Ice Man: Skyline's Copp sets football records, leaves legacy
October 27, 2011
Eventually, Andrew Copp may be best-known as a hockey star. His spot on the USA under-18 national team development program squad marks him as one of the top players his age in the country.
But he’ll be remembered as one of Ann Arbor Skyline’s first standout athletes for another sport he simply couldn’t give up.
Bittersweet and heart-breaking are how Copp described the end of this football season. The MHSAA playoffs begin this weekend, and he hoped to be a part -- a possibility that was likely closer than Skyline’s 3-6 record might imply, given four of those losses were by four or fewer points. And that’s not the worst part. Even if Skyline had earned a berth, Copp would’ve been forced to watch after breaking his right collarbone in multiple spots three weeks ago.
Still, there will be plenty to remember fondly for the first quarterback in his school’s four-year history. Two MHSAA records and his school’s first varsity football wins will top the list, even as the combination of football and the injury will force Copp the miss the first half of his USA team’s season.
“It means a lot, starting something new and trying to put your stamp on it,” Copp said. “As the quarterback, it’s a lot of weight on your shoulders to start something that 10, 20 years down the road people are going look at.
“Last year, when I got offered to play (USA) but had to quit football after the first game, I couldn’t do it. I just couldn’t quit on the team.”
That kind of leadership was “worth its weight in gold” for a school and program only just getting started, Skyline athletic director John Young said.
Copp likely would’ve attended Ann Arbor Pioneer -- like both of his parents had -- had Skyline not opened in fall 2008.
The Eagles’ football program started that first fall, but didn’t field a varsity team until 2010. Copp was the quarterback all four years until his he was injured on a run during the first quarter of his team’s Week 7 game against Temperance Bedford.
Two weeks earlier, against Ann Arbor Pioneer, Copp had thrown for an MHSAA record 557 yards and record-tying seven touchdowns. In six games this fall plus a few minutes of that seventh, Copp completed 96 of 156 passes for 1,732 yards and 27 touchdowns. Those season touchdown passes also qualify for an MHSAA record book listing, as do the 31 completions that led to his record-setting numbers against Pioneer.
“Obviously, I can’t throw for 557 yards without my line doing a great job, my receivers catching balls and making plays. And probably the most unsung heroes on our team are the running backs, who were blocking for me,” Copp said. “I just remember everything going our way, almost like a recess football game.”
But it took some flexibility from USA hockey and a tough decision by Copp to make it possible. Usually, USA players aren’t allowed to play other sports, Copp said, but he was granted that exception. He joined USA hockey after his junior football season, and this summer started that team’s workouts at 8 a.m. before then moving on to workouts and film study for football. This fall, after his five classes at Skyline to start the day, he’d work out for hockey from 1:30-4 p.m. every week Monday through Wednesday, then start football practice at 4:30. All while remaining a strong student and adhering to a hockey-imposed 9 p.m. curfew.
Ironically, the 6-foot, 185-pound Copp joined the football team to become more physical for hockey on the advice of his father Andy, a successful youth hockey coach. Andrew has seen some similarities between the two sports -- as a hockey center he also controls play. Hockey helped Copp be ready for a fast pace of play and developed the quick decision-making necessary to thrive at quarterback.
His football mind helped him help the Eagles when he could no longer lead them on the field. “He had surgery on Tuesday, missed Wednesday, and was back at practice the next day,” Skyline coach Rodrek Jones said. “That was the same day my offensive coordinator was not able to come to practice, and (Copp) called the entire practice for me. He stayed very focused.”
Copp still can’t carry his backpack around school, but hopes to play hockey by January. He is almost assured of an outstanding college hockey opportunity, and Jones thinks he has the ability to play college football as well. Young said Copp, along with receiver Jordan Woods (committed to Purdue) and volleyball player Maggie Halloran (committed to Michigan State), has put Skyline on the map. Despite the tough end this fall, it’s a legacy Copp is glad to leave for those who come after him.
“He’s one of the most popular kids in school, on the Homecoming king court ... a typical All-American kid,” Young said. “I’m extremely happy for him. I was disappointed he broke his collarbone, because he was on track for a more spectacular year. But he helped, along with other players, to elevate their play this year.”
Skyline quarterback Andrew Copp (9) takes a snap against Ann Arbor Pioneer on Sept. 23. Copp threw for an MHSAA-record 557 yards and a record-tying seven touchdowns in a 52-49 loss. (Photo courtesy of Jeff Lepley. Head shot by Pete Draugalis.)
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.)