A Game for Every Fan: Week 3

September 11, 2014

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Gone is the rain (at least, apparently, for this week). But here comes the storm of league play. 

By the end of this weekend, all but a handful of conferences schedules will be underway.

Some of the best league openers highlight the most significant games in the state this week:

West Michigan

Lowell (2-0) at East Grand Rapids (2-0)

After two uncharacteristic seasons of finishing a combined 9-9, East Grand Rapids looks on the way back up with wins over two teams – Grand Rapids Catholic Central and Ottawa Hills – that finished above .500 in 2013. The Pioneers played another strong Lowell team to within three points just a year ago, and the Red Arrows again look like favorites in the ultra-competitive Ottawa-Kent White after two wins against out-of-state opponents to open this fall.

Others that caught my eye: Grand Rapids West Catholic (2-0) at Ada Forest Hills Eastern (2-0), Muskegon Reeths-Puffer (2-0) at Grand Haven (2-0), Grand Rapids South Christian (0-2) at Hudsonville Unity Christian (2-0), Muskegon Mona Shores (2-0) at Rockford (2-0).


Lansing Sexton (2-0) at Grand Ledge (1-1)

Although the Capital Area Activities Conference Blue looks like a possibility for up to four playoff teams, the league title could be decided tonight. Sexton has continued to build an impressive argument as an MHSAA title favorite with road wins over Detroit East English and Monroe, while Grand Ledge might be the league’s other top contender after a win over Forest Hills Central and then a loss last week to Holland West Ottawa after the Comets led by two scores.

Others that caught my eye: Jackson Lumen Christi (2-0) at Battle Creek Harper Creek (1-1), St. Johns (2-0) at Haslett (1-1), DeWitt (2-0) at Mason (1-1), Lansing Catholic (2-0) at Portland (2-0).

Upper Peninsula

Hurley, Wis. (3-0) at Crystal Falls Forest Park (2-0)

The Great Western Conference is one of only two during football season that includes both MHSAA and Wisconsin teams, and this continues to be the game that ends up deciding the champion. This is the fourth straight season these two have opened the league schedule against each other, with Forest Park coming off two straight victories in the series. The Trojans have a new coach after the retirement of Bill Santilli, one of the most highly-respected in either peninsula, but opened with a pair of wins of at least 27 points apiece.

Others that caught my eye: Iron Mountain (1-1) at Iron River West Iron County (2-0), Felch North Dickinson (2-0) at Munising (1-1), Gladstone (2-0) at Negaunee (2-0), L'Anse (1-1) at Lake Linden-Hubbell (1-1).

Greater Detroit

Oak Park (1-1) at Farmington Hills Harrison (2-0)

Harrison was second and Oak Park tied for third in the Oakland Activities Association White last season, and they’re contenders again if not favorites. They played one of the most exciting games in the entire OAA in 2013, a 60-52 Harrison win after Oak Park edged the Hawks 26-21 in 2012. The Knights enter with the lone loss between the two so far this fall – but it’s a 27-26 defeat to Detroit Cass Tech in arguably the best game of opening weekend.

Others that caught my eye: Warren Mott (2-0) at Macomb Dakota (1-1), New Boston Huron (2-0) at Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central (2-0), Detroit Country Day (1-1) at Detroit Loyola (2-0), Clinton (2-0) at Ottawa Lake Whiteford (2-0).

Southwest and Border

Stevensville Lakeshore (2-0) at Portage Central (1-0) 

Beating Lakeshore 38-28 in Week 4 last season was the biggest early win on Portage Central’s way to its best finish ever – 12-1. The Mustangs are coming off an unexpected off week, as they were not able to reschedule against Battle Creek Lakeview after storms prevented the game Friday night. Lakeshore’s start is anything but a typical 2-0 , as last week’s 35-7 win over Kalamazoo Loy Norrix was preceded by a 2-0 victory by a safety over Battle Creek Central on opening night.

Others that caught my eye: Portage Northern (2-0) at St. Joseph (2-0), Kalamazoo Central (0-2) at Kalamazoo Loy Norrix (0-2), Mendon (2-0) at Watervliet (1-1), Battle Creek Central (1-1) at Battle Creek Lakeview (0-1).

Lower Up North

Traverse City West (1-1) at Traverse City Central (2-0)

These rivals emerged from the former Traverse City High in 1997, and West owns a 12-5 advantage in the series although they have split the last two match-ups. West's 17-14 win in Week 3 last season helped get the Titans into the playoffs and helped keep Central out with the same record. They play to open the Big North Conference season at neutral Thirlby Field, and it should be packed again.

Others that caught my eye:
Cadillac (2-0) at Petoskey (2-0), Traverse City St. Francis (1-1) at Elk Rapids (1-1), Rogers City (2-0) at Lincoln Alcona (2-0), Manton (2-0) at Evart (1-1).

Bay and Thumb

Montrose (2-0) at Lake Fenton (1-1)

Montrose hasn't lost a Genesee Area Conference Red game since Week 3 of 2010. But last week's one-score victory over Corunna made the Rams look at least a little less invincible, and Lake Fenton is sure to try to pounce. The Blue Devils finished second to Montrose the last two seasons and bounced back from a bad opening-night loss to Freeland with a similarly big win over Durand.

Others that caught my eye: Davison (1-1) at Flint Carman-Ainsworth (1-1), Reese (1-1) at Marlette (1-1), Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port (2-0) at Ubly (1-1), Croswell-Lexington (1-1) at Richmond (2-0).


Carsonville-Port Sanilac (0-2) at Deckerville (2-0)

Carsonville-Port Sanilac has never found itself in this position during the short history of 8-player football, or at all since 2008. But a win over rival Deckerville – 4-0 against the Tigers since moving to 8-player in 2012 – would certainly be a jumpstart to CPS's season. Carsonville-Port Sanilac was the inaugural MHSAA 8-player champion in 2011, and Deckerville kept the title in the Thumb by winning in 2012.

Others that caught my eye: Akron-Fairgrove (1-1) at Owendale-Gagetown (2-0), Waldron (2-0) at Portland St. Patrick (2-0).

PHOTO: Midland (blue helmet) is 1-1 after a 31-15 victory last week over Bay City Central. (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.)