Drive for Detroit: Week 4 Preview

September 19, 2019

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

As we cruise into Week 4 of this high school football season, be ready for a few curveballs and change-ups.

For starters: Something just doesn't feel right about not featuring the latest meetings between Detroit Martin Luther King and Cass Tech and Traverse City West and Central, like we have almost every season since beginning these previews in 2012. But other games from those parts of the state are potentially bigger this time around.

Read on for more on many of the matchups that especially stuck out from this week's schedule. Be sure as well to check out this week's schedule featuring 25 games including seven mentioned below. 

And because those two games mentioned above are still going to mean a lot, potentially, here are a few quick notes: The King/Cass winner will move to 2-2 and the loser to 1-3, with the teams likely to meet again in the league playoffs and the loser of that rematch very possibly missing the MHSAA postseason. Both got to 1-2 after playing some of the toughest opening competition of any teams statewide. Meanwhile, the West/Central “Patriot Game” will draw more than 10,000 fans downtown tonight, and the winner will be a frontrunner to win the Big North Conference title. West was the champ and Central second last season thanks to West's 21-14 win of the Trojans.

"Drive for Detroit" is sponsored by MI Student Aid.

Bay & Thumb

Frankenmuth (3-0) at Freeland (3-0)

These two have met six times over the last four seasons, four in nonleague contests and twice in the playoffs, with Freeland holding a 4-2 edge. The realigned Tri-Valley Conference East has them both in the same league this fall and as the only unbeaten teams overall after three weeks (Saginaw Swan Valley also is 2-0 in league play, 2-1 overall). Freeland has pulled out a couple of close games this fall against tough opponents, while the Eagles have won all of their games (against a less imposing group) by at least 29 points – but fell to the Falcons in last year’s Week 9 matchup 15-8.

Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY New Lothrop (3-0) at Montrose (3-0), Davison (3-0) at Flint Powers Catholic (3-0), Richmond (3-0) at Croswell-Lexington (2-1), Alma (1-2) at Saginaw Swan Valley (2-1).

Greater Detroit

Brighton (3-0) at Plymouth (3-0)

The Wildcats took a nice step last fall after posting sub-.500 records in 2016 and 2017, finishing 6-4. Taking down reigning league champion Brighton to move into first alone in the Kensington Lakes Activities Association West would be another jump. Plymouth broke a three-year losing streak against rival Canton with a 15-13 win last week, while the Bulldogs are riding an 11-game regular-season winning streak that includes a 24-7 win over Plymouth last season.

Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Orchard Lake St. Mary's (3-0) at Walled Lake Western (3-0), Detroit Cass Tech (1-2) at Detroit Martin Luther King (1-2), Birmingham Groves (3-0) at Oak Park (2-1), Clarkston (1-2) at West Bloomfield (2-1), Brownstown Woodhaven (3-0) at Wyandotte Roosevelt (3-0).


DeWitt (2-1) at Holt (2-1)

The Rams’ rejuvenation has brought relevance to this matchup after the first meeting between these teams ended with a 49-7 Panthers victory a year ago. With solid wins over Caledonia and Hudsonville and a close loss last week to Traverse City West, Holt is projecting early to earn its first playoff berth since 2013. But DeWitt represents a fourth straight tough opponent to start the season, and also a major measuring stick locally as the reigning Capital Area Activities Conference Blue champion and winningest team in the Lansing area since the start of the century.  

Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Evart (3-0) at Beal City (3-0), Fowler (3-0) at Laingsburg (3-0), Portage Northern (3-0) at East Lansing (2-1), Williamston (2-1) at St. Johns (2-1).

Northern Lower Peninsula

Traverse City St. Francis (2-1) at Kingsley (3-0)

This rivalry has been one-sided this decade, with St. Francis winning seven of eight meetings including last year’s during the regular season (43-8) and playoffs (41-20). But there are a few reasons to believe this rematch will be much more competitive. First, last year’s games saw Kingsley break a four-year shutout streak against the Gladiators on the way to finishing 10-2 – after going only 1-8 in 2017. The Stags have won all of their games this fall by at least 27 points. And St. Francis did suffer only its second regular-season loss of the last five seasons, in Week 2 to Maple City Glen Lake – although the defeat is looking better every week as the Lakers remain unbeaten.

Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Traverse City Central (2-1) at Traverse City West (2-1), Frankfort (2-1) at Maple City Glen Lake (3-0), St. Ignace (2-1) at Johannesburg-Lewiston (3-0), McBain (1-2) at Lake City (1-2).

