A Game for Every Fan: Week 6

October 1, 2014

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

We’ve reached October, and that means two things – league titles and lots of numbers.

We’ll cover the former by telling you which teams are winning what in our weekly Drive for Detroit reports posted each Monday. As for those piles of numbers, here are a few: Ishpeming is the first to qualify for the 2014 MHSAA playoffs because it started 5-0 and is playing eight games this season; 66 more teams have started 5-0 and can qualify with victories this weekend.

Below are some of the best games from every corner of the state, most of which will help define those league title races while giving us more numbers to crunch with playoff selection only four weeks away. (All games are Friday unless noted.)

Greater Detroit

Detroit East English (4-1) at Detroit Cass Tech (5-0), Saturday

All 16 Detroit Public School League football teams are playing in one division this season after being split into multiple the past many years. The top six contenders have begun to separate from the pack – with East English, Cass Tech and Martin Luther King the only three with perfect league records. Because of the way the schedule fell, neither East English nor Cass Tech plays King in a league game – so whichever wins this weekend’s matchup should receive a top seed in the PSL playoffs that begin Week 8. East English is a nine-point nonleague loss to Lansing Sexton from being undefeated, but hasn’t given up a point since that opening weekend defeat.

Others that caught my eye: Waterford Mott (4-1) at Walled Lake Central (4-1) on Thursday, Orchard Lake St. Mary's (5-0) at Birmingham Brother Rice (5-0), Morenci (5-0) at Clinton (5-0), Monroe (4-1) at Saline (4-1).


DeWitt (5-0) at St. Johns (5-0)

This feels a lot like the rivals’ matchup in 2010, when DeWitt came into Week 9 undefeated and dominating everyone and left with a 49-35 loss (the Panthers went on to make the Division 3 Semifinals). Once again, the Panthers are likely considered heavy favorites despite the teams’ matching records – but St. Johns has enough speed to try to match DeWitt’s high-octane offensive attack. There’s another big difference from 2010– this time, both are in the same league, the Capital Area Activities Conference Red.

Others that caught my eye: Coldwater (5-0) at Jackson Lumen Christi (5-0) on Saturday, Stockbridge (4-1) at Olivet (4-1), Manchester (4-1) at Grass Lake (5-0), Portland (3-2) at Williamston (5-0).

Lower Up North

Ishpeming (5-0) vs. Beal City (5-0) at Gaylord

Although technically neither of these teams is from the counties of the northern Lower Peninsula, this game will be played in between them at Gaylord – and could be the most entertaining game of the weekend. Beal City has finished Division 8 runner-up the last two seasons and hasn’t given up a point in the last two games. Ishpeming has won the last two Division 7 championships and hasn’t allowed an opponent this season within 26 points.

Others that caught my eye: Gaylord (4-1) at Cadillac (5-0), Whittemore-Prescott (5-0) at Tawas (4-1), St. Ignace (5-0) at Mancelona (3-2), Petoskey (4-1) at Traverse City Central (4-1).

Southwest and Border

Niles (4-1) at Portage Central (3-1)

It’s time to give Niles a look and some credit for a solid turnaround; the Vikings are 4-1 after winning two games last season and no more than four since 2003. They did fall to Portage Northern two weeks ago – but can cement themselves as a probable playoff team and possible Southwest Michigan Athletic Conference West spoiler for some other contenders by beating reigning champion Portage Central.

Others that caught my eye: Portage Northern (4-1) at Stevensville Lakeshore (4-1), Paw Paw (3-2) at Berrien Springs (3-2), South Haven (2-3) at Edwardsburg (4-1), Buchanan (2-3) at Mendon (4-1).

West Michigan

Grand Rapids Christian (4-1) at Lowell (5-0)

The Ottawa-Kent Conference White includes these two plus a Caledonia (3-2) team that beat Rockford 42-0 last week, improved East Grand Rapids (3-2), and a Forest Hills Central team that is 1-4 but beat Caledonia and has losses to teams that are a combined 14-6. Lowell already has gotten EGR out of the way, and a win over the Eagles – 35-34 winners over the Red Arrows a year ago – would solidify its frontrunner status in arguably the state’s most competitive conference.

Others that caught my eye: East Kentwood (5-0) at Holland West Ottawa (4-1), Stanton Central Montcalm (3-2) at Remus Chippewa Hills (5-0), North Muskegon (3-2) at Ravenna (4-1), Holland Christian (2-3) at Holland (3-2).

Bay and Thumb

Saginaw Swan Valley (5-0) at Freeland (5-0)

Alex Grace is up to 994 yards rushing this fall and more than 6,100 for his three-year varsity career, and as such Swan Valley remains one of the scariest Class B teams in the state. But Freeland actually has outscored the Vikings by seven points this fall – although Swan Valley also has given up only 22 to Freeland’s 83. The last seven matchups between the two have been decided by 15 points or fewer, which could make a standout runner and his offensive line the difference-makers once again.

Others that caught my eye: Birch Run (5-0) at Frankenmuth (4-1), Warren Woods-Tower (5-0) at Marysville (3-2), Saginaw Michigan Lutheran Seminary (4-1) at St. Charles (3-2), Lake Fenton (2-3) at Flint Beecher (5-0).

Upper Peninsula

Crystal Falls Forest Park (3-1) at Felch North Dickinson (3-2)

While these two remain in different leagues, this remains one of the best annual matchups in the Upper Peninsula. Forest Park came back from a 2012 28-point loss to North Dickinson by sweeping the Nordics in two games in 2013, including 24-20 in a Regional Final. North Dickinson also is trying to avoid losing three regular-season games for the first time since 2008. Both are playing only eight games this fall, so both need only two more wins to qualify for the postseason and the potential to face off again.

Others that caught my eye: Iron River West Iron County (5-0) at Calumet (3-2), Gladstone (3-2) at Sault Ste. Marie (2-3), Marquette (4-1) at Kingsford (2-3), Rudyard (2-3) at Munising (4-1).


Cedarville (5-0) at Rapid River (5-0)
Lawrence (5-0) at Deckerville (5-0) on Saturday

It’s impossible to separate these two – Friday’s game matches the top two 8-player programs in the Upper Peninsula, while Saturday’s matches arguably the two best from the Lower Peninsula not including reigning MHSAA champion Peck and last week’s 89-point scorer Battle Creek St. Philip. Needless to say, the results could mean a lot when playoffs are drawn up and home teams for Regionals are assigned at the end of this month.

Others that caught my eye: Battle Creek St. Philip (5-0) at Webberville (3-2), Peck (5-0) at Kingston (3-2).

PHOTO: Detroit East English (in blue) fell to Lansing Sexton during opening weekend but hasn’t given up a point since that Saturday afternoon. (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.)