Playoffs: District Finals in Review
December 16, 2011
Three weeks remain in this MHSAA football season, and just two for our 8-player teams. That means we’re down to 68 total still practicing and pursuing championships either in two weeks at the Superior Dome or three at Ford Field.
Here’s a look at some of the best from the playoffs' second weekend, plus links to coverage from the biggest games and my take on those to watch in every division this weekend.
Again, if I missed a game or a highlight I should've mentioned, post below and let us know. And click here for results, schedules and more. (Rankings below by The Associated Press' panel of media voters.)
DIVISON 1: Detroit Catholic Central 21, Canton 14 – This has become something of an expected matchup, with these two facing off in the playoffs four times over the last 10 seasons, including two of the last three. DCC has won all four matchups, and this time the Shamrocks were ranked No. 2 and Canton No. 6.
DIVISION 2: Lowell 36, Muskegon 7 – The Red Arrows increased their playoff winning streak over Muskegon to three straight. Lowell came in No. 2 and Muskegon No. 3, and the Red Arrows now become the heavy state favorite with No. 1 Farmington Hills Harrison also losing (see below).
DIVISION 3: East Grand Rapids 45, Grand Rapids Christian 27 – Their 50-49 game in Week 9 (which Grand Rapids Christian won) made statewide waves, but this one was not nearly as close. The Pioneers have three losses this season, but appear to be hitting the gear that has resulted in five straight MHSAA titles.
DIVISION 4: Battle Creek Pennfield 14, Lansing Sexton 6 – By rankings this wasn’t an upset. But considering Sexton shared a league title with three Class A schools – including one still alive in Division 3 – and that the Big Reds beat Pennfield 47-14 in last year’s District final, there’s a lot here with which to be impressed.
DIVISION 5: Flint Powers 28, Millington 7 – This arguably was the stunner of the weekend – Millington was ranked No. 2, Powers unranked – but maybe shouldn’t be as big of a shock. The Cardinals indeed were undefeated, and Powers has three losses. But those came to No. 1 Lansing Catholic, Division 7 No. 1 Saginaw Nouvel, and Class A Davison.
DIVISION 6: Ithaca 28, Montrose Hill-McCloy 13 – Despite some close games elsewhere in this bracket, this one wins out because Ithaca is ranked No. 1 and Montrose came in No. 2. The Yellowjackets also knocked out the Rams last season on the way to winning the MHSAA title.
DIVISION 7: Hudson 22, Union City 14 – Both came in undefeated, with Hudson No. 3 and Union City tied for No. 7 in the final Associated Press poll. But Hudson ended Union City’s best season in a decade.
DIVISION 8: Mendon 28, Muskegon Catholic Central 21 – The conclusion of this incredibly competitive district pitted the teams that were tied for the top spot in the state poll heading into the playoffs. But the schedule won’t get too much easier for Mendon with five more of the top 10 still alive.
8-PLAYER: Carsonville-Port Sanilac 53, Bellaire 22 – The rematch of last season’s unofficial championship game went the Tigers’ way again. The teams also met in the regular-season finale last season after winning their respective leagues in something of an 8-player title game because the MHSAA didn’t begin sponsoring playoffs until this fall.
1 – Number of District championships won by Hemlock, thanks to Friday’s 27-20 win over Freeland in Division 5. The Huskies made the playoffs for the first time in 2005, and had fallen in first-round games three times before opening this postseason with a win over Carrollton two weeks ago.
519 – Carsonville-Port Sanilac’s points scored this season in 10 games (not counting the 1-0 result from another win by forfeit). That’s nearly 52 points per game, and has included outputs of 53, 57, 62, 70 and 91.
5 – Overtimes combined needed to determine two Division 6 District finals. Iron Mountain outlasted McBain 36-35 in three extra periods, while Constantine downed Schoolcraft 37-30 in two.
27 – East Grand Rapids’ consecutive playoff wins. The run has included five straight MHSAA championships. The last postseason loss came in 2005 to Caledonia, which then went on to win the Division 3 title.
MORE FANTASTIC FINISHES
Port Huron 27, Rochester Adams 21 – A late 85-yard scoring run following a goal-line stand helped Port Huron advance in Division 3 and win its 10th game for the first time in program history. Click for more from the Port Huron Times-Herald.
Birmingham Brother Rice 30, Farmington Hills Harrison 7 – Not quite close, but significant. Reigning MHSAA champion Harrison was again the favorite, and did play without its starting quarterback. But No. 7 Brother Rice will be a popular choice now to reach its first final since 2005.Click for more from the Detroit Free Press.
