A Game for Every Fan: Week 9

October 25, 2013

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

The final Friday of the MHSAA football regular season always is one of the most celebratory and at the same time heart-breaking days of the entire school year. 

For many, practice will continue Monday. But for the majority, tonight will mark the end of another season – or a high school career. 

Fortunately for a number of those athletes, they and their teams still have control over how they'll be feeling when this night, and this weekend, is done. A total of 187 teams have qualified for the 256-team 11-player playoff field – including six teams that won their sixth games Thursday night – and 76 more can clinch a berth with a win tonight or Saturday. The 8-player field is more set, although movement could still occur among those in contention for the final spots in that 16-team field. 

Here's a look at some of the games to keep an eye on this weekend, including league title games in the Detroit Public School League, Catholic League and Kensington Lakes Activities Association. And make sure to check in throughout the weekend to Score Center and then Sunday when playoff pairings are posted at 8 p.m.

Detroit and Southeast

Detroit Martin Luther King (7-0) vs. Detroit Cass Tech (8-0), Ford Field

This title decider at Ford Field has been among the most highly-anticipated games in Detroit since before the first kickoff of this season. Although this was the second since the 1990s that these schools played in different divisions of the Detroit PSL, that separation arguably has made the rivalry even bigger – especially with King stunning the reigning MHSAA Division 1 champ with a 44-13 win during last season’s PSL semifinals. Neither has come to losing since the early weeks of this season; Cass Tech hasn't given up more than six points in a game since opening night, and King hasn't let an opponent come closer than 28 points since Week 2.

Others that caught my eye: Birmingham Brother Rice (8-0) vs. Detroit Catholic Central (7-1), Saturday at Ford Field; Southfield (7-1) at Clarkston (7-1), Britton Deerfield (6-2) at Clinton (8-0), Walled Lake Western (8-0) at Northville (7-1).

West Michigan

Muskegon Reeths-Puffer (7-1) at Muskegon (7-1)

This isn't as annual a scenario for Muskegon as most might think: The Big Reds did fall to Zeeland East by a point in Week 9 last season to finish second to the Chix in the O-K Black standings, but are still seeking their first league title since 2008. This is the first time Reeths-Puffer has posted a winning record since 2007, and it’s done so in impressive fashion with victories over one playoff qualifier and three more that can earn bids tonight. Still, Reeths-Puffer is seeking its first win over the Big Reds since 1999.

Others that caught my eye: Grand Rapids Ottawa Hills (5-3) at Grand Rapids Catholic Central (5-3), Holland West Ottawa (5-3) at Hudsonville (5-3), East Kentwood (5-3) at Rockford (7-1), Zeeland West (7-1) at Byron Center (6-2).

Upper Peninsula

Menominee (8-0) at Marquette (5-2)

Marquette fell big to Menominee in 2012, but has won two of the last three between the Greater Northern UP Conference rivals – and can force a three-way tie for the league title by beating the Maroons tonight. Menominee has yet to be challenged significantly – only reigning Division 8 champion Harbor Beach has gotten within 20 points of the Maroons this season as they've built the second-highest playoff point average among teams expected to fall into Division 5.

Others that caught my eye: St. Ignace (7-1) at Cheboygan (6-2), L'Anse (7-1) at Munising (5-3), Crystal Falls Forest Park (8-0) at Lake Linden-Hubbell (5-3), Newberry (3-5) at Sault Ste. Marie (5-3).

Bay and Thumb

Fenton (8-0) at Lapeer West (7-1)

Beating second-place Lapeer West tonight would give Fenton 20 straight Flint Metro League victories and make outright another league title, the Tigers’ third straight. But Lapeer West also has a fine football tradition stretching back into the late 1980s, and the Panthers would love nothing more in their final regular season game than to win a share of one more league title. Lapeer West will combine with Lapeer East next fall.

Others that caught my eye: Lake Fenton (7-1) at Montrose (8-0), Davison (4-4) at Flint Carman-Ainsworth (7-1), Sanford Meridian (7-1) at Clare (6-2), Plymouth (5-3) at Grand Blanc (6-2).

Southwest and Border

Watervliet (8-0) at Lawton (8-0)

This trumps Edwardsburg/Paw Paw as the top game from the southwest and border areas because a league title is on the line. Watervliet and Lawton split the Southwestern Athletic Conference South title last season, and one of the two has won the league the last four seasons – with Lawton also finishing second the two times Watervliet finished first. The Panthers survived a three-point scare last week against Decatur and can finish their first perfect regular season since 1999.

Others that caught my eye: Edwardsburg (8-0) at Paw Paw (8-0), Battle Creek Pennfield (7-1) at Constantine (5-3), Saugatuck (7-1) at Gobles (5-3), Battle Creek St. Philip (8-0) at Lawrence (6-1).

Lower Up North

Boyne City (7-1) at Grayling (7-1)

This highly-anticipated Lake Michigan Conference deciding game has come to fruition thanks to some close calls including two Grayling wins by a touchdown or less and Boyne City’s victory last week over motivated Elk Rapids. This is a repeat of the 2012 scenario; both also entered that Week 9 game undefeated before Grayling won 21-0.

Others that caught my eye: Mio (7-1) at Lincoln Alcona (8-0), Kalkaska (6-2) at Elk Rapids (5-3), Cadillac (8-0) at Traverse City Central (5-3), Petoskey (5-3) at Ogemaw Heights (5-3).


Homer (8-0) at Grass Lake (7-1)

This is the showcase game of the Cascades/Big 8 Conference crossover series, with Grass Lake one of three that shared the Cascades title and Homer the outright champion in the Big 8. The Trojans also are attempting to finish their first perfect regular season since 2005. The last time these teams met was in 2004.

Others that caught my eye: Jackson Lumen Christi (8-0) at Howell (5-3), Grand Ledge (4-4) at Holt (4-4), New Lothrop (8-0) vs. Pewamo-Westphalia (8-0) at Alma College, Chelsea (2-6) at Haslett (5-3).

PHOTO: Detroit Cass Tech (green jerseys) will attempt to avenge last season's Detroit Public School League playoff loss to Martin Luther King when those teams meet tonight in this season's championship game. (Photo courtesy of Detroit PSL.)

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.)