'Coach Dad' Angers Takes Time to Be Fan

February 21, 2020

By Tom Spencer
Special for Second Half

For the second time in four years, Jerry Angers walked onto Ford Field last fall with his Maple City Glen Lake football team seeking an MHSAA Finals championship.

It is not likely he’ll do so again.

The next time he sees those athletes play who he led to the Finals in 2016 and 2019, they will be suiting up all over the Midwest and possibly country for college football competition. It may even be in professional football stadiums, as some of his former players have experienced.

Angers announced his plans to step down as the Glen Lake head football coach at the end of an 11-year run with a 74-42 record. After the 7-0 loss to Monroe St. Mary in November’s Division 6 championship game, he made the difficult decision many MHSAA coaches face.

He’s putting his family, and in particular son Duke, first.

The younger Angers plays football for Saginaw Valley State University. He’ll be starting his junior campaign in August, and “Coach Dad” (as Duke calls him) will be there watching every game and supporting his son. At the same time, Jerry will watch several others he coached play with — and against — his son’s Cardinals team.

The younger Angers is one of 70 football players Coach Dad has mentored in high schools all over Michigan who have gone on to or will play college football. Duke plays H-back and tight end for the Cardinals. Two current Lakers, Ben Kroll and Jonathan Wright, are headed to SVSU next year to play with Duke. A few other Glen Lake grads from the team that fell in the 2016 Division 6 Final, 26-14 to Jackson Lumen Christi, also are playing at the college level. That gives Coach Dad lots of chances to see his former players compete.

In particular he’s excited to see Cade and Drew Peterson when Grand Valley State University and the Cardinals meet in Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Association play, although the Peterson brothers will be on the opposing sideline.

Like many were, Duke was a little stunned by his Dad’s decision.

“His first comment was, ‘Dad, those kids need you more than I do,’” Jerry Angers recalled. “I told him I need to be there for you.”

Angers will continue as a teacher at Glen Lake and head up the Lakers’ strength and conditioning program and serve as the assistant track coach.  He’s excited to have a little more time to travel with his wife Kathy, and to just watch football and visit his daughter Megan in Denver.

“Thankfully, Coach Angers isn't going anywhere,” said Lakers athletic director Mark Mattson. “He will still play a very important role in our school and for our students, regardless of whether or not they participate in sports. While I am still somewhat shocked by Jerry’s decision, I am not completely surprised because I know how hard it has been on him to not spend more time with his family. He has tried to give his all to Glen Lake and his family.”

Mattson’s thoughts sum up the reaction to Anger’s decision, Coach Dad believes.

“Everyone has been very supportive here from the administration, the community, the players to the staff,” Angers said. “I am still here and will continue to do all the other things I’ve been doing.”

As Coach Dad looks to next football season, he is hoping to continue playing a special role for another one of his former players, Keegan Royston. Keegan’s father, Eric, a long-time MHSAA basketball and soccer referee and educator in the Lansing and Traverse City areas, died in 2019 after a lengthy battle with pancreatic cancer.

Angers is taking the senior long-snapper down to SVSU in the near future. The Cardinals have their eyes on him for next year’s team. Angers and Royston will be having dinner with the three other Cardinals football players with ties to Glen Lake.

“I am looking forward to it,” Angers said. “Before Eric passed away, he told me Keegan is going to need a strong role model to look up to. It’s pretty special for me as a coach to have this opportunity to help.”

Angers’ coaching career included stops at Bay City Handy, Traverse City Central, Traverse City West, Royal Oak and Waterford Kettering. A handful of his former players made it to the National Football League. He admits it is awesome to know he played a role in their development, but all of his former players are special to him.

“Ah, ‘Coach’ – that is the word, the label you always want and love to hear,” Angers said. “It is something to run into former players and get a greeting with ‘Hey coach!’”

And while Angers won’t be coaching Glen Lake in the fall, he is certain the Lakers will continue to raise the bar and find new ways to clear it.

“I believe the Lakers will continue to rise,” he predicted.

“They’re not going to fall off one bit. They are a great bunch of kids. And they want to compete.”

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 protected] 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) Recently-retired Maple City Glen Lake football coach Jerry Angers, with wife Kathy, son Duke and daughter Megan during Duke’s Lakers career. (Middle) Angers attends one of Duke’s games at Saginaw Valley State University with his family. Duke is No. 88 and his roommate Jake Dorn also is pictured. (Photos courtesy of the Angers family.)

Constantine Football All-Stater, Wrestling Champ Aiming for Grand Finale

By Scott Hassinger
Special for MHSAA.com

April 30, 2024

CONSTANTINE – Bennett VandenBerg has earned many accolades over the last four years as a three-sport athlete at Constantine.

Southwest CorridorBut the awards aren't what the 6-foot-3, 240-pound standout will remember most when reflecting on his memories as an all-state football player, state champion wrestler and record-breaking throwing specialist on the Falcons' track & field squad.

"I'll remember how I represented our school and pushed myself to be the best I could be in each sport that I played," said VandenBerg, who has earned 12 varsity letters.

VandenBerg has evolved into one of the most accomplished athletes in the state this school year as a senior, especially standing out among those from smaller communities.

This past fall he was named first-team Division 5-6 all-state at defensive end in football before winning the Division 3 Individual Finals wrestling title at 285 pounds in early March at Ford Field.

VandenBerg's final goal is to win the discus title at the Lower Peninsula Division 3 Finals on Saturday, June 1, in Kent City to end his Constantine career all-state in all three sports.

He broke the school record in the discus his junior year with a throw of 158 feet, 1 inch; the previous mark of 156-6 had been held by Doug Polasek since 1986. VandenBerg has eclipsed his school record twice this spring, most recently with a personal-best toss of 170-9 in a Southwestern Athletic Conference double dual meet with Schoolcraft and Kalamazoo Christian. He ranks No. 4 statewide in the event regardless of enrollment division. Lawton junior Mason Mayne at 175-4 is the only Division 3 competitor with a better throw than VandenBerg.

