Football Families Carry on Tradition

By Tom Markowski
Special for Second Half

November 12, 2015

WATERFORD – Football always has been a family affair at Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes.

It started with longtime coach Mike Boyd and continues on with Josh Sawicki, who’s in his third season as Lakes’ football coach.

Boyd retired after 2012 with 361 career victories, third most in MHSAA history. His sons, Mike, Jr., and Andy, played for him and contributed significantly to the Lakers’ success.

Mike Boyd played for his cousin, Leo “Smokey” Boyd, at Saginaw St. Peter & Paul.

And Boyd coached a number of siblings in his 48 seasons at Lakes. Josh and Jake Sawicki were two. Josh played linebacker and guard for four seasons, three times selected to all-state teams. Jake was a running back.

Sawicki took over for Boyd and has continued the winning tradition. Lakes was 8-3 his first season, 9-2 last season, and the Lakers are 11-0 heading into Saturday’s 1 p.m. Division 8 Regional Final against Saginaw Michigan Lutheran Seminary (10-1).

Those family ties continue as well. Quarterback Clay Senerius and receiver Devin Senerius are fraternal twins.

Clay is a three-year starter and is one of the top quarterbacks in Division 8. He’s 6-foot-3, 185 pounds and has been offered a scholarship by Avila University, an NAIA school in Kansas City (Mo.). Kalamazoo College, Hope College and St. Francis, located in Fort Wayne (Ind.) have also shown interest.

Senerius threw a school-record seven touchdown passes in a game as a junior. During his career he’s thrown at least five touchdown passes in a game five times. Through 10 games this season, he’s completed 107 of 171 attempts for 2,226 yards, 26 touchdowns and five interceptions.

And if Lakes wasn’t such a well-balanced team, those statistics would be even more impressive.

“He’s a drop-back passer,” Sawicki said. “He has some athletic ability. What I like about him is he’s coachable. He throws a pretty pass. When he’s locked in, it’s like a video game.

“We throw it, but we don’t throw it that much.”

To the point, Lakes – Senerius, that is – threw for 2,900 yards last season and rushed for 1,200. This year the Lakers have gained half of their yards on the ground.

This team is primed to make a long playoff run. It’s dominated by seniors, and for a small school, the linemen are big. The offensive linemen average 235 pounds, the defensive linemen 260.

The best on offense is left guard Liam Sutton (6-0, 280), one of four seniors on the line. Sawicki will often run plays to Sutton’s side or use him as a pulling guard.

At nose guard is senior Anthony Clark (6-1, 310). Clark started playing football last season and is still developing. A state champion powerlifter, Clark is used just on defense.

Sawicki said a family member discouraged Clark from playing football.

“It took a while for his mom to allow him to play,” Sawicki said. “She was afraid he was going to get hurt. I assured her that Clark wasn’t going to be the one getting hurt.”

But what makes Lakes a team to be reckoned with is its offense, led by the Senerius twins and their other playmakers like Ryan Kostich, a 6-1, 215-pound linebacker and slot receiver, and running back-receiver Chris Cartier. Devin Senerius has 12 touchdown receptions and Cartier is averaging 13 yards every time he touches the ball, rushing and receiving.

“We have some really good receivers,” Clay Senerius said. “The last few weeks we’ve run the ball well, too. The offensive line is excelling.

“It’s great playing with my brother. I know typically what he’s going to do. I know where he’s going to be."

Tom Markowski is a columnist and directs website coverage for the State Champs! Sports Network. He previously covered primarily high school sports for the The Detroit News from 1984-2014, focusing on the Detroit area and contributing to statewide coverage of football and basketball. Contact him at with story ideas for Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes football coach Josh Sawicki fist-bumps his players during a Prep Bowl appearance at Ford Field. (Middle) Receiver Ryan Kostich (81) races through an opening during a 36-10 win over Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood. (Photos by Paula Imboden.)

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.)