A Game for Every Fan: Week 1

August 28, 2014

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

It’s a lot like birds knowing to fly north in the spring.

If you’ve played, coached, parented or followed high school football, you’re likely having a hard time not jumping out of your shoes in anticipation of opening night.

So let’s get right to it; below are some of the most intriguing matchups from this first weekend of the MHSAA football season. More than 250 of the total 310-plus games will be played tonight, with 50 more Friday and a handful Saturday.

Tune in to MHSAA.com’s Score Center all weekend for game times, scores as we get them, standings for those starting league play immediately and all the playoff-point equating that will start to matter to most as we get rolling into the season’s second half. (Records below are from 2013. Games are organized based on the region of Michigan where they'll be played.)

West Michigan

Detroit Catholic Central (11-3) at Muskegon (12-2), Friday

This is set up to be arguably the most high-octane opener in Michigan in some time. DCC is back-to-back-to-back Division 1 runner-up, while Muskegon has finished runner-up in Division 2 the last two seasons. Granted, rosters turn over – but Joeviar Kennedy was Muskegon’s leading receiver in last season’s championship game and Alezay Coleman its leading tackler, and both are back. So are Alex Bock and Jordan Jenkins, two of the most noticeable Shamrocks during their run to Ford Field.

Others that caught my eye: Detroit Country Day (8-4) at Zeeland West (13-1), Grand Rapids South Christian (12-2) at Grand Rapids Christian (8-3) on Friday, Grand Rapids West Catholic (10-4) at Muskegon Oakridge (11-2) on Friday, Grand Rapids Catholic Central (6-4) at East Grand Rapids (5-4).

Greater Detroit

Lansing Sexton (12-1) vs. Detroit East English (9-3), Saturday at Wayne State

Many of the best from Detroit will be playing at Wayne State University over the next three days (see a few more big-time contests listed below), but this one carries the most intrigue because it features one of the best from the city against a Sexton team that missed making last season’s Division 4 Final by a touchdown. The Big Reds have all of their playmakers and much of their outstanding defense back; East English is keyed by run/pass dynamo Anton Curtis, one of the state’s most exciting quarterbacks.

Others that caught my eye: Macomb Dakota (11-1) at Clarkston (13-1), Pewamo-Westphalia (10-2) at Madison Heights Madison (11-1), Detroit Cass Tech (12-1) vs. Oak Park (6-5) on Friday at Wayne State, Southfield (7-3) vs. Orchard Lake St. Mary's (5-4) on Friday at Wayne State.

Bay and Thumb

Saginaw Swan Valley (11-1) at Saginaw Nouvel (9-2)

A nail-biting 27-20 win for Swan Valley in this opener last season kicked off a run to the Regional Finals and the team’s best season in the last eight. Senior running back Alex Grace returns from the most potent offense in school history and arguably is the most potent runner in MHSAA history with more than 5,000 yards in his career and nearly 3,000 last season alone. Nouvel’s lineup will include more new names – but the Panthers rattled off nine straight wins after the 2013 opening loss and will be prepared to get the streak started a week earlier this time.

Others that caught my eye: Flint Carman-Ainsworth (11-2) at Grand Blanc (7-3), Freeland (6-4) at Lake Fenton (8-3), Montrose (12-1) at Reese (8-2), Mount Pleasant (10-2) at Midland Dow (8-3).


Ithaca (14-0) at Clare (7-3), Friday

The Yellowjackets’ 56-game winning streak stretches over four seasons and is the longest of any in MHSAA history achieved entirely during the playoff era. But Clare – the Jack Pine Conference champion for seven years running – should be Ithaca’s toughest regular-season test of at least the last two or three. Ithaca star quarterback Travis Smith is graduated and gone to Wake Forest University, but younger brother Jake Smith has been similarly anticipated and takes over the offense to start his junior year.

Others that caught my eye: Manchester (7-3) at Clinton (13-1), St. Johns (5-4) at East Lansing (4-5), Jackson Northwest (5-4) at Eaton Rapids (7-5), South Lyon (6-4) at Pinckney (7-4).

Lower Up North

New Lothrop (11-1) at Traverse City St. Francis (5-5), Friday

This is the second chapter of a series started a year ago that allows both to start out against a tough opponent before jumping into league play against more familiar foes. New Lothrop won last season’s matchup and went on to make the Division 8 Semifinals for the second time in three seasons. St. Francis hasn’t had two straight middling seasons like this since 2000-01 (it also finished 4-5 in 2012). But the Gladiators are back in a league for the first time since 2011 and should be able to add on last season’s return to the playoffs.

Others that caught my eye: Midland (10-2) at Traverse City West (5-5), Cadillac (11-1) at Big Rapids (3-6), Kingsley (6-4) at McBain (5-5), Marquette (5-4) at Traverse City Central (5-4).

Upper Peninsula

Munising (6-4) at Iron River West Iron County (10-1), Friday

These two did some celebrating in 2013. West Iron tied its school record for wins, while Munising bounced back from 2-7 in 2012 to make the playoffs for the second time in three seasons – and also for only the second time since 1990. Both should be looking for more this fall; West Iron’s lone loss came in the playoffs to eventual Division 7 champion Ishpeming, while Munising – after falling to West Iron 7-0 in last season’s opener – then lost its next two games by a combined six points before rattling off six straight wins.

Others that caught my eye: Houghton (6-4) at L'Anse (8-3), Ishpeming (14-0) at Iron Mountain (4-5), Petoskey (5-4) at Sault Ste. Marie (7-4) on Friday, Posen (4-6) at Cedarville (8-2).

Southwest and Border

Dowagiac (7-4) at Plainwell (8-2)

Dowagiac was cruising along on a 17-game regular-season winning streak when Plainwell broke it last fall with a 10-0 win on the way to a third straight playoff berth. These two haven’t played in the same division of the Wolverine B since 2011, but the rivalry continues to run hot now that both are division favorites on an annual basis.

Others that caught my eye: Watervliet (10-1) at Gobles (5-4), Parchment (7-4) at Schoolcraft (10-2), Edwardsburg (9-1) at Three Rivers (5-4), Portage Central (12-1) at Mattawan (4-5).

PHOTO: Lansing Sexton, practicing earlier this month, fell just a touchdown shy last season of reaching its first MHSAA Final.

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.)