A Game for Every Fan - District Openers

October 25, 2012

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

What started as more than 600 MHSAA football teams is down to a mere 272.

And eight are no doubt enjoying a whirlwind this week they've never experienced before.

Detroit Consortium, Detroit East English, Grand Rapids Northview, Mayville, Saginaw Valley Lutheran, South Lyon East, Swartz Creek and Walled Lake Northern will make their first playoff appearances this weekend. Only East English can claim to know what that's like, with the first-year school made up mostly of students who formerly attended now-closed Detroit Crockett and Finney.

In case you're wondering, that leaves 30 schools that have never made the MHSAA playoffs. But this week is about those still alive -- and 136 games that will be played all over the state.

See below for a few of the most intriguing matchups from each division. Visit the MHSAA Score Center all weekend for updated scores and standings, and if you're not attending a game tonight, make sure to check in at FoxSportsDetroit.com for one of four live-streamed contests: Lapeer West at DeWitt, Farmington Hills Harrison at Fenton, Leslie at Portland and Howell at Walled Lake Northern.

Division 1

Detroit Catholic Central (5-4) at Hartland (8-1)

To no one’s surprise, reigning MHSAA runner-up Detroit Catholic Central made the playoffs at 5-4, thanks to its tough schedule and high playoff point average. The Shamrocks have reached the postseason 16 of the last 18 seasons. Hartland is back for the third time in five – and coming off a league title, can also tie its school record for wins set in 2008.

Others that caught my eye: Grand Ledge (7-2) at Holland West Ottawa (7-2), Livonia Stevenson (6-3) at Livonia Churchill (9-0), Canton (6-3) at Plymouth (7-2), Dearborn (6-3) at Dearborn Fordson (7-2).

Division 2

Birmingham Brother Rice (7-2) at Port Huron (7-2)

The reigning MHSAA runner-up in this division, Brother Rice didn’t make last week’s Catholic League Prep Bowl but has been considered among the state’s handful of elite teams since the first week of practice. Port Huron hasn’t gotten nearly the same hype, but won two playoff games last season and is led by quarterback Mark Chapman – who has committed to sign with Central Michigan this winter.

Others that caught my eye: Wyandotte Roosevelt (8-1) at Brownstown Woodhaven (8-1), Detroit Martin Luther King (6-3) at Southfield (6-3), Portage Central (6-3) at Portage Northern (7-2), Grand Rapids Northview (7-2) at Lowell (7-2).

Division 3

Zeeland West (6-3) at Zeeland East (9-0)

It’s hard to believe it’s been two months since these two squared off for what ended up a 60-52 East win. The Chix have continued to rise, and now look like the favorite in Division 3 after downing Muskegon by a point last week. But West – last season’s Division 4 champion – knows a few things about winning in the playoffs, and would love nothing better than to end its rival’s season abruptly.

Others that caught my eye: Carleton Airport (6-3) at Milan (9-0), Marysville (6-3) at Detroit East English (7-2), Charlotte (6-3) at Battle Creek Harper Creek (7-2), Fruitport (8-1) at Grand Rapids Christian (8-1).

Division 4

Williamston (6-3) at Marshall (6-3), Saturday

It hasn’t been long enough for Williamston supporters to forget the 2009 District Final between these two, a 27-26 Marshall win after which the Redhawks went on to win the Division 4 championship. The Hornets advanced to the Final the next season before falling by four to Grand Rapids Catholic Central. Both won to set up this week’s opportunity – the Redhawks their last two games and Williamston its last three.

Others that caught my eye: Otsego (6-3) at Dowagiac (9-0), Comstock Park (8-1) at Allendale (8-1), Saginaw Valley Lutheran (6-3) at Saginaw Swan Valley (7-2), Richmond (6-3) at Marine City (8-1).

Division 5

Leslie (8-1) at Portland (8-1)

Both have become staples of the postseason – Leslie is in the playoffs for the ninth time in 13 seasons and Portland for the 10th straight. The difference for the Blackhawks is those previous appearances, including a run to Ford Field in 2008, came in Division 6. Portland is arguably more used to this level of competition – and has wins over Division 3 playoff teams Owosso, DeWitt and Charlotte this fall.

Others that caught my eye: Lake Fenton (7-2) at Jackson Lumen Christi (8-1), Buchanan (7-2) at Muskegon Oakridge (9-0), Grand Rapids West Catholic (6-3) at Hopkins (9-0), Carrollton (8-1) at Frankenmuth (9-0).

Division 6

Detroit Consortium (6-3) at Madison Heights Madison (8-1)

In its fourth season, Consortium earned its first winning record and first playoff berth. The Cougars earned the opportunity to face Madison, a playoff veteran with eight straight appearances and four straight seasons with at least eight wins. The Eagles built their record against a number of much larger schools, with their only loss by three to Warren Fitzgerald way back on Aug. 31.

Others that caught my eye: Maple City Glen Lake (8-1) at Boyne City (8-1), Montague (8-1) at Hemlock (8-1), Constantine (7-2) at Watervliet (8-1), Michigan Center (8-1) at Grass Lake (8-1).

Division 7

Royal Oak Shrine (5-4) vs. Detroit Loyola (9-0), Saturday at U-D Jesuit

It’s easy to predict Loyola will finish this season with a championship after advancing to the Regional round in 2011 and running all over everyone but Catholic League rival Waterford Our Lady this fall (the Bulldogs beat the Lakers by only 10). Shrine lost to Loyola 51-20 just two weeks ago – but the Knights closed with a shutout of playoff qualifier Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett and could make this rematch much closer.

Others that caught my eye: Union City (6-3) at Pewamo-Westphalia (6-3), Bridgman (6-3) at Lawton (8-1), Dansville (7-2) at Ottawa Lake Whiteford (8-1), Flint Hamady (6-3) at Burton Bendle (7-2).

Division 8

St. Joseph Lake Michigan Catholic (7-1) at Climax-Scotts (9-0)

A win would give Climax-Scotts its fourth straight 10-win season and ninth over the last decade – and only Bellevue got within 20 points of the Panthers during the regular season. But Lake Michigan Catholic quietly has made the playoffs three straight years, and actually has eight wins this fall – it beat rival Michigan Lutheran in an 8-player game that did not count toward its 11-player playoff point average.

Others that caught my eye: Bessemer (6-2) at Felch North Dickinson (8-0), Pittsford (7-2) at Waterford Our Lady (7-2), Stephenson (7-2) at Pickford (7-2), Crystal Falls Forest Park (7-2) at L’Anse (7-2).


Akron-Fairgrove (7-2) at Owendale-Gagetown (7-2)

These two have been rivals going back to nearly their beginnings on the football field and long before they became 8-player programs in 2009. Both play in the Mid-Michigan 8-Man League, and this is the third time they’ll play each other this season. And there’s some intrigue in that – Owendale-Gagetown won the first game, but Akron-Fairgrove won the second, which counted toward the league standings and eventually gave the Vikings the championship.

Others that caught my eye: Waldron (6-3) at Battle Creek St. Philip (6-3), Eben Junction Superior Central (6-2) at Rapid River (7-2).

PHOTO: Saginaw Valley Lutheran quarterback Logan Gatza drops back to pass against Ithaca on Sept. 7. (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.)