Ruddy Makes Biggest Plays at Most Crucial Times as Whiteford Wins 2nd Title

By Paul Costanzo
Special for

November 25, 2022

DETROIT – When the Ottawa Lake Whiteford offense took the field Friday with the Division 8 championship on the line, head coach Todd Thieken had a message for his offensive coordinator:

Put the ball in Shea Ruddy’s hands.

Need to convert a crucial fourth down near midfield?

Put it in Ruddy’s hands. 

Facing a 3rd-and-goal from the 7?

Let Ruddy make the decision to run or pass.

The senior quarterback paid off his coach’s confidence, making the plays the Bobcats needed and leading a go-ahead touchdown drive in Whiteford’s 26-20 victory against Ubly at Ford Field.

“I want us doing things that he’s either running it, or he’s directing the play in some way, shape or form,” Thieken said. “Obviously there were some big plays – (Hunter DeBarr and Jake Iott) made some big runs on that drive, (Ruddy) did, as well, big catch out of (Kolby Masserant). When I’ve got guys like this, I’m not going to sit here and lie and say I wasn’t nervous because the game’s on the line. But I definitely had a quiet confidence about what we had in front of us.”

Ruddy finished the game with 177 yards of total offense and two touchdowns to lead Whiteford to its second Division 8 title, the previous coming in 2017. 

The Bobcats’ Shea Ruddy (1) pushes forward with Ubly’s Parker Peruski (68) and Evan Peruski (10) working to take him down. His second rushing touchdown of the day came with 1 minute, 59 seconds to play, breaking a 20-all tie. 

“Originally I was just going to throw it,” Ruddy said. “But there was a lot of room to run so I just tucked it and figured I could get there.”

The touchdown run capped an 80-yard drive that took 7:42 off the clock. It included a 4th-and-5 conversion near midfield in which Ruddy rushed for seven yards. Nine of the 17 plays on the drive were either a pass or Ruddy run. 

“That kid’s a heck of a player,” Ubly coach Eric Sweeney said. “That’s the best athlete I’ve seen this year. He’s quick, explosive and when you get a kid like that in space, he’s tough to tackle.”

It appeared that Ruddy had made it 28-20 with a two-point conversion, but a replay review showed he stepped out of bounds just prior to hitting the pylon. That gave Ubly (13-1) some renewed hope going into its final drive, but the Bearcats couldn’t move the ball. A fourth down throw, hurried by immediate Whiteford pressure off the edge, was knocked away by Ruddy’s younger brother, Ryin, and Whiteford (14-0) was able to run out the clock in the victory formation.

“That was probably one of the best high school football games I’ve ever been a part of,” Thieken said. “I’ve been coaching football for over 30 years, and the way that both teams out there just battled right down to the wire, the way the teams were going at it. … The way we finished that game was a testament to all 51 kids on our football roster and the way they worked since last June.”

Whiteford’s go-ahead drive came after Ubly had erased a two-touchdown deficit and captured the game’s momentum.

The Bearcats – who were making their third Finals appearance and first since 2020 – went down 12-0 in the first quarter, and trailed 20-6 in the third before turning things around. 

They did it by not straying from the gameplan they’ve had all season – running the ball straight at their opponent. 

Ubly’s Luke Volmering (11) wraps up Whiteford’s Kolby Masserant.Seth Maurer scored both second-half touchdowns, one on a 31-yard run, and the other on a 9-yard run. Ubly rushed for 107 yards on 12 carries during the third quarter alone.

“The resiliency of these kids? They’re tough,” Sweeney said. “Cornfield tough is what I would say. They never quit, which I wouldn’t expect these kids to quit. They really battled. I couldn’t be prouder. We have to come down here and win one of these, but the kids played hard and left it all out on the field. I couldn’t be prouder of them.”

Whiteford jumped out to its 12-0 lead thanks in part to an Ubly fumble on its opening possession. The Bobcats capitalized with a 26-yard TD run by DeBarr. 

After a defensive stop, the Bobcats went 80 yards on 14 plays, scoring on a 1-yard run by Shea Ruddy. 

Ubly would make it 12-6 with a 2-yard touchdown run by Mark Heilig. The drive was set up by an Evan Peruski interception at the Whiteford 30-yard line. 

Whiteford stretched the lead to 20-6 right after the half, as it went 80 yards on 12 plays, scoring on a 4-yard run from DeBarr. Ruddy ran in the two-point try.

DeBarr finished with 94 yards rushing and the two touchdowns for Whiteford, while Ruddy had 65 yards on the ground and 112 yards on 8-of-12 passing. He also had an interception and tied his brother for the team lead with 12 tackles. 

Masserant had five catches for 82 yards, and Iott had 11 tackles.

Maurer finished with 129 yards rushing for Ubly, while Heilig had 82. 

Canden Peruski led the Ubly defense with 14 tackles, while Aiden Mackowiak had 13.

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS (Top) Whiteford coach Todd Thieken presents the Division 8 championship trophy to his team Saturday at Ford Field. (Middle) The Bobcats’ Shea Ruddy (1) pushes forward with Ubly’s Parker Peruski (68) and Evan Peruski (10) working to take him down. (Below) Ubly’s Luke Volmering (11) wraps up Whiteford’s Kolby Masserant. (Click for more from Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)

For Their Teams, For Each Other, St. Mary Seniors Team Up 2 More Times

By Tom Spencer
Special for

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 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.)