Fugate Carries CC On 1 More Trophy Run

By Paul Costanzo
Special for MHSAA.com

November 24, 2017

DETROIT – As classmates and fans screamed his name from the Ford Field stands Friday night, Nolan Fugate put the focus on his teammates.

“I cannot thank my offensive line and my outside receivers enough,” the Grand Rapids Catholic Central senior running back said. “Without them none of this would be possible, and I just can’t thank them enough. They’re the best offensive line in the state.”

That line paved the way for Fugate, who gained 306 yards on the ground and tied an MHSAA Finals record with five total touchdowns as the Cougars defeated Edwardsburg 42-31 in the Division 4 championship game.

It was the second straight title for Catholic Central (14-0), and the program’s fourth overall. Coach Todd Kolster has led the Cougars to three of them (2010, 2016 and 2017).

“It has nothing to do with me,” Kolster said. “I’m the beneficiary of being the head coach for three of these, but it’s the kids that do all the work. They’re outstanding. This senior class, I love them so much. I’ve been so critical of them, and I say that all the time, because I came back here to Catholic Central with that class when they were freshmen and now they’re seniors. It’s really special to see these guys enjoy this, because they’ve earned every bit of it.”

This year’s title game was in stark contrast to last season’s when the Cougars eked out a 10-7 victory in a defensive struggle against Detroit Country Day. Big plays from both offenses highlighted Friday night’s game as Catholic Central had to battle to hold off a relentless Edwardsburg team down the stretch.

“They all mean the same,” Kolster said. “They all come in the right column, so we’ll take it.”

Seven of the game’s scoring plays were 20 yards or longer, including an MHSAA Finals record-tying 99-yard kick return touchdown by Edwardsburg’s Caden Goggins, and a MHSAA Finals record-tying 90-yard touchdown run by his teammate Nick Bradley.

On the night, the Eddies (12-2) averaged 9.7 yards per play and 10.8 yards per carry, while Catholic Central averaged 7.7 yards per play in managing to outgain Edwardsburg 448-369.

“Our defense, they played well -- we gave up a couple big plays, and Edwardsburg is a heck of a football team,” Kolster said. “We gave up three (big) kickoff returns and three big plays, but we handled them pretty well. That’s what they do, and that’s why they’re so good. That’s why they’re here, because they just keep at it, they keep at it and they’ll pop one, and they have confidence in that. But we have confidence in our guys.”

The Cougars’ defense did stiffen when it absolutely had to, as sophomore Ethan Lott came up with a tackle for loss on a 4th-and-1 play late in the fourth quarter to all but seal the game.

“Our guys did a great job on that 4th-and-1; it’s just a matter of reading their keys,” Kolster said. “I’m really proud of them.”

The game was absolutely put away when Fugate went 58 yards on a 3rd-and-10 in the final minute, barely getting tripped up at the Edwardsburg 10. It was another in a long line of huge plays for Fugate, who had touchdown runs of one, five, 54 and 32 yards, as well as a 20-yard touchdown reception from Jack Bowen.

Fugate also had 86 yards receiving and came down with a 38-yard catch along the sideline on a crucial 3rd-and-28 play midway through the fourth quarter with his team clinging to a 35-31 lead.

“The long third down, I saw (Bowen) leave the pocket and I was running my route and knew I had to get open,” Fugate said. “I just kind of boxed my guy out and said throw the ball, and I just did my best to make a play on the ball, and I was able to come down with it.”

The game put Fugate over 2,900 yards rushing for the season, and capped off a brilliant career that saw him set the school’s all-time career rushing record.

“Fugate is obviously a terrific runner,” Edwardsburg coach Kevin Bartz said. “I thought he ran as hard as I’ve ever seen him. We watched a good portion of film on him, and we knew he was fast, but I guess what I was more impressed with today is how hard he ran. He picked up lots of extra yards after contact. He’s an impressive athlete.”

Bartz was equally impressed with his team, which was playing in the title game for the first time and kept finding ways to hang around despite trailing by 16 midway through the third quarter.

On top of the record-tying touchdowns, the Eddies had scoring runs of 55 and 78 yards from Kyle Shrider, and 64 yards from Chase Sager. Shrider finished with 162 yards rushing, while Bradley had 96 and Sager had 73.

“Just to make it to this point, this was a team that was not expected to be here,” Bartz said. “With the number of kids we lost last year, we were kind of expected, I think, by most to be average at best. For them to come out here and perform against a top-level team like Grand Rapids CC, I’m extremely proud of these kids. They’ve now set the bar pretty high for everybody else at Edwardsburg.”

Bowen finished with 128 yards passing for the Cougars, while Erik Grabow had a 14-yard touchdown run.

Click for the full box score.

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

PHOTOS: (Top) Grand Rapids Catholic Central players raise the winner's trophy after Friday night’s Division 4 championship game. (Middle) Edwardsburg’s Kyle Shrider pulls away from a Cougars defender.

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.

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 tomspencer@chartermi.net 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.)