Orchard View Buy-In Reaps Big Turnaround

October 30, 2019

By Tom Kendra
Special for Second Half

It was far from love at first sight.

When returning Muskegon Orchard View standouts like senior Dayton Rose and junior Owen Swanson first met their new varsity football coach Fred Rademacher back in January, they weren’t so sure what to expect moving forward.

“I was very skeptical,” said Rose, who at 6-foot-2 and 225 pounds was asked to move from tight end back inside to guard in Rademacher’s wing-T offense. “I caught a lot of passes last year, and I really didn’t want to go back to the wing-T.

“Then I told him that I was a second-team all-state punter. He told me: ‘That’s nice, but I don’t punt.’ At that point, I was really wondering about this dude.”

Fast forward to present day, and there’s overflowing mutual admiration between team and coach at this eastern Muskegon County school district, which had emerged as a mid-sized state powerhouse for a solid decade from 1995 to 2005 before falling off the map.

The Cardinals are not only back in the MHSAA Playoffs after a 10-year hiatus, but they returned in style improving from 2-7 last fall to a perfect 9-0 this regular season. OV is ranked No. 2 in Division 4 heading into Friday night’s home showdown against No. 7 Sparta (8-1).

“We have a great senior class,” said Rademacher, whose most recent head coaching job was at Hastings, where he was 44-43 over nine years. “There are 14 seniors that are great football players, and they like to work hard. You add in a coaching staff that has bought in and an administration that is backing us, and it’s a formula for success.”

Orchard View opened the season with a hard-fought home win over Spring Lake, then went on the road for three straight weeks – coming home a perfect 4-0 after wins over Kent City, perennial power Muskegon Catholic Central and Belding.

The Cardinals did it on the field by ditching the spread offense and going back to the wing-T, which they ran to so much success under John Shillito (making the MHSAA Finals in 1995 and 1999) and Matt McDonald (winning the school’s lone championship, in Division 4 in 2004).

Rose, a dominating pulling guard, is one of six seniors among the starting front seven on offense – with the only underclassmen junior guard Jayshawn Sandin-Davis. The other starters up front are center Jordan Tuttle, tackles Dominic Baushke and Xavier Ruiz and ends AJ Herrera and Hayden Stanfield.

The ground game is keyed by the 1-2 punch of shifty junior fullback Brendan Hyatt and bruising senior halfback Edmari Mitchell, along with regular subs in senior Alex Andrews and sophomore Darius Williams.

“I like my backs to be unselfish,” said Rademacher, 51, who was an assistant at East Kentwood for four years under Shillito before taking the Hastings job. “They have adopted my viewpoint that it doesn’t really matter who scores the touchdown as long as we score a touchdown.”

Rademacher is a Flint native whose father, Fred, was the first varsity football coach at Flint Powers Catholic. His varsity assistants include OV principal Dan Bolhuis and defensive coordinator Brian Andrews, along with Morgan Wansten (running backs and defensive line), Eric Prow (offensive and defensive lines) and Pete Vellenga (defensive backs and offensive line).

The trigger man for the Cardinals is Swanson, who has done an admirable job distributing the ball and carrying out all of the fakes that are an integral part of the wing-T. He has been deadly on keeper runs, and his strong arm adds another dimension to the attack – which may be required to win a loaded District that also includes Grand Rapids Catholic Central, which has won two Division 4 titles over the past three years.

“I love to throw the ball, like any quarterback, so I wasn’t real happy at first about the new offense,” said Swanson, who plays four sports – football, basketball, bowling and baseball. “But going 9-0 makes up for everything.”

The Cardinals capped their turnaround tale with a 32-20 home victory last week over North Muskegon. OV raced out to a 24-0 lead in that game, before NM rallied back behind the arm of senior quarterback John Hayhurst.

Rose, the leader of the Cardinals’ defense at middle linebacker, knows that unit is going to have to play much better pass defense against Sparta, which is led by four-year starting quarterback Jakel Davis.

The secondary of Hyatt and Andrews at safety and Brendan Nelson and Williams at cornerback will be put to the test, both in coverage and in knowing when to come up and fill on keeper runs.

True to his coach’s word, Rose has punted just three times the entire season, as Rademacher has chosen to go for it on fourth down from all over the field.

Rose said he and his teammates have come to understand that there is a method to their new coach’s madness, and that belief has produced a new-found confidence in the OV program. Rademacher got a head start on preparation this week, skipping the team’s playoff selection show watch party Sunday to map out this week’s practice plan.

“He’s a little weird, and it takes awhile to get to know him,” concedes Rose, who hopes to continue playing football at the Division II or Division III college level next year. “I mean, we have no music at our practices and he doesn’t get any of our jokes. He is the definition of an old man. But hey, we’re winning.”

Tom Kendra worked 23 years at The Muskegon Chronicle, including five as assistant sports editor and the final six as sports editor through 2011. E-mail him at kendra.tom@gmail.com with story ideas for Muskegon, Oceana, Mason, Lake, Oceola, Mecosta and Newaygo counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) Senior guard Dayton Rose pulls down the line as Alex Andrews gets a handoff from quarterback Owen Swanson during Orchard View’s 42-35 win at Belding on Sept. 20. (Middle) First-year coach Fred Rademacher (gray hat) talks to his team during that Cardinals' win. (Below) Orchard View is back to playing wing-T football as the backfield, from left, of Alex Andrews, Brendan Hyatt and Edmari Mitchell get their proper spacing before a play during a 32-20 win over visiting North Muskegon on Oct. 25. (Photos by Katie Ream.)

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.)