Hudson, Morenci Fondly Recall Rivalry
January 31, 2020
By Doug Donnelly
Special for Second Half
MORENCI – It was a measuring stick for the season. It was Michigan vs. Ohio State, except inside state and county lines. It was tradition.
The Morenci-Hudson football rivalry was like a lot of other football rivalries across Michigan. Often pitting cousin against cousin and friend against friend, the rivalry was among the oldest in the state, with a continuous string of games dating back 99 years.
However, following a cascade of league changes in southeastern Michigan and recent one-sided history in the matchup, the rivalry has been discontinued – leaving behind nearly a century of memories for both communities.
Hudson has dominated the series of late, winning 17 of the last 20 games on the field, although one of those wins was later forfeited. Over 99 years, Hudson holds a 61-39-2 advantage in 102 all-time meetings. But to those who have coached in and played in the game between two southern Lenawee County teams nestled near the state line, the game has always meant more than wins and losses.
“That game? That game was everything,” said Marc Cisco, a 1954 Morenci graduate. “It was the kind of game that kids lived for back then. Both communities would come out for that game. Heck, it would be packed for the JV game. We played in snow and rain. It didn’t matter.”
Cisco had families on both sides of the rivalry. His father’s farm backed right up to the Hudson school district line. His younger brother ended up playing at Hudson.
Cisco is a member of the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame. He coached at Monroe Jefferson for 51 years, leading his team to the Class BB title in 1994. In high school he once led the state in scoring while playing for the Bulldogs. There was nothing quite like Hudson-Morenci, he said.
“It was the type of game that everyone talked about all summer,” Cisco said. “I knew a lot of players on Hudson’s team. We spent the summers up at Devil’s Lake, just like they did. It was really, really important to win that one.”
Hudson football historian Bill Mullaly has done the research on the rivalry. The two schools first met on the gridiron in 1921, meaning the 2020 game would have marked 100 continuous years of competition.
"It is sad to see this rivalry end,” Mullaly said. “I understand nothing lasts forever, but I always thought there would be a Hudson-Morenci game each fall.”
Both teams have enjoyed record-setting win streaks – and games against each other kept those streaks alive.
Morenci won 44 straight games from 1948 to 1953, setting the state record at the time. Hudson tied that record at Morenci in 1972, defeating the Bulldogs 42-0.
Hudson would go on to win 72 straight games, the national record at the time, under head coach Tom Saylor. One of the players for Saylor during that streak was Chris Luma, who played quarterback for the Tigers. Luma began coaching at Hudson soon after high school and was head coach of the Tigers varsity from 1997-2019, announcing his retirement this month. In 2009 and 2010, Luma coached the Tigers to shutout wins over Morenci – which was coached by Luma’s former coach, Saylor.
In 1982, Hudson opened the season with a 6-2 win over Morenci. The Bulldogs’ only score came when Hudson dropped back to punt and the snap went over the head of the punter and out of the back of the end zone for a safety. The Tigers didn’t give up a touchdown for the first 10 games that season but didn’t get the shutout against the Bulldogs.
“We didn’t allow them to score, we scored for them,” said Scott Marry, who played on that Tigers team that eventually lost in the Class C Semifinals. Marry, who has coached Hudson’s wrestling team to eight MHSAA Finals titles over the last 11 years, said it’s sad the game won’t be played going forward. “That game, every year, was so special. We’d open up with them every year, and you knew that if you won that game, you had a chance to go 9-0. That game was a measuring stick every year.
“I can still remember some of the collisions, the sound of the games against them.”
Jacob Bovee of Morenci played and coached in the rivalry. His wife is from Hudson.
“I remember my uncles and my grandpa talking about playing against Hudson,” Bovee said. “As a player, you liked to compete against them because you knew you were going to get their best shot. As a coach, you knew if you could play them tough you were going to be all right that season.
“We had some success against them, but records didn’t matter. You knew it was going to be a smash-mouth football game.”
Harley McCaskey was an all-state linebacker for Morenci before graduating in 2018. He played three games as a varsity player against the Tigers. The last two were excruciating two-point losses.
“My dad talked about the games he played against Hudson,” he said. “Everyone in school would talk about the Hudson game. When you started lifting weights for the season, you talked about beating Hudson.”
Hudson and Morenci were both members of the Lenawee County Athletic Association until Morenci left the LCAA to join the Tri-County Conference in 1981. Coincidentally, recent league shuffling played a major part in the move to discontinue the rivalry.
Whitmore Lake left the TCC before last season, causing a series of changes. Erie Mason left the LCAA to join the TCC. When that happened, Clinton left the TCC and joined the LCAA. Pittsford, left without an 11-player conference when Adrian Lenawee Christian and Athens decided to move to 8-player football for 2020, was added to the TCC as a football member starting this fall.
Pittsford and Morenci had been nonleague opponents for the last five years. With Pittsford joining the TCC, that left Morenci looking for a new nonleague opponent. The Bulldogs will open the 2020 season on the road at Three Oaks River Valley. Instead of keeping Hudson in the Week 2 slot – the teams have played each other that week for the last 15 years – Morenci instead will play Stockbridge.
Hudson, then, will play Erie Mason, now a nonleague opponent, in 2020.
Hudson has dominated the series in recent years, with several lopsided wins. The Tigers went 2-7 last season but beat Morenci 54-13 when the Bulldogs had fewer than 20 players on its roster. Morenci is 3-15 over the last two seasons, and the school district felt in order to rebuild the program, a new schedule would help.
But that doesn't mean the formerly annual meeting won't be missed. Marry said league or nonleague, home or away, Hudson vs. Morenci was a backyard rivalry that always seemed to be a little more important than some of the other games.
“If there was such a thing as a preseason playoff game, that was it,” he said. “It was a red-letter game for sure.”
Doug Donnelly has served as a sports and news reporter and city editor over 25 years, writing for the Daily Chief-Union in Upper Sandusky, Ohio from 1992-1995, the Monroe Evening News from 1995-2012 and the Adrian Daily Telegram since 2013. He's also written a book on high school basketball in Monroe County and compiles record books for various schools in southeast Michigan. E-mail him at DougDonnelly@hotmail.com with story ideas for Jackson, Washtenaw, Hillsdale, Lenawee and Monroe counties.
PHOTO: Hudson’s Malik Ray (26) breaks into the open as Morenci’s Harley McCaskey (20) pursues during the 2017 matchup. (Photo by Mike Dickie.)
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 email@example.com 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.)