A Game for Every Fan: Regional Finals

November 15, 2013

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

It’s both notable, yet logical, that 25 undefeated teams remain among the 68 still alive in the MHSAA football playoffs heading into this weekend.

At this point in the season, the best teams rise to the top. But maintaining perfection over 11 weeks is something worth celebrating regardless – even as at least three of those teams are guaranteed to fall this weekend.

Three of 32 11-player Regional Finals will feature matchups of undefeateds this weekend. Both 8-player Semifinals also feature one team that hasn't lost.

A total of 13 games will be played tonight, with the other 21 – including both 8-player games – kicking off Saturday. See below for all 34 matchups, plus a little extra on the headliner from each 11-player division and both 8-Player semis. 

Remember to follow all of the action again on MHSAA Score Center. And check out our four games live on Fox Sports Detroit’s Prep Zone: Battle Creek Pennfield at Grand Rapids South Christian, Saginaw Swan Valley at Lansing Sexton, Melvindale at St. Clair and St. Ignace at Beal City. 

Division 1

Macomb Dakota (11-0) at Detroit Cass Tech (11-0)

Cass Tech has won three games by 10 or fewer points, and might need to draw on that experience again in this Regional Final. Dakota’s success coming out of the solid Macomb Area Conference Red mirrors that of the Technicians, even as its stars are a little less known statewide. Cass Tech has won the last two Division 1 titles, and that know-how no doubt will come in handy in this titanic clash. 

Other Regional Finals: Hudsonville (8-3) at Flint Carman-Ainsworth (10-1), Rochester Adams (8-3) at Clarkston (10-1), Detroit Catholic Central (9-2) at Temperance Bedford (11-0).

Division 2

Detroit Martin Luther King (9-1) at Wyandotte Roosevelt (11-0)

This is Roosevelt’s third straight Regional Final and it is playing for a second straight Semifinal berth against a team that lost only to Cass Tech this fall. The difference this time might be the Bears’ offense, which is averaging 45 points per game and already has scored 100 more than in any season of its modern history. They’ll need to light up the board to keep up with King playmakers Jalen Embry and Avonte Maddox, who both will play at high-major schools at the college level.

Other Regional Finals: Midland (10-1) at Muskegon (10-1), Farmington Hills Harrison (10-1) at Portage Central (11-0), Detroit U-D Jesuit (7-4) at Birmingham Brother Rice (11-0).

Division 3

Zeeland West (10-1) at Mount Pleasant (10-1)

This has the feel of a Semifinal, with these two having survived wild runs already to get to this point. West avenged a Week 2 loss to Zeeland East to start the playoffs and then eliminated reigning champion Grand Rapids Christian last week – after closing the regular season with a 36-13 win over Byron Center, a possible opponent next week. Mount Pleasant bounced back this fall after finishing Division 3 runner-up in 2011 and then falling to 2-7 a year ago. The Oilers’ only loss was on opening night to DeWitt, which has emerged as the favorite in this division.

Other Regional Finals: Byron Center (8-3) at Stevensville Lakeshore (8-3), Eaton Rapids (7-4) at DeWitt (11-0), Melvindale (9-2) at St. Clair (10-1).

Division 4

Saginaw Swan Valley (11-0) at Lansing Sexton (11-0)

This game could be over in less than two hours with the way these two run the ball. Swan Valley junior Alex Grace is approaching the MHSAA single-season rushing record of 2,890 yards after also topping 2,000 last season. Sexton, meanwhile, hasn't scored fewer than 32 points since September and blends a strong inside running game with plenty of speed on the perimeter.

Other Regional Finals: Cadillac (11-0) at Comstock Park (11-0), Battle Creek Pennfield (10-1), at Grand Rapids South Christian (10-1), Detroit Country Day (8-3) at Marine City (10-1).

Division 5

Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central (10-1) at Livonia Clarenceville (11-0)

The last time Clarenceville made this kind of run was in 2001, when superstar Tim Shaw was finishing off a record-setting effort that would take him to Penn State and then the NFL. The Trojans have been rolling since opening this fall with three wins by seven or fewer points during the season’s first five weeks, although they had to survive a tough test in the District Final against Detroit University Prep. This is usual territory for St. Mary, which has won 10 games for the fifth time in six seasons and is playing for its second straight Semifinal berth.

Other Regional Finals: Standish-Sterling (9-1) at Menominee (11-0), Millington (9-2) at Muskegon Oakridge (10-1), Grand Rapids West Catholic (7-4) at Olivet (10-1).

Division 6

Madison Heights Madison (11-0) at Montrose (11-0)

Since the brackets came out four weeks ago, this has been seen as the likely matchup to decide which team might have the best chance to end Ithaca’s national-best winning streak (53 games). Coming off four straight shutouts, Madison barely survived last week against Flint Beecher, which plays in Montrose’s league and lost to the Rams by 16 in their matchup this fall. Montrose has crushed two strong opponents – Reese and Saginaw Nouvel – to start the playoffs and no doubt would love to see the Yellowjackets again after falling to them in the playoffs the last three years.

Other Regional Finals: Negaunee (10-1) at Ithaca (11-0), Schoolcraft (10-1) at Shelby (10-1), Constantine (7-4) at Clinton (11-0).

Division 7

Pewamo-Westphalia (10-1) at Harbor Beach (10-1)

Keyed by veteran quarterback Eli Kraft and a sturdy defense, Harbor Beach has made a nice jump into Division 7 after winning Division 8 in 2012. But Pewamo-Westphalia likely will be Harbor Beach’s strongest test to this point. P-W had to come back at the end last week to beat Carson City-Crystal but also beat a league champion the week before in Saugatuck.

Other Regional Finals: Lake City (10-1) at Ishpeming (11-0), Decatur (8-3) at Homer (10-1), Southfield Christian (10-1) at Detroit Loyola (11-0).

Division 8

Muskegon Catholic Central (9-2) at Mendon (11-0)

These southwestern powers are plenty familiar with each other – this will be their third straight playoff meeting and fifth in seven seasons. Muskegon Catholic hasn't lost since Week 2, also the last time it scored fewer than 40 points or gave up more than 16. Mendon is riding double figure wins for the seventh straight season with a combined score of 526-19 against its 11 opponents. That defensive effort is headed toward going down as one of the best in Michigan history.

Other Regional Finals: Felch North Dickinson (8-2) at Crystal Falls Forest Park (11-0), St. Ignace (9-2) at Beal City (11-0), Ottawa Lake Whiteford (9-2) at New Lothrop (11-0).

8-Player (Semifinals)

Kinde-North Huron (8-3) at Rapid River (11-0)

Rapid River has become an 8-player power, going 31-5 since making the switch three seasons ago. The Rockets are keyed by quarterback Jake Pearson, who has run for 2,166 yards and 39 touchdowns and throw for 963 yards and 13 more scores. North Huron is a great story as well; the Warriors were 0-9 in 2011 before improving to 6-5 last fall and then adding two more wins this season.

Lawrence (8-2) at Peck (11-0)

Peck rivals Rapid River as the most dominant team in 8-player this season, with all but two games decided by 20 points or more despite a schedule that included two matchups each against the first two 8-player MHSAA champions – Carsonville-Port Sanilac and Deckerville. The Pirates did beat Lawrence 61-38 all the way back in Week 4 – but the Tigers are primed to avenge. Last week they beat Battle Creek St. Philip after falling to St. Phil only two weeks prior.

PHOTO: Mount Pleasant (blue jerseys) ran away from Sault Ste. Marie 42-27 last week to earn this weekend’s matchup against Zeeland West. (Click to see more from High School Sports Scene.)

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.)