A Game for Every Fan: Week 1 Preview

August 26, 2015

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

The first weekend of high school football season always is filled with new beginnings. But that doesn't mean that all making fresh starts are completely unfamiliar. 

A pair of grand old stadiums will have new looks. Thousands of fans are expected to file into Flint’s Atwood Stadium on Thursday and Mount Pleasant’s Community Stadium on Friday for the first games after both received major renovations this offseason. 

And plenty of stars from last season are back for another go. Thousands more will likely pour into Wayne State University on Saturday for the Prep Kickoff Classic to watch six of the Detroit area's annual MHSAA Finals contenders, and top teams from all over the state are facing off against each other to get 2015 underway. 

There are no shortage of games to watch, no matter where you call home. Below is a look at games that stand out from each of eight regions across the state, plus from our group of 8-player matchups. All are Friday unless noted. Records listed are from 2014. 

And make sure to follow results as they come in on the MHSAA Score Center, and come back to Second Half later Monday for our round up of the most significant results from the first week. 

Bay & Thumb

Marysville (7-4) at Richmond (10-2) (Thurs.)

Richmond advanced to the Division 4 Regional Finals last season with its first double-digit win season since 2003 and thanks to two over Marysville – 47-0 on opening night and 48-6 in the District Final. But the Vikings quietly have earned six playoff berths in seven seasons and might have an opening for revenge this week with an experienced lineup taking on a Richmond team filled with new starters.

Others that caught my eye: Saginaw Nouvel (4-5) at New Lothrop (11-1) (Thurs.), Millington (9-2) at Vassar (5-4) (Thurs.), Davison (4-5) at Fenton (9-1) (Thurs.), Grand Blanc (5-4) at Flint Carman-Ainsworth (8-3).

Greater Detroit

Warren DeLaSalle (11-3) vs. Detroit Martin Luther King (8-2) at Wayne State (Sat.)

The reigning Division 2 champion, DeLaSalle, takes on a favorite this season in King. The Crusaders are keyed by some of the state’s most impressive offensive players in receiver Donnie Corley and running back Martell Pettaway, while the Pilots will attempt to slow them returning important cogs back from a defense that gave up only 12.8 points per game last fall.  

Others that caught my eye: Clarkston (14-0) at Macomb Dakota (8-3) (Thurs.), East Kentwood (11-2) at Farmington Hills Harrison (10-3), Muskegon (12-2) at Detroit Catholic Central (4-5), Southfield (9-4) vs Detroit Cass Tech (12-1) at Wayne State (Sat.).


Beal City (10-3) at Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart (5-5)

These nonconference rivals have opened with against other all but two seasons going back to 1991, and this weekend will do so to debut the renovated Community Stadium. The Aggies are coming off another long playoff run, just missing a third straight trip to the MHSAA Finals with a three-point loss in the Semifinal. Sacred Heart hasn’t made the Finals since 2010, but is riding 10 playoff appearances over 11 seasons and looking to avenge some heavy losses to Beal City as of late.

Others that caught my eye: Clare (8-3) at Ithaca (13-1) (Thurs.), Mason (8-4) at Okemos (6-4) (Thurs.), Madison Heights Madison (9-3) at Pewamo-Westphalia (10-3) (Thurs.), Midland Dow (10-1) at Mount Pleasant (7-4).

Northern Lower Peninsula

Mendon (10-2) at Boyne City (12-1) (Thurs.)

Boyne City is following up tying its best record ever and falling by only four in last season’s Division 6 Semifinals by taking on perennial power Mendon in what should be one of the state’s best games outside Detroit this weekend. The Hornets have won at least 10 games eight straight seasons and in 11 of the last 12. Boyne City has made the playoffs 10 of the last 12 seasons and set a school record scoring 500 points in 2014.

Others that caught my eye: Reed City (9-3) at Baldwin (10-2), Marquette (7-3) at Traverse City St. Francis (9-3), Johannesburg-Lewiston (9-2) at Mancelona (6-4), Sault Ste. Marie (5-4) at Petoskey (9-3).

