Fast Start Sends DeLaSalle Soaring

By Paul Costanzo
Special for

November 24, 2017

DETROIT – Brendan Madigan kept his promise.

He was on the field as a freshman in 2014 when Warren DeLaSalle won its first MHSAA Division 2 football championship. And he enjoyed it so much, he told himself he would come back and do it again.

On Friday, the senior captain led the Pilots to title No. 2, as they rolled to a 41-6 victory against Livonia Franklin again in Division 2 at Ford Field.

“I got to see those guys (in 2014), see what it was like and get the feeling of what it is,” Madigan said. “Ever since then, I made a promise to myself to get all of my guys back here and win it again, so it feels great.”

It was a brilliant finish to a season that started with immediate adversity following a 36-6 loss against Lowell during opening weekend. But the Pilots (12-2) responded positively and proved their worth week in and week out, winning the Detroit Catholic League Central title and knocking off two-time reigning Division 2 champion Detroit Martin Luther King on their way to Ford Field.

“Nobody thought we could do it after we lost to Lowell – and we lost by a lot,” said DeLaSalle junior Evan Vaillancourt, who had 160 yards receiving and a touchdown Friday. “But we came back and had the best practice we had, and played really good (in Week 2) against Grandville, then we played good from there on.”

There was no adversity to deal with in the title game, as DeLaSalle found itself ahead 7-0 just 16 seconds in, and without having put its offense on the field.

Madigan recovered a snap that had sailed over the Franklin backfield and ran 13 yards for the touchdown on the first play from scrimmage. It was the first time since 2005 that the first play from scrimmage had resulted in a touchdown in an MHSAA Final.

“I saw the ball go over (the quarterback’s) head, and immediately I knew I had to scoop it up,” Madigan said. “It bounced good, I got to pick it up and run it in. (DeLaSalle junior) Jacob Dobbs even helped me get in, carrying me a little bit. It felt great to start the game out with points even when they started with the ball.”

DeLaSalle scored 21 points off three first-half Franklin turnovers.

“We knew going in that we couldn’t get them extra opportunities, and that’s kind of what we did there in the first half,” Franklin coach Chris Kelbert said. “Just momentum never got on our side, and that’s one of the things we had to do to win, to beat a team that good, and it just didn’t work out for us.”

DeLaSalle proved it didn’t need good field position to score points, averaging 8.0 yards per play and racking up 313 yards of offense. Senior quarterback Luke Pfromm accounted for 207 of those yards through the air, as he was 10 of 12 passing with a pair of touchdowns.

“I thought (Pfromm’s performance) was decent,” DeLaSalle coach Mike Giannone said with a laugh. “I would say he was on. Some of the things we do, play-action passing, some of the deep balls and other things that he can see – he’s developed into a real fine quarterback, and I think someone out there is going to really get a steal.”

Franklin (11-3), which was playing in its first Final since winning the first MHSAA Class A title in 1975, appeared unfazed by the unfortunate start, driving all the way to the DeLaSalle 5-yard line on the next possession. But that was as close as the Patriots would get, turning the ball over on downs before seeing the Pilots put together a 93-yard drive of their own and go up 14-0 on 60-yard pass from Pfromm to Vaillancourt.

Turnovers on Franklin’s next two possessions allowed the Pilots to essentially put the game away in the second quarter. A Josh DeBerry interception set up a 2-yard Pfromm touchdown run, and a fumble recovery set up 4-yard touchdown pass from Pfromm to Sergio Gasperoni.

“We’ve made some plays defensively (this season); we put pressure on people,” Giannone said. “One of our coaches says, with pressure, the pipes burst.”

A 2-yard touchdown run from Cordell Tannyhill and a 23-yard field goal by Riley Garrison gave DeLaSalle a 38-0 lead heading into halftime. Garrison added a 30-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter.

Franklin’s lone score came on a 5-yard run by Isaac Moore, which he set up with a 72-yard run on the previous play. Moore led the Franklin offense with 160 yards on the ground.

Click for the full box score.

The MHSAA Playoffs are sponsored by the Michigan Army National Guard.

PHOTOS: (Top) Warren DeLaSalle’s Semaj Shelton (12) leaps past a defender's outstretched arm during Friday’s Division 2 Final. (Middle) Pilots quarterback Luke Pfromm rolls out looking for an open receiver.

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.)