Football Playoffs: Regional Finals in Review
November 14, 2011
The first MHSAA football champion of 2011 will be crowned Friday, and by the end of Saturday we’ll know who will play for the rest Thanksgiving weekend at Ford Field.
Here’s one take of the most significant results from the postseason’s third weekend, plus links to coverage from the biggest games and a brief look at all 16 Semifinals coming up Saturday.
Let us know if I missed a game or a highlight I should've mentioned by posting below. And click here for results, schedules and more. (Rankings below by The Associated Press' panel of media voters.)
1st and 10
DIVISON 1: Detroit Cass Tech 6, Warren DeLaSalle 0 – Before 2010, Cass Tech had never won a Regional championship. Now, the Technicians have won two straight.
DIVISION 2: Walled Lake Western 21, Port Huron 20 (2OT) – A celebration for one and heart break for the other as Walled Lake Western left with its first Regional title since 2001.
DIVISION 3: East Grand Rapids 42, Holland 21 – The Pioneers avenged a Week 2 loss to the Dutch to extend their playoff winning streak to 28.
DIVISION 4: Grosse Ile 18, Battle Creek Pennfield 13 – Best win in Grosse Ile history? Gotta be up there. Pennfield was ranked No. 3, Grosse Ile unranked, and the victory gave the Red Devils their first 10-win season and second Semifinal berth ever.
DIVISION 5: Grand Rapids West Catholic 55, Menominee 34 – It came a game earlier this season, but West Catholic knocked Menominee out for the second in a row. West Catholic is ranked No. 7 and Menominee No. 5.
DIVISION 6: Ithaca 22, Montague 19 (OT) – The top-ranked Yellowjackets have had few scares during their 26-game winning streak, but No. 7 Montague likely gave them their biggest of the run.
DIVISION 7: Hudson 35, Detroit Loyola 0 – So much for rankings on this one. Loyola was No. 2 and Hudson No. 3, but the Tigers extended their own 26-game win streak in a big way.
DIVISION 8: St. Ignace La Salle 27, Crystal Falls Forest Park 14 – An Upper Peninsula team might again represent in the Division 8 Final in two weeks. But No. 4 St. Ignace will get its shot this time after knocking off near-annual Finals road-trippers, the Trojans, who came in ranked No. 6.
8-PLAYER: Rapid River 40, Engadine 0; Carsonville-Port Sanilac 47, Marine City Cardinal Mooney 0 – A coincidence that these Semifinals both ended in decisive shutouts. But they appear to be equally decisive statements about which teams belong in Friday’s first-ever MHSAA 8-player Final.
26 – Winning streaks by both Hudson and Ithaca thanks to Regional wins. Hudson is the reigning Division 7 champion and Ithaca won the Division 6 title in 2010, when both finished 14-0.
42 – Combined rushing touchdowns scored this season by Carsonville-Port Sanilac quarterback Hayden Adams and running backs Ryan Davis and Dan Rickett. All have at least 11 scores on the ground.
20 – Number of completions, in 20 attempts, Lansing Catholic quarterback Cooper Rush strung together to begin Friday’s win over Dowagiac. The streak tied the MHSAA record.
6 – Seasons, out of the last eight, that Rockford has advanced at least to the MHSAA Semifinals. The Rams will play in their second straight Saturday, and have won three MHSAA championships during that run.
MORE FANTASTIC FINISHES
Detroit Cass Tech 6, Warren DeLaSalle 0 – A bit of continuation on the above comment, as the Technicians clinched that second-straight Regional title with a touchdown run with 1:38 to play. Click to read more from the Detroit Free Press.
Rockford 30, Grand Blanc 28 – Rockford got up 23-7 before holding off a late charge by a Grand Blanc team averaging 54 points in this season’s playoffs heading into the night. Read more about it in the Grand Rapids Press.
Mount Pleasant 28, East Lansing 20 – East Lansing led by six with 11 minutes to play before Mount Pleasant, and especially its defense, took over. Find out more from the Mount Pleasant Morning Sun.
Almont 31, Jackson Lumen Christi 21 – Almont has strung together six straight winning seasons, but its only other Regional final of the 256-team playoff era ended in a loss to Lumen Christi in 2008. Two late touchdowns sent the Raiders to their first Semifinal. Click for more from the Jackson Citizen-Patriot.
UP NEXT – 8-player FINAL and 11-player SEMIFNALS
8-PLAYER: Rapid River (11-1) vs. Carsonville-Port Sanilac (11-1) – 7 p.m. Friday at Northern Michigan’s Superior Dome – The inaugural MHSAA 8-player Final matches teams separated by 382 miles and Mackinaw Bridge.
