A Game for Every Fan: Week 7
October 7, 2015
By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
We're at the point every football season when conference champions begin to be crowned. But for the Week 7's schedule to fall together like this is nearly inconceivable.
Fifteen leagues statewide will feature matchups of teams tied for first place, with five more conferences bracing for tilts between first and second-place teams that could have immediate title implications.
Many of those games are discussed in detail below; all are tonight unless noted. Check MHSAA Score Center for results as they come in, updated standings and playoff-point averages.
Bay & Thumb
Almont (6-0) at Algonac (6-0)
What gives this matchup the slight edge in intrigue over undefeated teams facing off in the Saginaw Valley League (see below)? This is shaping up as arguably the most meaningful game in Algonac football history. The Muskrats’ perfect start is earning attention statewide and is a great story after the team went 1-8 a year ago and last had a winning record in 2005. But a league title, clinched tonight, would be the team’s first since 1972 – and standing in the way is reigning champion Almont, which hasn’t lost in the Blue Water Area Conference since Week 4 of 2013.
Others that caught my eye: Lapeer (6-0) at Midland (6-0), Vassar (5-1) at Unionville-Sebewaing (5-1), Detroit Cesar Chavez (4-2) at Mayville (4-2), Sterling Heights (5-1) at Marysville (4-2).
Canton (5-1) at Plymouth (5-1)
Plymouth’s championship-contending golfers this fall could land a ball at Canton in two strokes, these schools are so near to each other. And their last seven football meetings have been about that close too, all decided by 12 points or fewer. The Wildcats own a share of the Kensington Lakes Activities Association South title by way of Canton’s loss last week to Livonia Churchill – but the reigning champion Chiefs can grab a share as well by extending a current winning streak against Plymouth to three.
Others that caught my eye: Berkley (5-1) at Birmingham Groves (6-0), Farmington Hills Harrison (5-1) at Farmington (4-2), River Rouge (6-0) at Pontiac Notre Dame Prep (5-1), Warren Mott (5-1) at Sterling Heights Stevenson (5-1).
St. Johns (5-1) at DeWitt (6-0)
These neighbors are meeting to decide the Capital Area Activities Conference Red title for the second straight season, with DeWitt the reigning champion thanks to last year’s 16-10 victory. The Panthers have won five straight against the Redwings and won’t have trouble drumming up enthusiasm despite coming off facing its other rival, Haslett, last week. The Redwings have lost only to one-loss Grand Rapids Catholic Central, in Week 2, and feature speedy MHSAA track champion Steven Linton in the backfield and a defense that could slow this game down substantially.
Others that caught my eye: Sanford Meridian (6-0) at Harrison (5-1), Howell (5-1) at Brighton (5-1), Vestaburg (5-1) at Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart (3-3), Pewamo-Westphalia (6-0) at Laingsburg (5-1).
Nothern Lower Peninsula
Harbor Springs (4-2) at Frankfort (5-1)
Most of the best up north this weekend are nonleague matchups, but Harbor Springs could make some noise in the Northern Michigan Football League Legends division as it seeks to guarantee its best finish since 2000. The Rams earned an impressive victory last week over 4-2 Indian River Inland Lakes and have won two of the last three against Frankfort – which is first in the Legends and undefeated since opening night. The Panthers have given up 35 points total.
Others that caught my eye: Lincoln Alcona (5-1) at Johannesburg-Lewiston (5-1), Oscoda (4-2) at Hillman (5-1), Gaylord (5-1) at Petoskey (4-2), Maple City Glen Lake (4-2) at Traverse City St. Francis (6-0).
Southeast & Border
Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central (6-0) at Milan (5-1)
St. Mary hasn’t given up more than seven points in a game since Week 3 as it’s cruised during the first two-thirds of its Huron League repeat pursuit. But Milan arguably has been more impressive; the Big Reds, who won the league in 2012 and 2013, are a one-point loss to 5-1 Marshall on opening night from a perfect record this fall – and after losing to the Falcons 43-0 last year, would love to break St. Mary's 11-game winning streak.