Mount Pleasant 35, Petoskey 28 – The Oilers trailed by two touchdowns on three occasions before coming away with a season-extending – and upset-avoiding – victory. Click for more from the Mount Pleasant Morning Sun.
Grass Lake 23, Leslie 22 – One of our Prep Zone games on FoxSportsDetroit.com, this one went down to the final minute. At the end, undefeated Grass Lake prevailed – but not without a scare. Click for more from the Jackson Citizen-Patriot.
Fowler 24, Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart 21 – Fowler was certainly the favorite, and tied for the No. 9 spot in the state poll. But the Eagles did have to outlast a fast start and then late run by the Irish, last season’s MHSAA champion. Click for more from the Lansing State Journal.
UP NEXT – REGIONAL FINALS and 8-player SEMIS
DIVISION 1: Detroit Cass Tech (8-3) at Warren DeLaSalle (9-2) – 7 p.m. Friday at SCS Lake Shore – DeLaSalle can reach 10 wins for the third time in six seasons, and its list of fallen foes is, as usual, impressive. But Cass Tech ranks well with the best the Pilots have seen. The Technicians own a win over Detroit Martin Luther King (see below) with losses to Division 2 No. 1 Farmington Hills Harrison and twice to Detroit Crockett (also mentioned below).
DIVISION 2: Detroit Martin Luther King (8-3) at Wyandotte Roosevelt (10-1) – 7 p.m. Friday – Roosevelt is 10-1 for the second straight season, and tied for the No. 7 spot in the state poll. But unranked King might be the best three-loss team this side of East Grand Rapids. All three of King’s this fall were to teams still alive, and by a combined 11 points.
DIVISION 3: East Grand Rapids (8-3) at Holland (9-2) – 1 p.m. Saturday – A tremor was felt all the way from the lake shore when Holland knocked off East Grand Rapids 30-22 in Week 2. And that was just the start, as Holland has gone on to earn its second playoff berth ever and first postseason win. Still, the Pioneers came into the postseason ranked No. 9, while Holland is unranked and at least some people’s underdog.
DIVISION 4: Detroit Crockett (10-1) at Marine City (11-0) – 7 p.m. Friday – Top-ranked Marine City has taken out Nos. 6 and 8 from the top 10 so far, and now will try to do the same with No. 5 Crockett. But Crockett’s only loss was to Division 2 District champ King, which Crockett then beat in a rematch. The Rockets and strong-armed quarterback Brian Blackburn made the Semifinals last season, and won’t go quietly.
DIVISION 5: Menominee (9-2) at Grand Rapids West Catholic (9-2) – 3 p.m. Saturday – West Catholic is the reigning Division 5 champion, but had to escape Menominee 24-20 in a Semifinal along the way last fall. The Maroons always are a point of curiousity because of their thriving single wing offense, and come in ranked No. 5 to West Catholic’s No. 7.
DIVISION 6: Morley-Stanwood (10-1) at Iron Mountain (10-0) – 1 p.m. Saturday – Morley-Stanwood has double figures wins for the third straight season, and already has taken out No. 6 Shelby and No. 8 Clare. Now the Mohawks will attempt the same against No. 3 Iron Mountain, which survived a close one against McBain to reach 10 wins for the fourth time in five seasons.
DIVISION 7: Hudson (11-0) at Detroit Loyola (11-0) – 1 p.m. Saturday at Madison Heights Bishop Foley – Reigning champion Hudson has won its last seven playoff games and 11 of its last 12, but comes into this as a rare underdog ranked No. 3 with Loyola No. 2. That said, the Tigers have scored at least 35 points in all but two games this season. But Loyola has posted shutouts in five of its last six.
DIVISION 8: Crystal Falls Forest Park (9-1) at St. Ignace La Salle (11-0) – 7 p.m. Friday – It’s a rare day when Forest Park isn’t the heavy favorite to get down state – the No. 6 Trojans have played in seven of the last 11 Division 8 Finals. But No. 3 St. Ignace is having its best season since 1988 and dropped a season-high 55 points on Rudyard in the District final win.
8-PLAYER: Engadine (7-4) at Rapid River (10-1) – 1 p.m. Saturday --- These two are in the same league and faced each other during the regular season; Rapid River won 50-32. With all of the points scored in 8-player games, that’s not as wide a margin as it might seem. But Engadine still must slow down a Rapid River offense averaging 52 points per game – just as the Eagles did in upsetting Cedarville 36-14 last week in another rematch.
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.)