DIVISION 1: Rockford (11-1) vs. Detroit Catholic Central (11-1) – 1 p.m. at Battle Creek Central; Utica Eisenhower (11-1) vs. Detroit Cass Tech (9-3) – 1 p.m. at Troy Athens – Rockford, DCC and Utica Eisenhower are ranked 1-3, respectively, and Cass Tech didn’t make the top 10 heading into the playoffs. But the Technicians have proven their merit. The Rockford/DCC game is a rematch of the 1998 Class AA Final, which DCC won before these players had started elementary school. Eisenhower is playing for its fifth Finals berth, and first since 2003.
DIVISION 2: Lowell (11-1) vs. Walled Lake Western (11-1) – 11:30 a.m. at Central Michigan; Birmingham Brother Rice (8-4) vs. Detroit Martin Luther King (9-3) – 1 p.m. at West Bloomfield – Brother Rice beat King on opening night 28-21 and entered the postseason tied for No. 7 in the state poll with Wyandotte-Roosevelt, which King shut out last week. Lowell and Walled Lake Western aren’t completely unfamiliar either – they faced off on opening night 2010. The Warriors have won their three playoff games by a combined 11 points, and will look to harness a Lowell offense that has scored fewer than 35 only once during October and November.
DIVISION 3: Mount Pleasant (12-0) vs. East Grand Rapids (9-3) – 1 p.m. at Ferris State; Battle Creek Harper Creek (12-0) vs. Orchard Lake St. Mary (10-2) – 1 p.m. at Jackson’s Withington Stadium – Three of the top four in the Associated Press poll plus the reigning state champ making up this field, and the No. 1 Oilers are the next to try to halt EGR’s playoff winning streak (see above), which has included wins over Mount Pleasant three of the last four seasons. Orchard Lake St. Mary also is a regular in this round, coming off three MHSAA runner-up finishes in the last four seasons. Harper Creek's last Semifinal appearance, in 1999, also was against the Eaglets.
DIVISION 4: Comstock Park (10-2) vs. Zeeland West (12-0) – 1 p.m. at Jenison; Grosse Ile (10-2) vs. Marine City (12-0) – 1 p.m. at Birmingham Groves – Top-ranked Marine City and No. 2 Zeeland West are likely heavy favorites against unranked opponents. But like Grosse Ile (see above), Comstock Park is riding high in the underdog role and is in its first Semifinal since 1983.
DIVISION 5: Grand Rapids West Catholic (10-2) vs. Lansing Catholic (12-0) – 1 p.m. at East Kentwood; Almont (11-1) vs. Flint Powers Catholic (8-4) – 1 p.m. at Ortonville Brandon – Last season’s champion West Catholic must now defend against this fall’s top-ranked favorite Lansing Catholic. But the other game has similar intrigue: Almont is No. 4 and knocked off annual giant Jackson Lumen Christi, while Flint Powers knocked off a giant itself on the way here in No. 3 Millington.
DIVISION 6: Iron Mountain (11-0) vs. Ithaca (12-0) – 1 p.m. at Northern Michigan; Constantine (10-2) vs. Ecorse (10-1) – 1 p.m. at Gibraltar-Carlson – Top-ranked Ithaca is headed back to the Superior Dome for the second straight season, and knocked off No. 3 Iron Mountain in the same round, same location on the way to last year’s MHSAA title. Constantine is looking to break through playing in its third straight Semifinal, but faces an Ecorse team that has won 10 games for the first time.
DIVISION 7: Traverse City St. Francis (11-1) vs. Saginaw Nouvel (11-0) – 2:30 p.m. at Central Michigan; Pewamo-Westphalia (12-0) vs. Hudson (12-0) – 1 p.m. at Vicksburg – All four of these teams entered the playoffs ranked among the top six, and St. Francis, Nouvel and Hudson have combined to win an MHSAA championship six straight seasons (Nouvel’s two came in Division 6). P-W has never played in a final – but also has never been 12-0.
DIVISION 8: St. Ignace La Salle (12-0) vs. Fowler (10-2) – 1 p.m. at Traverse City’s Thirlby Field; Mendon (12-0) vs. New Lothrop (12-0) – 1 p.m. at Howell – Mendon has taken down two top-eight teams so far this postseason, but No. 3 New Lothrop might be the toughest still with a defense giving up 3.9 points per game. The winner will take on a rejuvenated power – St. Ignace is playing for its first MHSAA Final berth since 1985, while Fowler is looking to get back to Detroit for the first time since 1998.
(Photo courtesy of Terry McNamara Photography.)
For Their Teams, For Each Other, St. Mary Seniors Team Up 2 More Times
By Tom Spencer
Special for MHSAA.com
March 17, 2023
Shawn Bramer and Dylan Barnowski, as middle schoolers, attended the MHSAA Boys Basketball Finals every year.
Last 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.
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.”
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.
“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.”
“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 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 email@example.com 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.)