A Game for Every Fan: Week 4

September 18, 2014

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

How much does each game of the MHSAA football season count?

It’s only Week 4. But on one hand, 108 teams enter this weekend winless and one more loss from missing their chance at automatic playoff qualification. On the other hand, the elite already are beginning to separate – with six of our eight featured matchups pitting a pair of 3-0 teams.

That said, each of the last five weeks of the regular season matter just as much as well – little is decided before the midpoint. But the following should help set the paths for many as we reach halfway next week. 

West Michigan

Rockford (3-0) at Hudsonville (3-0)

From 2003-08, this was one of the best matchups in the entire Ottawa-Kent Conference and on more than one occasion THE game in West Michigan for that particular season – all six were decided by eight or fewer points, with Hudsonville claiming a 4-2 advantage. Rockford has won the last four meetings, all by multiple scores – but this one has the feel of another potential classic.

Others that caught my eye: Grand Haven (3-0) at Holland West Ottawa (2-1), Whitehall (3-0) at Mason County Central (2-1), Caledonia (2-1) at Muskegon Mona Shores (2-1), Muskegon Catholic Central (3-0) at Spring Lake (2-1).

Greater Detroit

Plymouth (3-0) at Livonia Churchill (3-0)

This pair of Kensington Lakes Activities Association South foes has played a pair of classics over the last two seasons – Plymouth winning 23-22 last season and Churchill claiming a 35-31 victory in 2012. Churchill is surging again after winning two games last season, beating returning playoff teams Brighton and Westland John Glenn over the last two weeks. Plymouth also missed the playoffs last season but owns an impressive three-point win over Pinckney.

Others that caught my eye: Birmingham Brother Rice (3-0) at Warren DeLaSalle (3-0), Detroit Cody (2-1) at Detroit Martin Luther King (3-0) on Saturday, Warren Michigan Collegiate (3-0) vs. Detroit University Prep (3-0) on Saturday at Detroit Osborn, Lake Orion (2-1) at Oxford (3-0).


Coldwater (3-0) at Parma Western (2-1)

This matchup is overflowing with storylines. Parma Western has had two winning seasons over its last 24 and few games of consequence over that time – but has blown into 2014 with two early wins including over Battle Creek Pennfield, and the Panthers barely fell to Marshall last week, 45-44. Parma Wester also has never made the MHSAA playoffs, even starting 5-1 in 2009 before finishing 5-4. Enter this week’s opponent, Coldwater, coming off its first playoff berth ever last season and outscoring its first three 2014 opponents – including Pennfield and Marshall as well – by a combined 97-6.

Others that caught my eye: Mason (1-2) at St. Johns (3-0), Eaton Rapids (2-1) at Williamston (3-0), Portland (2-1) at Ionia (2-1), Grand Ledge (1-2) at Okemos (2-1).

Upper Peninsula

Ishpeming (3-0) at Ishpeming Westwood (3-0)

This game has been similarly highly anticipated a few other times in recent history – although Ishpeming won the 2008, 2009 and 2011 games, Westwood entered all of those undefeated. This one has to have Patriots supporters just as amped – Westwood hasn’t beaten Ishpeming since 1998, is coming off two losing seasons and has outscored its first three opponents by a combined 140-30. Ishpeming? The two-time reigning MHSAA Division 7 champion has run its winning streak to 24 while beating this season’s first three opponents by a combined 126-32.

Others that caught my eye: Lake Linden-Hubbell (2-1) at Bessemer (3-0), Escanaba (1-2) at Marquette (2-1), Gladstone (3-0) at Menominee (3-0), Newberry (1-2) at Munising (2-1).

Lower Up North

Detroit Catholic Central (1-2) at Traverse City Central (3-0)

The Trojans have momentum after last week’s 20-13 win over rival Traverse City West, and this week could claim arguably their most impressive nonleague win since the schools split in 1997. Detroit Catholic’s Central’s lone win this fall came against a Canadian team, but its losses are to Muskegon by seven and Ohio power Toledo Whitmer – and there’s no reason to think the Shamrocks won’t be in Division 1 title contention again in two months.

Others that caught my eye: Traverse City West (1-2) at Petoskey (2-1), Alpena (2-1) at Cadillac (3-0), Charlevoix (2-1) at Grayling (1-2), Standish-Sterling (1-2) at Whittemore-Prescott (3-0).

Southwest and Border

St. Joseph (3-0) at Stevensville Lakeshore (3-0)

Niles also is undefeated to give the Southwest Michigan Athletic Conference West three 3-0 teams to open the season, but St. Joseph and Lakeshore are annual favorites and own the most impressive victories so far. St. Joseph, last season’s league runner-up, got a leg up last week by beating 2013 third-place Portage Northern by 10. Lakeshore, last season’s fourth-place team and an eventual District winner, beat reigning league champ Portage Central last week 20-17.

Others that caught my eye: Parchment (1-2) at Constantine (3-0), Gobles (3-0) at Decatur (3-0), Plainwell (3-0) at Edwardsburg (2-1), Vicksburg (3-0) at Paw Paw (3-0).

Bay and Thumb

Millington (3-0) at Frankenmuth (3-0)

Frankenmuth has turned a four-game losing streak to the Cardinals into a two-game winning streak, with the victor going on to claim the Tri-Valley Conference East championship the last four seasons. Millington’s opening-night win over Essexville-Garber is the most impressive by either so far, but Frankenmuth did avenge last season’s loss to Hemlock and beat a returning playoff qualifier in North Branch.

Others that caught my eye: Flint Beecher (3-0) at Goodrich (3-0), Brighton (2-1) at Grand Blanc (2-1), Mount Pleasant (2-1) at Midland (2-1), Grosse Pointe South (2-1) at Port Huron (2-1).


Dryden (3-0) at Peck (3-0)

Dryden is a Class C school and as such cannot qualify for the MHSAA playoffs in 8-player. But the Cardinals are making a run at the North Central Thumb 8-Man League title as one of three undefeated teams atop the league – Peck and Deckerville are the others. Dryden has scored an incredible 176 points in three games; Peck, however, is the reigning MHSAA champion and has outscored its first three opponents by a combined 149-0.

Others that caught my eye: Engadine (2-1) vs. Cedarville (3-0) at DeTour, Morrice (2-1) at Deckerville (3-0), Burr Oak (2-1) at Battle Creek St. Philip (3-0) on Saturday.

PHOTO: Beal City (carrying the ball) hopes to be among those moving to 4-0 this week after earning its second win two weeks ago, 15-14 over Clare. (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.)