Veteran Ishpeming Takes Back D7 Title

November 28, 2015

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

DETROIT – Michigan high school football players, if they’re most fortunate and their teams uncommonly successful, can play up to 20 playoff games during their careers.

Saturday morning at Ford Field, Ishpeming seniors Ozzy Corp and Thomas Finegan joined that exclusive club. And with membership came a few lessons available to those who have experienced two MHSAA championships and a runner-up finish. 

Don’t get frazzled when trailing by two touchdowns early. Don’t be fazed when a record-setting running back is galloping at you play after play after play.

And above all else, don’t forget a game has two halves – and their team tends to own the second one. 

Despite trailing into the fourth quarter and failing to slow Pewamo-Westphalia’s Jared Smith over the first two, the Hematites stayed calm – and came back for a 22-16 win to clinch their third Division 7 championship in four seasons.

“We’re a second-half team. In the fourth quarter, we get tired, but we know how to fight through it, and I feel like that’s our advantage,” said Corp, the team’s starting quarterback the last two seasons. “We know how to face adversity. When things don’t step our way, we know how to fight back and stand right back up.” 

This Ishpeming four-season has run included championship game wins twice over Detroit Loyola and now P-W, to go with a loss to Loyola in last season’s MHSAA Final. The Hematites were a combined 13-0 this fall and 52-2 over the last four seasons, losing only to Loyola last year and rival Negaunee midway through 2012.

Those are some incredibly impressive numbers – and would have been only a little less impressive if the numbers from Saturday’s first half would’ve stood up over the entire game.

Pewamo-Westphalia junior running back Jared Smith, who finished this season with single-season records of 3,245 yards and 53 touchdowns rushing, had 112 and his lone score by halftime as the Pirates (13-1) held on to a 16-6 lead after scoring the game’s first two touchdowns and running 20 of the first 27 offensive plays. P-W’s first possession ended with a turnover on downs at Ishpeming’s 1-yard line after senior defensive end Luke Kuliu came up with a goal line stop.

“We didn’t have an answer,” Ishpeming coach Jeff Olson said of Smith. “We worked hard at stopping the cut back, and he got the cut back. We worked hard on stopping him from getting the outside; he got the outside. When he gets one on one, he’s extremely difficult to tackle.”

But not impossible to stop after all, as Ishpeming showed during the second half.

The Hematites picked up momentum with a 13-play drive that took up half of the second quarter before Corp scored his team’s first points with 2:41 to go in the second quarter. They carried it through the third quarter as both teams resorted to ramming their best runner back and forth against each other – Smith at times taking direct snaps for P-W and Corp blasting ahead from the shotgun for Ishpeming.

But the results were sharply different from the first half. Ishpeming gained 135 of its 211 yards during the third and fourth quarters as Corp added touchdown runs seven minutes into the second half and with 3:52 to play – the final score coming after a drive of 14 plays over nearly 8 minutes.

P-W managed only three first downs and 43 yards over the final two quarters, as Smith was contained to 37 yards rushing on eight carries. Ishpeming held onto the ball for 15 minutes and 19 seconds total in the second half to the Pirates’ 8:41 – controlling tempo a lot like P-W during the first quarter and a half.

“Because it’s our gameplan too,” Olson said. “When you’ve got two teams, something’s gotta budge.

“In the first half they were winning the line of scrimmage. I think we threw a couple of passes to try to loosen them up a little bit, back them up. But I think we did wear them down. I could see them breathing hard in the fourth quarter, definitely that last drive.”

P-W did have one chance to tie after taking over the ball at the 50 with 3:42 to play. The Pirates drove to Ishpeming’s 32-yard line, but with less than a minute remaining had to go to the pass for only the fourth and fifth times on the day. Both were incomplete – the last knocked away like a basketball blocked shot in front of the end zone by the 6-foot-5 Corp.

He ran 32 times for 128 yards and three scores after gaining only 33 yards on the ground during the first half. He also completed 6 of 11 passes for 77 yards and led the defense with 10 tackles. Senior defensive back Nick Comment had nine tackles.

P-W sophomore quarterback Jimmy Lehman did connect on a 50-yard touchdown pass to sophomore tight end Bryce Thelen during the first half. Senior linebacker Nate Jandernoa led the Pirates with nine tackles as they made their second appearance at Ford Field to go with a runner-up finish in Division 7 in 2011.

P-W will graduate seniors who filled only seven starting positions Saturday. A large group of expected returnees will play to get back to Detroit to take advantage of the knowledge they gained facing the most experienced tournament team in the state.

“It’s big for us to come in here, for our guys to get a look at what it’s like,” Smith said. “We’ve got a lot of guys coming back next year, so hopefully we’re coming right back with experience. We played a pretty good game, but next year we’ll know exactly what to expect.”

Click for the full box score. 

The MHSAA Football Finals are sponsored by the Michigan National Guard.

PHOTOS: (Top) Ishpeming quarterback Ozzy Corp reaches across the goal line for one of his three touchdowns Saturday. (Middle) Ishpeming running back Isaac Olson charges ahead through an opening in the Pewamo-Westphalia defense.

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.)