A Game for Every Fan: District Finals

November 1, 2012

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Time is running out on the 2012 MHSAA football season.

And that's why it's the favorite time of year for fans all over the state.

The field that began with 272 teams has been cut in half. Seven teams that entered the postseason undefeated suffered their first and only losses last week. And for a number of other contenders, things are about to get much more serious as the matchups get tougher and the first playoff trophies are handed out.

Four games again will be streamed live on FoxSportsDetroit.com's Prep Zone: Constantine at Schoolcraft, Traverse City Central at Midland, Macomb L'Anse Creuse North at Macomb Dakota and Plymouth at Livonia Churchill.

Below are some of the District Finals that could have the most bearing on championship races in each division. Visit the MHSAA Score Center for game times and dates, and all weekend for updated scores and standings.

Division 1

Plymouth (8-2) at Livonia Churchill (10-0)

This is a rematch of the deciding game in the Kensington Lakes Activities Association South, although Livonia Churchill’s 35-31 win came all the way back in Week 3. The Wildcats rebounded nicely off a Week 9 loss to Grand Blanc with a 40-28 win over Canton last week, while the Chargers, with their 10th win, extended their best season in program history.

Others that caught my eye: Holland West Ottawa (8-2) at Rockford (8-2), Utica Eisenhower (8-2) at Lake Orion (9-1), Grand Blanc (6-4) at Clarkston (10-0).

Division 2

Lowell (8-2) at Muskegon (9-1)

When these two met in Week 4, they were considered the top two teams in Division 2. They’re still among the elite despite a few bumps since, but Lowell might have an upward battle to keep its string of three straight MHSAA championship game appearances alive. The reigning Division 2 runner-up fell to the Big Reds 36-21 in that earlier meeting.

Others that caught my eye: Traverse City Central (9-1) at Midland (10-0), Walled Lake Western (7-3) at Mattawan (9-1), Wyandotte Roosevelt (9-1) at Taylor Truman (9-1).

Division 3

Auburn Hills Avondale (9-1) at Orchard Lake St. Mary (8-2)

Avondale has its most wins since 1995 and won the Oakland Activities Association Blue championship before surviving with a two-point rematch win over Bloomfield Hills Lahser last week. The last time these two met turned into one of the wildest games of the 2010 playoffs – a 71-44 Eaglets win in the District Final. Beating St. Mary this time would give Avondale arguably its best playoff victory ever.  

Others that caught my eye: DeWitt (8-2) at Linden (9-1), Zeeland West (7-3) at Grand Rapids Christian (9-1), Detroit East English (8-2) at St. Clair (9-1).

Division 4

Richmond (7-3) at Croswell-Lexington (10-0)

Richmond has come back after two straight losing seasons to return to the playoffs, but has to be smarting a bit after missing out on the Blue Water Conference title by a combined 11 points over three losses. The first was to Croswell-Lexington, 27-24 in Week 2, and the Pioneers have won every game but one since by at least 15 points.

Others that caught my eye: Comstock Park (9-1) at Grand Rapids Catholic Central (10-0), Grand Rapids South Christian (7-3) at Dowagiac (10-0), Detroit Country Day (8-2) at Pontiac Notre Dame Prep (9-1).

Division 5

Frankenmuth (10-0) at Flint Powers Catholic (10-0)

This is the Eagles’ best run since making a Class B Semifinal in 1997 and has included its first league title since 2007. Frankenmuth is outscoring opponents by an average of 34-7. But reigning MHSAA champion Powers has won 18 straight games and has been one of the most impressive teams in the state all season.

Others that caught my eye: Kingsford (9-1) at Menominee (9-1), Grand Rapids West Catholic (7-3) at Muskegon Oakridge (10-0), Lake Fenton (8-2) at Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard (9-1).

Division 6

Millington (9-1) at Montrose (9-1)

Montrose got the scare of its season in the District Semifinal before edging Vassar 7-6. Millington had a much better time last week, cruising to a 66-18 win over Byron, the Cardinals' fourth straight game scoring at least 60 points. That sounds like bad news for the Rams, but consider: Montrose is giving up 14 points per game, and has faced five playoff teams including a pair still alive in Divisions 4 and 5.

Others that caught my eye: Constantine (8-2) at Schoolcraft (10-0), Detroit Consortium (7-3) at Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central (8-2), Hemlock (9-1) at Ithaca (10-0).

Division 7

Saginaw Nouvel (8-2) at Reese (10-0)

The Rockets have a strong football tradition, and this is their fourth season with at least 10 wins over the last 13. But beating the reigning MHSAA champion would add another degree of credibility to an already impressive run. The Panthers played teams from all over the Lower Peninsula again this fall, with their only losses to Flint Powers and Traverse City St. Francis.

Others that caught my eye: Mancelona (10-0) at Ishpeming (9-1), Decatur (8-2) at Lawton (9-1), Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett (8-2) at Detroit Loyola (10-0).

Division 8

Climax-Scotts (10-0) at Mendon (10-0)

This might be the most anticipated game in the state this weekend. Mendon has been untouchable the last two seasons and is riding a 24-game winning streak. There were two close calls over the last three weeks, and Climax-Scotts is built to provide another. This is the Panthers’ fourth straight season with at least 10 wins, and their ninth over the last decade. But Mendon beat Climax-Scotts 35-10 in last season’s Regional Final.

Others that caught my eye: Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart (9-1) at Beal City (10-0), Muskegon Catholic Central (7-3) at Fowler (9-1), Harbor Beach (9-1) at New Lothrop (10-0).


Rapid River (9-1) at Cedarville (10-0)

Cedarville entered the postseason with the highest playoff point average in this division, and this game will be a big step regardless of what happened the first time these teams met this fall. Rapid River finished runner-up in last season’s inaugural Final, and should give the Trojans a much better game than the Cedarville's 72-12 win on Sept. 28.

Other Regional Finals: Owendale-Gagetown (8-2) at Bellaire (7-3), Kinde-North Huron (6-4) at Deckerville (9-1), Battle Creek St. Philip (7-3) at Portland St. Patrick (10-0).

PHOTO: Montrose survived a tough challenge from Vassar to win last week's District Semifinal, 7-6. (Click to see more from HighSchoolSportsScene.com).

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.)