Prep Zone: District previews
November 4, 2011
Five undefeated teams, one that is ranked No. 1 in its division, plus another reigning MHSAA football champion are among those that will be featured in tonight's Prep Zone games streamed live on FoxSportsDetroit.com.
Here’s a look at this week’s Prep Zone matchups, along with links to media coverage heading into the games. All kick off at 7 tonight, and all also will be archived for on-demand viewing at MHSAA.tv.
DIVISION 4: Pontiac Notre Dame Prep (10-0) at Marine City (10-0)
Make it eight straight seasons Marine City has won at least 10 games, and 12 of the last 13. The top-ranked Marines also will try to knock Notre Dame Prep out of the playoffs for the second time in three seasons. That won’t come easily. The No. 6 Fighting Irish have set a school record for wins and are enjoying their best season since 1984 – and a strong turnaround from last season’s 4-5 finish, including a 47-13 toppling of No. 7 Marysville last week. Add in the four wins from last season, and Notre Dame Prep hasn’t lost in more than a calendar year. Marine City is riding the legs of senior running back Anthony Scarcelli, who has gained for 1,363 of the team’s 3,052 rushing yards and scored 25 touchdowns on the ground. Fighting Irish quarterback Danny Durkin is a dangerous two-way threat – he was 10 for 13 passing for 183 yards and two touchdowns, and ran for 150 more yards and two more scores in the Marysville win. The key could be Notre Dame Prep's defense; it’s giving up just 7.2 points per game.
Read more in the Port Huron Times-Herald.
DIVISION 4: Grand Rapids Catholic Central (9-1) at Zeeland West (10-0)
The reigning MHSAA champion Cougars are rolling again with nine straight wins since falling to East Grand Rapids on opening night – a streak that opened with a shutout and then seven straight games giving up just seven points in each. But No. 2 Zeeland West presents arguably their toughest challenge. The Dux should have some added motivation after losing to Grand Rapids Catholic 50-42 in a 2010 District final. Quarterback Miles Morrissey is again directing the No. 4 Cougars’ high-powered passing offense, with Kevin Vicari among top targets. Zeeland West again has made its run doing exactly that – chewing up yards on the ground, as evidenced by their six rushing touchdowns (and the majority of 404 total yards) in last week’s playoff-opening win against Grand Rapids South Christian.
Read more in the Holland Sentinel and at Fox17online.
DIVISION 6: Leslie (8-2) at Grass Lake (10-0)
For these teams, it might seem like just yesterday they were sharing the field. Actually, it was only two weeks ago that Grass Lake iced a perfect regular season with a 36-28 win over the Blackhawks. Leslie was one of only three teams that gave the Warriors a challenge during that 9-0 run. The Blackhawks are being carried one last time by a group of seniors that took over after the team’s last MHSAA Finals appearance, in 2008, went 0-9 as sophomores but improved to 6-4 last fall. Senior quarterback Brendon Smith tossed the 80-yard scoring pass that beat Manchester 34-32 last week, and all-stater Kyle Bryson is his top receiver. Grass Lake does its damage on the ground, led by Frank Vuocolo and his 1,360 yards and 13 touchdowns.
DIVISION 7: Saranac (9-1) at Pewamo-Westphalia (10-0)
Pewamo-Westphalia won and Saranac was runner-up in the 10-team Central Michigan Athletic Conference, although the pseudo-championship game wasn’t nearly as close as one might’ve expected – the Pirates won 28-0. A closer game might benefit the Redskins, who have won their last four games and five overall by eight or fewer points. P-W has relied on a senior-strong group of skill players to score its most points in at least a half century, with running back Alex Thelen and quarterback Justin Thelen leading the way on that side of the ball. Saranac has continued to build this fall after last season’s historic run ended with the team’s first playoff berth since 1978. The Redskins have won three more games this fall under new coach Terry Johnson, and tonight he can lead them to their first playoff victory ever.
Read more in the Ionia Sentinel-Standard.
Zeeland West's Brad Mesbergen will be among those trying to outrun Grand Rapids Catholic Central in tonight's District final (Photo courtesy of the Holland Sentinel.).
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.)