Southeast & Border

Sand Creek (3-0) at Clinton (3-0)

Clinton has emerged as the early favorite in the Tri-County Conference with recent power Ottawa Lake Whiteford off to a 1-2 start and the Redskins putting up at least 41 points in all three of their games so far. But Sand Creek has gone over 50 twice, and more impressively pulled out a 31-28 Week 2 win over otherwise unscored-upon Adrian Lenawee Christian. The last three games between these two were decided by seven points or fewer. Clinton won the last two including last fall 28-27.  

Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Blissfield (2-1) at Brooklyn Columbia Central (3-0), Onsted (2-1) at Hillsdale (3-0), Michigan Center (1-2) at Addison (2-1), Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes (1-2) at Pittsford (2-1).

Southwest Corridor

Edwardsburg (3-0) at Vicksburg (3-0)

The reigning Division 4 champion Eddies have run their winning streak to 17 and given up all of eight points this season, those to Dowagiac in Week 1. This is all familiar of course – Edwardsburg has lost only two regular-season games over the last seven years, although the first defeat came to Vicksburg in 2014. Despite finishing just 3-6 a year ago, the Bulldogs did give the Eddies their second-closest game of the entire 2018 season including playoffs with a 38-22 defeat in Week 8 (only Grand Rapids Catholic Central in a two-point Semifinal loss came closer).   

Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Lawton (3-0) at Delton Kellogg (3-0), Paw Paw (3-0) at Dowagiac (2-1), Stevensville Lakeshore (2-1) at St. Joseph (3-0), Kalamazoo Central (1-2) at Kalamazoo Loy Norrix (0-3).

Upper Peninsula

West Iron County (3-0) at Calumet (3-0)

Coming off what surely will be one of its toughest league games of this season against Ishpeming Westwood, Calumet next gets what should be a strong nonleague challenge in West Iron – even considering the Copper Kings won the same matchup under similar circumstances 43-6 a year ago. The Wykons did go on to finish 8-3, its only other losses both to Ishpeming. A win tonight would give them not only a great measuring stick as they look to match up with another undefeated Hematites team in league play, but also would put West Iron at 4-0 for the first time since 2014.

Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Marquette (1-2) at Escanaba (3-0), Ishpeming Westwood (1-2) at Ishpeming (3-0), Kingsford (1-2) at Gladstone (2-1), Petoskey (0-3) at Sault Ste. Marie (2-1).

West Michigan

Rockford (3-0) at Muskegon Mona Shores (3-0)

Even with some of their opponents’ struggles, it’s always going to be impressive how Rockford has opened with wins over Grand Rapids Christian, Lowell and Holland West Ottawa. Mona Shores actually was even better this time against early opponents East Kentwood, Bay City Central and Reeths-Puffer than a year ago, when the Sailors also started 3-0 and then went on to beat Rockford 33-14 in Week 4 and eventually finish 12-2 and Division 2 runner-up. The Rams have some added motivation, as reportedly longtime and legendary coach Ralph Munger is slated to return to the sideline for the first time this fall after undergoing heart surgery just before practice began.

Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Holland Christian (2-1) at Byron Center (3-0), Sparta (3-0) at Grand Rapids Catholic Central (2-1), Zeeland West (3-1) at Lowell (2-1), Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central (2-1) at Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern (1-2).


Climax-Scotts (3-0) at Camden-Frontier (3-0)

While the Panthers’ early run during their inaugural season of 8-player has been impressive, Camden-Frontier might present a next-level challenge. The Redskins have made the playoffs all three seasons they’ve played 8-player, and this fall they’ve sandwiched a nice eight-point win over Burr Oak between 50+ scoring weeks. The last time these teams played, Climax-Scotts won 60-0 in a 2015 11-player game – but it’s a good assumption the move to 8-player for both will prove to be a bit of an equalizer as they meet again.

Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Suttons Bay (3-0) at Onekama (3-0), Rudyard (2-1) at Brimley (3-0), Colon (3-0) at Burr Oak (2-1). SATURDAY Pickford (2-1) at Eben Junction Superior Central (2-1).

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PHOTO: Norway quarterback Nathan Paulitch (7) gains several yards during the second quarter of last week's game against Ishpeming before Hematites Ben Pruett (14), Dawson Delongchamp (17) and Tanner Romback (80) catch up to him. (Photo by Cara Kamps.)

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.)