A Game for Every Fan: Week 8

October 16, 2014

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Consider this little-known, or perhaps lesser-stated fact about the MHSAA football playoffs:

Two weeks remain in the regular season. But 50 percent of the 616 teams eligible for the postseason still control their futures with opportunities to earn automatic berths.

And that’s fewer teams than at this point the last few seasons – meaning more opportunities remain for a larger pool of teams to receive at-large bids.

Read on for more on some of those teams and some the games that matter most this week as the last available league titles are being locked down and playoff selection sits just 10 days away.

Bay and Thumb

Lapeer (7-0) at Flint Carman-Ainsworth (6-1)

It’s accurate to say Lapeer High has never been in this situation – this is the first season for the school, made up of the former Lapeer West and East. But a fair argument can be made that the Lightning has opened better than either school did over the last decade. It has clinched a share of the Saginaw Valley Association Red title and given up 20 points – total – this fall. Enter Carman-Ainsworth, last season’s champion of the former SVA South and a one-point loss to Mount Pleasant from also being perfect this fall.

Others that caught my eye: Flint Beecher (7-0) at Montrose (6-1), Birch Run (6-1) at Millington (7-0), Harbor Beach (7-0) at Marlette (5-2), Walled Lake Central (5-2) at Grand Blanc (5-2).

Southwest and Border 

Watervliet (6-1) at Decatur (7-0)

Decatur has guaranteed a fourth straight winning season and is 30-11 since the beginning of 2011 – with three of those losses coming in the playoffs and seven coming in the competitive Southwestern Athletic Conference South. The Raiders never finished higher than third in the five-team league during the last three seasons. But the winner tonight will clinch a share of the title, although to do so Decatur must break a five-game losing streak to Watervliet – league champions the last three seasons.  

Others that caught my eye: Berrien Springs (5-2) at Edwardsburg (7-0), Olivet (6-1) at Constantine (6-1), St. Joseph (4-3) at Battle Creek Lakeview (5-1), Homer (6-1) at Union City (7-0).

Greater Detroit

Ypsilanti Community (5-2) at Ypsilanti Lincoln (5-2) 

The last four seasons have been like no other in Lincoln football history. The Railsplitters made the playoffs for the first time in 2011 and this season have guaranteed a fourth straight winning record – and tonight also can guarantee a third playoff berth and second straight outright Southeastern Conference White championship. Community had a brief up-and-down span, sandwiching an impressive win over Chelsea between two losses to finish September. But tonight’s win would mean for the Grizzlies a share of the league title and first playoff berth in the school’s two-year history.

Others that caught my eye: Farmington (6-1) at Birmingham Groves (6-1), Detroit Cass Tech (7-0) vs. Detroit East English (5-2) at Detroit Northwestern, Marine City (7-0) at Warren Woods-Tower (6-1), Harper Woods Chandler Park (5-2) at Warren Michigan Collegiate (7-0) on Saturday.

Lower Up North

Whittemore-Prescott (7-0) at Hillman (7-0)

This should end up the best game of the season in the northeastern end of the Lower Peninsula. Whittemore-Prescott won the North Star League Huron Shores championship and has clinched its 16th playoff berth in the last 17 seasons. Hillman won the league’s North Star division and has guaranteed its eighth playoff appearance in nine seasons with its best start since 1990. Last season marked the teams' first meeting since 1976 – and turned into a 66-26 win for the Cardinals. This time should be much closer.

Others that caught my eye: Elk Rapids (4-3) at Boyne City (7-0), Mancelona (4-3) at Central Lake (4-3), Manton (5-2) at Lincoln Alcona (4-3), Cadillac (7-0) at Manistee (4-3).

West Michigan

Rockford (6-1) at East Kentwood (6-1)

The Ottawa-Kent Conference Red title is down to three teams and two weeks of the season, with Rockford holding a one-win lead over East Kentwood and Holland West Ottawa – and West Ottawa next week’s opponent. The Rams haven’t lost a league game since Week 4 of 2010, and that has included two seasons of facing Muskegon in Red games. But it’s tough to argue against this being East Kentwood’s best season since 2003 – which also was the last time it won this matchup.

Others that caught my eye: Lowell (7-0) at Caledonia (5-2), Greenville (4-3) at Cedar Springs (6-1), Hudsonville (4-3) at Holland West Ottawa (5-2), Whitehall (6-1) at Ravenna (6-1).


Lansing Everett (5-2) at Lansing Sexton (7-0)

This is the most meaningful game between these rivals since probably 1986, when Everett and Sexton met in the first league game of the season and the Vikings won by a point – and then eventually won the league title by a win over the Big Reds. Everett has the top-scoring offense in the Capital Area Activities Conference Blue this season; Sexton’s defense has given up the fewest points. The Big Reds can win a share of the Blue title for the second straight season – but the Vikings are one of the few teams in the Lansing area that might be able to match Sexton's speedy pace.

Others that caught my eye: Pewamo-Westphalia (6-1) at Fowler (7-0), Harrison (7-0) at Clare (5-2), Walled Lake Western (6-1) at Hartland (6-1), Reed City (6-1) at Remus Chippewa Hills (6-1). 

Upper Peninsula

Negaunee (4-3) at Marquette (7-1)

This game became key to Negaunee’s season after last week, when Marquette guaranteed a playoff berth with a win over Constantine and Negaunee fell to rival Ishpeming and into a must-win situation for the rest of the regular season. The Miners have made the playoffs five of the last six seasons – and the closest loss the season they missed qualifying by a win, 2011, was a six-point defeat to the Redmen.

Others that caught my eye: Crystal Falls Forest Park (5-1) at Bessemer (4-2) on Saturday, Felch North Dickinson (3-4) at Lake Linden-Hubbell (6-1) on Saturday, Marinette, Wis. (3-5) at Menominee (7-0) on Saturday, Newberry (4-3) at Rudyard (3-4).


Portland St. Patrick (7-0) at Battle Creek St. Philip (7-0), Saturday

For the second straight week, it’s nearly impossible to pick the best from a group of 8-player games matching the state’s elite. But consider this face-off of two of the six undefeated teams left in 8-player. The Tigers fell to St. Patrick three times in their first 8-player season in 2012, but beat the Shamrocks 68-14 last fall and are 17-1 over their last 18 games. That point total should be tougher to come by this time – St. Patrick is giving up a mere 12.7 points per game, particularly strong in the high-scoring 8-player format. 

Others that caught my eye: Cedarville (6-1) at Bellaire (7-0), Peck (7-0) at Deckerville (6-1).

PHOTO: Flint Carman-Ainsworth, here against Midland earlier this season, can lock up a second straight league title tonight against Lapeer. (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.)