Drive for Detroit: Week 8 Preview

October 13, 2016

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor 

The MHSAA football playoff picture should become much clearer by the time the cooled-off dirt and grass settle at the end of this weekend.

So far, 115 teams have earned automatic berths for the 256-team 11-player postseason field. A total of 91 teams can earn automatic berths this weekend, although, in at least a few cases, hopefuls will face off.

We look at some of those matchups and many more below in the Week 8 edition of Drive for Detroit, powered by MI Student Aid. Remember to follow the MHSAA Score Center for up-to-date scores, standings and playoff point rankings as results come in. All games below are Friday unless noted.

Bay & Thumb

Richmond (6-1) at Algonac (7-0)

The only loss between these two this season was by Richmond on opening night to Marysville, which can win the Macomb Area Conference Gold title outright tonight. And the only regular-season loss Algonac suffered during its miraculous turnaround last fall from 1-8 in 2014 to 10-2 was 15-14 to Richmond in the final game of the Blue Water Area Conference schedule. That defeat created a shared title between the two; the winner of this rematch will take the BWAC championship outright.

Others that caught my eye: Ubly (7-0) at Harbor Beach (4-3), Midland (4-3) at Lapeer (5-2), Flint Carman-Ainsworth (5-2) at Midland Dow (7-0), Pinconning (5-2) at Saginaw Michigan Lutheran Seminary (5-2).

Greater Detroit

Warren Mott (6-1) at Utica Eisenhower (7-0)

Mott’s unexpected 31-8 loss to Romeo last week took a bit of wind out of this anticipated matchup – but it could return if Mott does win to force a shared Macomb Area Conference Red championship with Eisenhower and possibly Romeo as well. Mott has lost all five meetings with Eisenhower over the last six seasons, but knows winning well with six straight playoff berths. The Eagles, meanwhile, clinched their 17th playoff berth over the last 18 seasons with their best start since 2004 – and haven’t allowed more than 14 points in a game despite playing in one of the most respected leagues in the state.

Others that caught my eye: Berkley (5-2) at Bloomfield Hills (7-0), Dearborn (6-1) at Dearborn Fordson (7-0), Clarkston (5-2) at Lake Orion (5-2), Harper Woods Chandler Park (5-2) at Warren Michigan Collegiate (6-1).


Brighton (6-1) at Howell (5-2)

This rivalry game between old Kensington Valley Conference neighbors hasn’t carried much in league title significance during their near-decade in the Kensington Lakes Activities Association West – but tonight’s game can either cement an outright championship for Brighton or give Howell a share. The Highlanders own a 5-3 advantage in those KLAA West meetings and also beat Brighton in a 2010 rematch in the playoffs, but the Bulldogs have navigated the league a little more carefully this fall with a four-point win over Pinckney (which beat Howell) and a one-pointer over Grand Blanc.

Others that caught my eye: Wyoming Kelloggsville (6-1) at Belding (5-2), Menominee (7-0) at DeWitt (6-1), Grand Ledge (6-1) at East Lansing (5-2), Pewamo-Westphalia (7-0) at Fowler (5-2).

Northern Lower Peninsula

Frankfort (7-0) at Charlevoix (6-1)

Frankfort has two league games remaining but can clinch a share of the Northern Michigan Football Conference Leaders championship with a win tonight. Charlevoix and Maple City Glen Lake both have a loss in the league, so the Rayders could really shake things up. Their only loss this season was to Glen Lake, by 42, in Week 5; Frankfort beat Glen Lake by five a week later. Charlevoix and Frankfort both were undefeated in the league when they played each other last year, and the Panthers won 20-0 to claim the title outright.

Others that caught my eye: Cadillac (5-2) at Manistee (4-3), Johannesburg-Lewiston (3-4) at East Jordan (4-3), Hillman (4-3) at Whittemore-Prescott (4-3), Kalkaska (6-1) at Traverse City St. Francis (7-0) on Saturday.