Others that caught my eye: Ottawa Lake-Whiteford (5-1) at Morenci (5-1), Ann Arbor Skyline (3-3) at Ann Arbor Pioneer (5-1), Hudson (3-3) at Ida (6-0), Chelsea (6-0) at Ypsilanti Community (3-3).
Watervliet (5-1) at Delton Kellogg (5-1)
This is the product of the reconfigured Southwestern Athletic Conference, which added teams – including Delton Kellogg – from the former Kalamazoo Valley Association this fall and split into three divisions. The SAC Lakeshore division has provided an extra boost to a Delton program that hasn’t made the playoffs since 2001 but has upped its win total three seasons running. Watervliet is a little more used to this with three 10-win seasons over the last four, but this fall both teams are in similar position – both one-point losses from perfection.
Others that caught my eye: Mattawan (3-3) at Battle Creek Central (3-3), Parchment (4-2) at Berrien Springs (6-0), Plainwell (4-2) at Edwardsburg (6-0), Portage Northern (3-3) at Portage Central (6-0).
Negaunee (6-0) at Ishpeming (5-0)
Ishpeming has won 37 of its last 38 regular-season games. The only team to beat the Hematites? Negaunee, back in 2012, but the Miners came close in 2013 and remain Ishpeming’s toughest annual obstacle despite being shut out 28-0 a year ago. Ishpeming is coming off an open week and has had a little extra time to prepare, although a defense that has given up 33 points in five games has looked plenty ready to match a Negaunee offense scoring 41 points per contest.
Others that caught my eye: Calumet (4-2) at L'Anse (4-2), Bark River-Harris (5-1) at Munising (5-1), Iron Mountain (4-2) at Kingsford (4-2), Houghton (3-3) at Lake Linden-Hubbell (6-0) (Sat.).
Grand Rapids West Catholic (4-2) at Comstock Park (5-1)
Most teams would be fine with a 6-5 blip like Comstock Park experienced in 2014 after three seasons with a combined record of 33-6. But the Panthers look like themselves again, with a win over Ottawa-Kent Bronze co-leader Cedar Springs and the only loss to O-K Green co-leader Zeeland West by 10. West Catholic, which won the O-K Green last season thanks to a 47-33 win over Comstock Park, looked like it might be in for an off season after a 1-2 start. But the two-time reigning Division 5 champion has found a source of offense the last three weeks and looks good to make the playoffs for the 13th straight season regardless of what happens tonight. (This game can be viewed live with subscription on MHSAA.tv.)
Others that caught my eye: Byron Center (5-1) at Zeeland West (6-0), Wyoming Godwin Heights (4-2) at Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian (6-0), Big Rapids (4-2) at Remus Chippewa Hills (5-1), East Kentwood (4-2) at Rockford (4-2).
Waldron (6-0) at Battle Creek St. Philip (6-0), Saturday
This has been a history-making season for Waldron, off to its first 6-0 start since 1978 and approaching at least eight wins for the first time since 1984 (its final two opponents, Litchfield and Carsonville-Port Sanilac, are winless). Beating St. Philip would put the Spartans’ run into another echelon. The Tigers’ only losses the last two seasons were three times to reigning 8-player champion Lawrence – and they have a 49-0 win over 4-2 Webberville and a 65-32 win over 5-1 Morrice this fall.
Others that caught my eye: Portland St. Patrick (5-1) at Webberville (4-2), Lawrence (6-0) vs. Prairie Farm, Wis. (7-0) at Madison Middleton, Wis. (Sat.).
PHOTO: St. Johns' Steven Linton (20) turns the corner during a two-point win over Haslett in Week 4. (Click for 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.
Last 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.
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.”
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.
“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.”
“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 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.)