Prep Zone: Pre-District Previews
October 28, 2011
A total of 272 Michigan high school football teams will begin driving this weekend for one of nine MHSAA state championships next month. And each week through the 11-player semifinals, the MHSAA Network will produce four games to be streamed live on FoxSportsDetroit.com’s Prep Zone.
Here’s a look at this week’s Prep Zone matchups. All kick off at 7 tonight, and all games also will be archived for on-demand viewing at MHSAA.tv.
DIVISION 1: Romeo (7-2) at Troy Athens (7-2)
Both are representing a Red division – Romeo from the Macomb Area Conference and Troy from the Oakland Activities Association – and both lean on a sturdy running attack to average roughly 26 points per game. Carrying the load for Romeo are seniors Zack Williams (638 yards, five touchdowns) and Brian Roth (605, seven TDs), while Sam Haskell leads Troy Athens with 718 yards rushing and nine scores. Both teams also capitalize on opportunistic defenses that averaged more than two takeaways per game during the regular season. Romeo is much more familiar with this time of year – the Bulldogs are in the playoffs for the seventh straight season, while Troy Athens is in the postseason for the first time since 2004. But despite multiple common opponents, it’s fair to say these teams aren’t too familiar with each other – this will be their first matchup since 1976.
Click to read more from Mlive.com or MIPrepZone.
DIVISION 2: South Lyon (6-3) at Holly (7-2)
Holly can add to what is likely to be considered its best season since 1952. The Bronchos split the Flint Metro League championship, their first league title since that long-ago fall, and with one more win would have their second-most victories for one season – again, behind only a 9-0 finish 59 years ago. After starting with losses to Lapeer East and Swartz Creek, Holly has won seven straight while outscoring those opponents 27-13 on average. South Lyon finished second in the Kensington Lakes Activities Association Central to Northville – the No. 7-ranked team in the final Division 1 state poll – and is back in the playoffs after a three-season hiatus. Holly junior quarterback John Williams has run for 1,123 yards and 15 touchdowns and thrown for five more scores. Offense isn’t South Lyon’s strong suit – it averages just 17 points a game – but the Lions also give up only 14 on average.
Click to read more from the South Lyon Herald or Flint Journal.
DIVISION 3: Sturgis (7-2) at Mason (8-1)
Mason was expected to be here and has won at least eight games for the fourth straight season. Sturgis, meanwhile, is one of the state’s most intriguing teams after beating usual powers Jackson Lumen Christi and Marshall on the way to earning its first playoff berth since 2004. The Bulldogs are led by a small nucleus of experienced seniors including three-year running back Saylor LaVallii, who has run for 975 yards and 22 touchdowns and will sign with Central Michigan this winter. Sturgis also has a big-time runner in junior Christopher Alexander – who has gained 1,205 yards and rushed for 13 scores – but another player turning eyes toward Sturgis is sophomore quarterback Chance Stewart. Already a two-year starter, the 6-foot-5 Stewart has thrown for 1,149 yards and 14 touchdowns this fall in far fewer attempts than some of his spread counterparts. He passed for 284 yards and three scores in a 35-28 loss to No. 3 Battle Creek Harper Creek, and may need to come up big tonight against the No. 7 Bulldogs.
Click to read more from the Sturgis Journal.
DIVISION 8: Saugatuck (9-0) at Muskegon Catholic Central (8-1)
This might be the game of the weekend for the entire state. Saugatuck is the reigning MHSAA runner-up for this division and ranked No. 5, and Muskegon Catholic is an eight-time champion and tied for the top spot in the final regular-season poll. Coming off its winningest season, Saugatuck didn’t surprise anyone and still won all of its games by at least 28 points. The Crusaders will host, though, after beating one Class A and five Class B schools this season, losing only to Class A Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern – and by just seven points. Blink and tonight’s game could be over, as the teams have combined for just 117 passes this fall and should keep the clock moving. Muskegon Catholic has run for 2,876 yards and 37 touchdowns, led by junior Jessie Anderson’s 1,278 and 12, respectively. Saugatuck tops that with 3,858 yards and 55 rushing scores. Senior Lance Kleino has carried the bulk of the load with 1,425 yards and 17 TDs.
Click to read more from the Holland Sentinel or Muskegon Chronicle.
Almost there: Mason running back Saylor LaVallii needs 25 rushing yards to reach 1,000 yards this season (Photo courtesy of Lansing State Journal).
(Site front) Good chance: Sturgis quarterback Chance Stewart hopes to lead his team to its first playoff victory since 2004 (Photo courtesy of Sturgis Journal).
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.)