Southeast & Border

Ottawa Lake Whiteford (7-0) at Sand Creek (7-0)

Six of eight teams in the Tri-County Conference are at least 4-3 and can still clinch automatic playoff berths, but the title race has finally been whittled down to Whiteford and Sand Creek. Whiteford has had its share of success over the years and this season qualified for the playoffs for the fifth straight, but has never gone undefeated in the league dating back to its first year, 1975. Sand Creek had a perfect TCC run in 2011 but then won a combined eight games over the next four seasons – a total they can equal just this season with another win tonight.

Others that caught my eye: Hillsdale (4-3) at Ida (6-1), Battle Creek Pennfield (4-3) at Jackson Lumen Christi (5-2), Adrian Madison (4-3) at Petersburg-Summerfield (4-3), Dundee (3-4) at Brooklyn Columbia Central (5-2).

Southwest Corridor

Three Rivers (6-1) at Edwardsburg (7-0)

It seems like the Eddies have had only one or two games of consequence during a four-year undefeated run in the Wolverine Conference, but this will be one of those games. This meeting could look a lot more like Edwardsburg’s 42-40 win in 2014 than its 65-21 defeat of Three Rivers a year ago. The Eddies can clinch a share of the league title with a 27th straight conference win. But a Three Rivers victory could create a three-team tie for first (along with Vicksburg) with a week to play. The Wildcats’ lone loss was the Plainwell on opening night.

Others that caught my eye: Marshall (4-3) at Battle Creek Harper Creek (6-1), Berrien Springs (4-2) at Buchanan (4-2), Kalamazoo Central (4-3) at Portage Central (6-1), Springport (6-1) at Quincy (5-2).

Upper Peninsula

Felch North Dickinson (5-2) at Lake Linden-Hubbell (7-0), Saturday

North Dickinson is reportedly taking its long history of success to 8-player next season, and there would be little better way to finish in 11 than by knocking newcomer Lake Linden-Hubbell off its roost atop the Mid-Eastern Conference. The Lakes are working toward a second straight perfect regular season and haven’t allowed an opponent closer than 14 points since opening night. But the Nordics, on the verge of securing their first winning season and playoff berth in three years, could move into first place in the league with a victory and set up an opportunity to share the title for the first time since winning five straight from 2009-13.

Others that caught my eye: Norway (6-1) at Gwinn (5-2), Hancock (4-3) at Iron River West Iron County (4-3), St. Ignace (6-1) at Ishpeming (3-3), Gladstone (3-4) at Kingford (5-2)

West Michigan

Grand Rapids West Catholic (6-1) at Grand Rapids Catholic Central (7-0)

This rivalry will play out for the first time since 2009 because these teams are now together in the Ottawa-Kent Conference Blue – and tied for first with two league games to play. The winner claims a share of the league title, which would be a repeat performance for both – West Catholic won the last two Blue titles, and GRCC came over after winning the O-K Green last fall. The Falcons have given up a total of 14 points over four league games, but haven’t yet faced third-place Allendale, which put 20 on a GRCC defense that otherwise hasn’t given up more than 15 in a game.

Others that caught my eye: Rockford (5-2) at East Kentwood (4-3), Hudsonville Unity Christian (6-1) at Hamilton (5-2), Muskegon Mona Shores (4-3) at Muskegon (6-1), Byron Center (6-1) at Zeeland East (6-1).


Fife Lake Forest Area (6-1) at Wyoming Tri-unity Christian (7-0)

The inaugural Midwest Central 8-Player Conference championship comes down to this game as both teams are undefeated in league play heading into the finale. Tri-unity has been stellar giving up only 36 points in winning more games this fall than the last four seasons combined. Fife Lake Forest Area has a similar story with six wins for the first time since 2008. The Warriors made the move to 8-player this fall after winning 11 games total over the last five seasons.

Others that caught my eye: Morrice (4-3) at Webberville (5-2), Pickford (6-1) at Cedarville (6-1).

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. 

PHOTOS: A Clarkston ball carrier prepares to collide with a Lapeer defender during their Week 1 game this season at the University of Michigan. (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.)