Muskegon Catholic Central Repeats in D8

November 28, 2014

By Bill Khan
Special for Second Half

DETROIT — It certainly wasn't nerves.

Tommy Scott had already played in an MHSAA championship game, winning the Division 8 title with Muskegon Catholic Central last season. Scott, like the Crusaders' other veterans, said he was more at ease this season, knowing what to expect on the big stage at Ford Field.

So, why was Scott throwing up as he came off the field in the second quarter of the Crusaders' 31-6 victory over Munising?

"Thanksgiving food," he said.

Something he ate Thursday didn't agree with him for the early game the following morning, but it was Munising feeling queasy once Scott started feeling better.

"I felt sick in the first half," he said. "I wouldn't let that stop me in my last game in the state championship. I wasn't coming out. After I vomited, I felt way better."

Coach Steve Czerwon quickly added, "After he saw his dad screaming at him to get back in, I think he felt better, too."

Scott said he felt fine early in the game, well enough to bust off a momentum-altering 99-yard kickoff return just 13 seconds after Munising had taken a 6-0 lead. But he started to feel sick shortly after that, finally finding relief when he threw up.

Held to 14 yards on seven carries in the first half, Scott finished with 21 carries for 92 yards and three second-half touchdowns on the ground in addition to the record-breaking kick return. The previous record was a 97-yard return by Zeeland West's Brad Mesbergen in the 2011 Division 4 final.

"We knew coming in, we had to stop Scott and their quarterback," Munising senior Andy Cooper said. "We knew their quarterback was a little bit injured. He toughed it out today and played a heck of a game. Tommy, we saw he got sick a little bit on the sidelines. He came back in and was running the ball on us; he was tough."

Crusaders quarterback Nick Holt has been playing at less-than-optimal health the second half of the season after spraining his ankle, an injury he aggravated in the semifinals. Holt finished with 13 carries for 61 yards and was 2 for 6 passing for 41 yards.

"You know it's going to be your last game," Holt said. "You're never going to be able to put on your pads again or your helmet again. Just to have a group of guys around me that are there for me saying, 'You're going to be all right, you're going to be all right.' I couldn't have gotten through without them."

The Crusaders trailed for the first time all season when Cooper made a leaping catch in double coverage at the 50-yard line and sprinted to the end zone on third-and-seven to complete a 74-yard scoring pass from Austin Kelto with 10:14 left in the first quarter. Cooper's extra point was blocked.

It turned out that MCC would trail for only 13 seconds all season, as Scott turned on the jets and out-sprinted the last player back, Cooper, who won four events in last season's MHSAA Division 3 Upper Peninsula track and field meet.

"It was huge to get the momentum right back after they took the momentum in the first three plays," Scott said. "Making a big play like that can change a game."

Munising also allowed a 99-yard kick return by Beal City's Chase Rollin in a 10-7 semifinal victory after scoring a go-ahead touchdown in the third quarter.

"We were all excited after that touchdown," Cooper said. "Everyone was: the fans, the sidelines, the coaches. Then it seemed like deja vu, because it happened last week, the exact same thing. We score and they returned the next kickoff on us. We got through it and still kept our heads in the game."

The Mustangs were still in the hunt by halftime, trailing only 10-6. Seymour booted a 25-yard field goal with 2:37 left in the first half to cap an 18-play, 64-yard drive that consumed 9:16 off the clock.

MCC had a chance to extend its lead before halftime, but Blake Sanford had the ball punched out by Cooper at the 7-yard line after making a 29-yard catch. Kelto recovered the fumble, but a roughing-the-passer penalty gave the Crusaders new life at the 21. On the next play, Ben Stasewich tipped a pass by Holt, and Ian McInnis intercepted it with 24 seconds remaining in the second quarter.

In the second half, the Crusaders controlled the game with their ground attack.
They scored on their first three possessions of the half, with Scott scoring on runs of 1, 30 and 9 yards.

"We got a little bit tired in the second half," Munising coach Jeff Seaberg said. "Just not as many subs to put in. They started to grind on us and impose their running game on us a little bit. We weren't able to stop them. Once it got out of hand, it's a little bit too much to get back into it against them. They're a heck of a football team. We have a heck of a football team. They were just a little bit too much for us today."

Any conversation about the greatest high school football programs in Michigan must now include Muskegon Catholic Central.

With their 10th MHSAA title, the Crusaders joined five other elite programs who have reached double digits. Farmington Hills Harrison leads the way with 13, followed by now-closed Detroit St. Martin dePorres (12), East Grand Rapids and Mendon (11 each), and Detroit Catholic Central (10).

The only other time the Crusaders repeated was in 1991.

"To be able to say we won back-to-back, we're never going to be forgotten," Holt said. "Everyone is going to remember the 2013-14 team. Not only is it back-to-back, but we had such a big class. We had 18 starters last year, and this year it's just about everyone. This class is always going to be remembered. It's an honor and a blessing."

The Crusaders held Munising to 39 yards on 30 carries. Jaeden MacPherson had two sacks for minus-19 yards.

Muskegon Catholic Central ran for 198 yards on 48 carries. 

Click for full statistics. 

PHOTOS: (Top) A group of Muskegon Catholic Central defenders surround and take down Munising's Izaak Mahoski. (Middle) Munising's Austin Kelto (2) and David Harris (32) work to wrap up MCC's Tommy Scott. (Click for action photos and team photos from Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)


MUSTANGS LIGHT IT UP FIRST - On the third play of the Division 8 title game, Austin Kelto hits Andy Cooper, and Cooper converts into a 74-yard touchdown for Munising. 
LONGEST KICK RETURN EVER IN A FINAL - On the kickoff following the Munising score, Muskegon Catholic Central's Tommy Scott goes coast-to-coast - 99 yards - for the longest kickoff return in an MHSAA Football Final. Scott ended up scoring four times and rushing for 96 yards.

Watch the game in its entirety and order DVDs by Clicking Here.

For Their Teams, For Each Other, St. Mary Seniors Team Up 2 More Times

By Tom Spencer
Special for

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 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.)