Pickford Shines in Superior Dome Return
November 23, 2019
By Ryan Stieg
Special for Second Half
MARQUETTE – A year ago, the Pickford football team was left heartbroken at the Superior Dome as it fell in the 8-player Division 1 championship game.
On Saturday, the Panthers exited the stadium in jubilation as they finished the job this time, downing Portland St. Patrick 48-15 in the Division 2 Final.
Pickford used its large offensive line and talented rushing game to take over in the second quarter. From then on, the Panthers never looked back as they outgained the Shamrocks 285-18 on the ground and 437-143 in total yards on the way to their first title in the sport.
“Our staple for the whole year has been our offensive line, and we knew if we stuck with it and do what we did best, we’d force them to do what they didn’t want to do,” Pickford head coach Josh Rader said. “We controlled the line of scrimmage, I think, on both sides of the ball. And when you’re able to do that, you’re going to win the majority of the games.
“We came up short last year and after that game, you get that empty feeling in your stomach. A lot of them were juniors, and we only had two seniors on the team last year. So they had a goal to get back here to be able to play in this game and win it. So we had some unfinished business, and we found a way to come back here and finish it.”
Pickford quarterback Jimmy Storey agreed with his coach, saying that a championship was on the team’s mind from the start of the season, but took a lot of work.
“It’s all those extra reps,” he said. “Coming out the first day of practice, we set our goals and said we want a state championship this year. We’ve been working toward that in every practice, every game and every play. We just came out wanting it.”
While Pickford (12-1) looked sharp from start to finish on Dome’s turf, the stadium continues to be an unlucky place for the Shamrocks as two years ago they were run over by Crystal Falls Forest Park. This time against the Panthers, the Shamrocks were hit hard early and struggled to get anything going offensively after the first quarter.
“We had some trouble just slowing them down,” St. Patrick head coach Patrick Russman said. “They are great up front, and we knew that. We needed a couple big plays here or there to keep us going along with it. We had a couple chances in there in the passing game. Some we made, and some we didn’t. We just needed a few more points on the board to make it interesting. I credit the kids, and I credit their kids. Credit our kids for fighting all the way through. Two really good football teams on the field today.
“Statistically, if you looked at it, we probably shouldn’t be here. Our kids are such great football players that it’s fun to watch them play week-in and week-out. Just the time and heart they put into it and how they treat other people, those are the great things we get out of this group.”
The first quarter started off pretty even. After forcing a St. Patrick punt, Pickford scored on its opening possession. A couple of first-down runs by Storey got the ball up to the Shamrocks’ 31-yard line before Matt Bush busted up the middle for a touchdown. Storey ran in the 2-point conversion, and the Panthers led 8-0.
St. Patrick (12-1) answered. A long kickoff return from John Schneider brought the ball to the Pickford 7, and a couple of plays later Ned Smith plunged into the end zone on a one-yard run. The Shamrocks got the conversion on a pass from Connor Cross to Tyler Coyne, and the game was tied at 8-8 going into the second quarter.
From that point on, it was almost all Panthers. On the ensuing possession, Pickford quickly marched downfield. On 4th down on the St. Patrick 25, Nick Edington made a nice overhead catch in the end zone. Stephen Lamothe got the conversion for the Panthers to give them a 16-8 lead.
After almost picking off a Shamrocks pass, the Panthers scored again on their next offensive chance, first using their running game to get into St. Patrick territory. Storey capped off the drive with his first rushing touchdown, a two-yard run, and he then hooked up with Micah Bailey for the conversion. Pickford now held a 24-8 advantage with 5:09 left in the second quarter.
The Panthers added one more touchdown before the half, another two-yard run from Storey, and picked up the conversion. St. Patrick had a chance to go into the break with a little momentum as a 39-yard pass from Cross to Schneider took the team to the Pickford 21. But the Shamrocks couldn’t capitalize.
Things got worse for St. Patrick during the second half. Pickford used a combination of running and passing to get the ball to the Shamrocks’ 3, and Storey got his third touchdown run of the game. The Panthers got the conversion on a pass to Luke Batho and led 40-8 with 8:44 left in the third quarter. Pickford locked down the win with 5:20 left when Storey found Batho down the Shamrocks’ sideline for a 55-yard touchdown. The conversion put Pickford up 48-8.
St. Patrick did get on the board one more time as Cross hit Coyne over the middle with a 76-yard touchdown pass with seven seconds remaining.
PHOTOS: (Top) Pickford celebrates its first football championship Saturday at the Superior Dome. (Middle) The Panthers’ Matt Bush (32) breaks into the open while Portland St. Patrick defenders chase. (Photos by Cara Kamps.)
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.)