again, with three wins by a combined 145-14 score to take the lone lead in the Wolverine Conference. But Paw Paw has come closer than most over the last few seasons, and after Vicksburg in Week 3 of 2014 was the next most-recent team, in Week 9 of 2012, to hand Edwardsburg a regular-season defeat. The Redskins did drop a 14-6 heartbreaker to Sturgis last week, but scored first and outgained the Trojans before a late touchdown led to the final result.

Others that caught my eye: Niles (3-0) at Portage Northern (1-2), St. Joseph (3-0) at Stevensville Lakeshore (2-1), Berrien Springs (1-1) at Cassopolis (3-0), Sturgis (2-1) at Three Rivers (2-1).

Upper Peninsula

Negaunee (3-0) at Iron Mountain (3-0)

This may decide, and at the least will play a major role, in determining the Mid-Peninsula Conference title winner. Iron Mountain is back in the mix thanks to a Week 1 win over three-time reigning champion Ishpeming and has to be confident again having split the last six meetings with the powerful Miners. Negaunee has finished league runner-up two of the last three seasons and will bring a bullish attack that’s run for nearly 900 yards already this season; Neal Violetta had 475 yards and five touchdowns on the ground and Shane Ring has run for 228 yards and five scores.

Others that caught my eye: Newberry (3-0) at Felch North Dickinson (2-1), Calumet (2-1) at Houghton (3-0), Escanaba (3-0) at Marquette (1-2), Ishpeming (1-1) at Ishpeming Westwood (1-2).

West Michigan

Grandville (3-0) at Hudsonville (3-0)

Not only is Grandville off to its best on-field start since 2001 (the Bulldogs opened 2012 3-0 but received a forfeit win), but they’ve dominated giving up only 22 points total and scoring at least 44 in all three of their first games. The numbers don’t flash as much for Hudsonville because of the quality opponents the Eagles have beaten, including handing the only losses so far to 2015 playoff teams Grand Ledge and East Kentwood. The winner tonight will earn an enviable, although not entirely secure position atop the competitive Ottawa-Kent Conference Red.  

Others that caught my eye: Grand Rapids South Christian (2-1) at Grand Rapids Christian (3-0), Byron Center (3-0) at Muskegon (2-1), Ludington (3-0) at Muskegon Catholic Central (3-0), Rockford (1-2) at Caledonia (1-2).


Peck (3-0) at Deckerville (3-0)

This is the top 8-player rivalry of a strong 8-player thumb area, and Peck no doubt has been aching to get another shot at the Eagles after falling to them 50-6 in Week 8 and then 30-6 in the first round of last season’s playoffs. Deckerville is off to another dominating start, outscoring its first three opponents by a combined 128-20 after reaching MHSAA Semifinals the last two years.

Others that caught my eye: Onaway (2-1) at Cedarville (3-0), Rudyard (2-1) at Posen (2-1).

Second Half’s weekly “Drive for Detroit” previews 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: Alma ran past Birch Run in Week 1 and hopes to move to 4-0 this weekend against Freeland. (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.)