"It's really cool to have your name up on the school record board, but I'd like to make that mark more untouchable before I'm done," VandenBerg said. "My goal is to be a state discus champion. I've put in the necessary work for it. It would be nice to end my career that way."

Kyle Rimer, Constantine's veteran boys track & field coach, is most impressed with VandenBerg's leadership and presence in working with the Falcons' younger athletes.

VandenBerg, top position, battles Wyatt Spalo in their Division championship wrestling match at 285 pounds in March at Ford Field. "Bennett loves to compete. Ever since he was a freshman, we've also had him on our 400-meter relay team. That's something he really enjoys doing. He's not just a thrower, but a good overall athlete with lots of drive,” Rimer said. “There's a lot of individuality in track & field, but I think he does a great job of leading the younger kids. He has the drive, accountability and technique to achieve his goal of being a state champion in his throwing events.”

VandenBerg is already a two-time Finals placer in the discus, earning sixth as a junior and seventh his sophomore year. He admits being a little disappointed with his distance at the 2023 state meet.

"In that particular event (discus) you need lots of focus and determination because there are a ton of tiny things you can mess up on that affect your throw. To become better you need to be consistent, show up every day and be willing to put in the work," VandenBerg said. "Right now I'm working on my speed in the circle and quickness in my follow-through."

VandenBerg also has been pleased with his improvement this spring in the shot put. He's increased his distance by over five feet and hopes to break the school record in that event as well. John Kampars (1967) holds Constantine's shot put record at 54-8¼, and VandenBerg's personal best is 48-10 in a double-dual meet this season against Parchment and Centreville.

"Shot put is a difficult event. You need power, but your form has to be top-notch – otherwise it's tough to move that 12-pound ball," VandenBerg said. "I would love to qualify for state in both the discus and shot put and be all-state in each. That would be amazing if I could be a state champion in either of those events."

VandenBerg has put in extra work in the offseason with special instruction from Bill Griffey of Next Throw in Plainwell, along with working with Constantine assistant track & field and head football coach Shawn Griffith.

"Bennett puts a lot of time into working on his throwing. He spends a lot of time in the weight room, and he's a bigger kid who is not afraid to be coached and listens to what other people tell him," Griffith said. "We're excited to see what he can do now that we've had warmer weather recently."

VandenBerg (34) carries the football during a 2023 regular-season home game against Schoolcraft.VandenBerg's motivation this spring follows a tremendous wrestling season that saw him finish 54-0 and capture the 285 championship with a 3-0 win in the title match over Reed City junior Wyatt Spalo.

"I gained 20 pounds of muscle and did everything you need to do to become a better athlete to wrestle the heavyweight division. Winning the title was overwhelming. It was everything I ever wanted, and the first 20 minutes after winning it was relief, especially after losing in the Finals as a junior. I just went into that last match and wrestled smart and confident," VandenBerg said. "My speed and strength gave me an advantage over the bigger heavyweights I faced this year."

Vandenberg, 188-22 with 104 career pins, became the 10th Finals champion in Constantine wrestling history and the first to achieve the feat since Kevin Watkins won a 152-pound crown in 2000.

VandenBerg competed at 189 as a freshman and sophomore. He was a Regional qualifier as a freshman and finished sixth in Division 3 as a sophomore before ending his junior campaign as the Finals runner-up at 215. 

"Bennett is a competitor who hates to lose, and if he does he learns from it. He had a lot of good practice partners on the team his first three years, and he wasn't going to be denied after losing in the Finals as a junior," said Constantine wrestling coach Dale Davidhizar Jr.

VandenBerg played on Constantine's varsity football team for four years. He got a lot of extra playing time as a freshman when Constantine reached the Division 6 Semifinals during in the COVID-shortened season. He led the Falcons in rushing as a sophomore before switching to tight end as a junior. Out of necessity, VandenBerg returned to lead Constantine in rushing and scoring again as a senior.

"Bennett learned a great deal from the older guys on the team his first three varsity seasons. He learned leadership qualities and is a very unselfish kid who is willing to do what's best for his team," Griffith said.

VandenBerg is most proud of Constantine winning a District crown last fall, especially after his senior class went 0-5-1 as eighth graders. VandenBerg posted 164 solo tackles at defensive end during his final high school season and was Constantine's main offensive weapon with 1,354 yards and 16 touchdowns rushing on 186 carries.

"Winning Districts as seniors in football was a special moment. As eighth graders, we weren't exactly the most athletic team, but we put in the work as we got older to become successful," VandenBerg said.

VandenBerg has been invited to play for the West team at the annual Michigan High School Football Coaches Association's East-West All-Star Game this summer.

College coaches have shown interest in VandenBerg in all three sports, especially football and wrestling. VandenBerg, who carries a cumulative GPA of 3.989 and scored 1110 on his SAT, is weighing his options in athletics but knows he wants to study either ecology or forestry in college.

"I love being outdoors and doing what I love to do," VandenBerg said.

Scott HassingerScott Hassinger is a contributing sportswriter for Leader Publications and previously served as the sports editor for the Three Rivers Commercial-News from 1994-2022. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Berrien, Cass, St. Joseph and Branch counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Constantine’s Bennett VandenBerg competes in the discus during a home meet his junior season. (Middle) VandenBerg, top position, battles Wyatt Spalo in their Division championship wrestling match at 285 pounds in March at Ford Field. (Below) VandenBerg (34) carries the football during a 2023 regular-season home game against Schoolcraft. (Photos by Brandon Watson/Sturgis Journal.)