Southeast & Border

Rockford (8-3) at Saline (12-2)

Expectations are high after Saline made the MHSAA Finals last season for the first time, falling to Clarkston 33-25 in the Division 1 championship game. Quarterback Joshua Jackson is among returnees and is considered one of the state’s most dynamic at his position. But teams learned long ago they can’t look past Rockford – and that’s hardly made a difference as the Rams haven’t missed the playoffs since 1994 and went 8-3 last season despite being outscored for the season.

Others that caught my eye: Grand Rapids Northview (6-4) at Chelsea (9-3) (Thurs.), Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central (13-1) at Tecumseh (5-5) (Thurs.), Pittsford (7-3) at Morenci (10-2), Clinton (10-1) at Manchester (8-2).

Southwest Corridor

Portage Northern (7-4) at Battle Creek Lakeview (9-2) (Thurs.)

These two are facing off on opening night for the second straight year and after three games of significance over the last two seasons. Although Portage Northern beat Lakeview 28-24 in last season’s opener, Lakeview beat the Huskies in their Division 2 District Final 21-0 after eliminating Northern in the first round in 2013, 31-7. Lakeview didn’t lose again after last season’s opener until falling in the Regional Final.

Others that caught my eye: Plainwell (8-2) at Three Rivers (6-4) (Thurs.), Caledonia (7-3) at Battle Creek Harper Creek (6-5), Stevensville Lakeshore (8-3) at Battle Creek Central (5-4), Mattawan (6-4) at Portage Central (7-2)

Upper Peninsula

Iron River West Iron County (9-2) at Munising (12-2)

Munising made last season’s Division 8 Final and pulled off its best finish since 1980 led by a handful of elite seniors whose only other loss last fall came on opening night – 28-6 to Iron River West Iron County. The combination of both should give these Mustangs plenty of motivation against a Wykons team that has won 19 of its last 20 regular-season games.

Others that caught my eye: Crystal Falls Forest Park (9-2) at Bark River-Harris (8-3), Iron Mountain (6-4) at Ishpeming (12-1), Central Lake (6-5) at St. Ignace (10-1), Marinette (3-6) (Wis.) at Menominee (12-1) (Sat.).

West Michigan

Jackson Lumen Christi (11-1) at Grand Rapids West Catholic (14-0)

Few teams in Michigan are replacing superstars on the level of graduated Lumen Christi running back Khari Willis and West Catholic quarterback Travis Russell. But both teams have been down this road before. West Catholic is the two-time reigning Division 5 champion and has 10 or more wins in six straight seasons;  Lumen, while coming off its most wins since 2009, has made the playoffs 17 straight times.  

Others that caught my eye: Grand Rapids Catholic Central (6-4) at East Grand Rapids (6-4) (Thurs.), Walled Lake Western (9-2) at Lowell (10-2) (Thurs.), Muskegon Catholic Central (14-0) at Muskegon Oakridge (8-2), Grand Rapids Christian (6-5) at Grand Rapids South Christian (12-2)


Kingston (7-4) at Deckerville (9-3)

A couple pockets of 8-player dominance have cropped up over the first few seasons of the sport, and these are two of the best and most consistent programs coming from Michigan’s thumb. Deckerville won the MHSAA title in 2012 and made the Semifinals last season after sweeping Kingston 14-8 in Week 2 but then 72-22 in the Regional Final. They play twice this season during the regular season alone; this one doesn’t count in the North Central Thumb 8-Man League standings, but the rematch comes in Week 4.

Others that caught my eye: Owendale-Gagetown (8-2) at New Haven Merritt (6-4) (Thurs.), Rapid River (10-1) at Onaway (4-5).

PHOTO: Saline quarterback Joshua Jackson prepares to hand off during last season’s Division 1 Final against Clarkston. Both teams’ returns to the field this weekend are among the most highly-anticipated in Michigan. 

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.)