A Game for Every Fan: Week 6

October 4, 2013

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Admittedly, a number of teams show up regularly in this weekly look at the best high school football games to be played around the state. Their frequent mentions are the product of tough competition they schedule, their past histories of making it to the highest levels of our playoffs, and because of both the overall statewide interest in how those teams fare. 

But this week, many of those teams are absent from this list – replaced by some others with similarly strong resumes this season that many probably aren't as used to following.  

See below for our best matchups from each region of the state, including four 5-0 vs. 5-0 face-offs. 

Some additional fun with numbers: Two teams (Portland and Felch North Dickinson) have qualified for the 11-player playoffs. A total of 76 can qualify with a win tonight. Counting 8-player teams as well, there are 79 teams still undefeated.


Jonesville (5-0) at Homer (5-0)

Neither team has won the Big 8 Conference title since Homer did so in 2005 (although Jonesville finished one game back last season). In fact, Homer hasn’t made the playoffs since 2006 and Jonesville was 1-8 only two seasons ago. But they’re both dominating this fall, and both already have big wins over last season’s league champion, Reading. The winner tonight earns a playoff berth and strong upper hand in the league race with two conference games remaining.

Others that caught my eye: Lansing Everett (4-1) at East Lansing (3-2), Lansing Sexton (5-0) at Holt (3-2), Jackson Lumen Christi (4-1) at Mason (5-0), Williamston (4-1) at Portland (5-0).

West Michigan

Shelby (5-0) at Muskegon Oakridge (5-0)

Oakridge’s 18-game regular-season winning streak is on the line against a team it has beaten in four straight – but also, like Oakridge, a Shelby team that won 10 games last season. The Tigers have romped through its first four games in the West Michigan Conference this fall, while Oakridge did get a scare last week before beating Ravenna 31-27. The winner of this one claims a playoff berth, and Oakridge – with its final league opponents a combined 2-8 – will be touch to catch in the league race if it can prevail. 

Others that caught my eye: Allendale (4-1) at Belding (4-1), Lowell (5-0) at East Grand Rapids (3-2), Hudsonville (3-2) at Rockford (4-1), Wyoming Godwin Heights (4-1) at Wyoming Kelloggsville (3-2).

Upper Peninsula

Rapid River (5-0) at Cedarville (5-0)

This has become the regular-season game of the year during the short history of 8-player football in Michigan. Cedarville is tied for the highest playoff points average in 8-player and Rapid River is just behind the three co-leaders. The winner takes a commanding one-game lead in the Bridge-Alliance Conference, but Cedarville has additional motivation: The Trojans beat Rapid River 72-12 during the 2012 regular season and were a heavy favorite to at least make the MHSAA Final – but Rapid River came back to eliminate Cedarville 22-14 in their Regional Final.

Others that caught my eye: Felch North Dickinson (5-0) at Crystal Falls Forest Park (5-0), Lake Linden-Hubbell (3-2) at Hancock (2-3), Kingsford (4-1) at Marquette (4-1), Eagle River Northland Pines, Wis. (5-1) at Houghton (3-2).

Greater Detroit and Southeast

Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central (5-0) at Milan (5-0)

This kind of game has become an annual rite of fall for St. Mary, which has at least 10 wins four of the last five seasons and is used to being in Huron League contention. Milan is getting used to this too; after a dismal 1-8 finish in 2011, the Big Reds ran the table last season and have a 14-game regular-season winning streak on the line. Beating Grosse Ile 21-14 and then St. Mary 35-20 over consecutive weeks last season put the rest of the league on notice, but the rematch of the latter could be both closer and more low-scoring – the Falcons have given up only 22 points this season.

Others that caught my eye: Birmingham Brother Rice (5-0) at Orchard Lake St. Mary's (3-2), Hudson (5-0) at Ida (4-1), Waterford Our Lady (3-2) at Royal Oak Shrine Catholic (5-0), Grass Lake (5-0) at Manchester (4-1).

Lower Up North

McBain (4-1) at Lake City (5-0)

Granted, a giant matchup against reigning MHSAA Division 8 runner-up Beal City looms for Lake City in Week 7. But few teams statewide have been as impressive so far as the Trojans, who have outscored their opponents by a combined 262-6 – yes, 6 – in setting up for another Highland Conference title-deciding showdown with the Aggies. McBain would love to ruin that possibility. The Ramblers did fall to Lake City 28-13 last season, but have beaten Trojans in three of their last five games and already have equaled last season’s win total.

Others that caught my eye: Elk Rapids (4-1) at Grayling (4-1), Mio (4-1) at Rogers City (3-2), Mancelona (3-2) at Pickford (4-1), East Jordan (3-2) at Boyne City (4-1).

Southwest and Border

Schoolcraft (4-1) at Battle Creek Pennfield (5-0)

Did you know? ... Pennfield has qualified for the playoffs 14 straight seasons and can make it 15 tonight. The Panthers have to be careful, however, not to look ahead to next week’s matchup with Olivet – the other team tied for first in the Kalamazoo Valley Association. That shouldn’t be an issue, however, given Schoolcraft won the league last season thanks in large part to a 19-16 win over Pennfield. Schoolcraft already has fallen to Olivet this season, three weeks ago, and likely must win tonight to keep hopes of a shared title alive.

Others that caught my eye: Lawton (5-0) at Hartford (3-2), Mattawan (2-3) at Portage Northern (3-2), Deckerville (3-2) at Lawrence (3-1), Battle Creek Harper Creek (4-1) at Sturgis (3-2).

Bay and Thumb

Frankenmuth (4-1) at Millington (4-1)

The layers of this rivalry stack high, and this game no doubt is the one both have had circled all fall. After three seasons falling to the Cardinals, Frankenmuth broke through for a 12-8 win in the Tri-Valley Conference East opener last season and hung on to win the league title while Millington also didn’t lose again until the District Finals. The Cardinals have fallen to Essexville-Garber in league play this season and trail the Eagles by a win in the standings with two more games to play after tonight.

Others that caught my eye: Vassar (3-2) at Marlette (5-0), Bay City Western (2-3) at Midland Dow (4-1), Cass City (3-2) at Reese (4-1), Fenton (5-0) at Lapeer East (3-2).

PHOTO: Carson City Crystal – here against Vestaburg in Week 4 – is one of 76 teams statewide that can qualify for the playoffs with a win tonight. The Eagles made the postseason last fall for the first time since 1999. (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.)