Drive for Detroit: District Semis in Review

November 5, 2013

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Upsets seemed to fall with the raindrops that unexpectedly cropped up in spurts during the first weekend of the 2013 MHSAA football playoffs. 

From Romeo to Dowagiac, Britton-Deerfield to Wayland with Parchment and Bath in between, teams celebrated wins that probably weren't expected by most when the brackets were revealed during the Sunday Selection Show.

A telling stat: While teams with higher playoff points averages host during the first three rounds, nearly 23 percent (31 of 136) of road teams won last weekend.

Here’s a look at the results from each division that stuck out most from the 11-player District openers and 8-player Regional Semifinals:

Division 1

Detroit Catholic Central 35, Northville 14

Detroit Catholic Central (8-2) opened the playoffs against Northville (8-2) for the second time in three seasons and with hopes of again starting off smoothly on a third straight trip to the MHSAA Finals. This opener certainly was closer than the 2011 56-6 DCC win, but the result was the same as the Shamrocks ended an outstanding run by the Kensington Lakes Activities Association overall champion. Click to read more from the Detroit Free Press.

Also noted:

Macomb Dakota 19, Warren DeLaSalle 14: DeLaSalle (6-4) gave Dakota (10-0) its closest game this season and was the first to come within single digits of the Cougars since opening night.

Walled Lake Western 44, Canton 41: Western (9-1) advanced to the District Final for the third straight season but only after holding off a late comeback by Canton (8-2).

Romeo 24, Lake Orion 21: Likely considered an upset because of Lake Orion’s playoff history, there is some back story. In three playoff games during 2005-08, Lake Orion (7-3) beat Romeo all three times by a combined six points – but this time the Bulldogs (6-4) captured a close one. 

Brighton 14, Grand Blanc 7: Grand Blanc (7-3) won the KLAA West thanks to a 44-21 win over Brighton in Week 4, but the Bulldogs remain alive after entering the postseason 5-4.

Division 2

Birmingham Seaholm 17, Southfield 16

Seaholm (9-1), the Oakland Activities Association Blue champion, scored twice during the final seven minutes to eliminate OAA White winner Southfield (7-3).  The Maples will play in their first District Final since 2001, the last time the team also won nine or more games. Click to read more from The Oakland Press.

Also noted:

Wyandotte Roosevelt 45, Ypsilanti Lincoln 40: Downriver League champion Roosevelt (10-0) outlasted another league title winner, Southeastern Conference White winner Lincoln (7-3).

Midland Dow 30, Fenton 21: The Chargers (8-2) returned to the playoffs for the first time since 2010 and opened by beating Flint Metro League co-champ Fenton (8-2).

Pinckney 14, South Lyon 10: In its first playoff appearance since 2001, Pinckney (7-3) won its first playoff game ever and finished a season sweep of South Lyon (6-4), also its opening-night opponent.

Detroit U-D Jesuit 37, Warren Woods Tower 14: Jesuit’s first winning season since 2002 will continue; the Cubs (6-4) ended quickly the first playoff appearance for Warren Woods Tower (6-4) since 2007.

Division 3

Grand Rapids Christian 14, Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern 13

The reigning Division 3 champion got a scare from Forest Hills Northern (7-3), which led 13-0 in the third quarter of its first playoff game since 2002. The Eagles (8-2) made an impressive comeback to move on to their fourth straight District Final. Click to read more from the Grand Rapids Press.

Also noted:

Zeeland West 44, Zeeland East 13: The Dux (9-1) received their lone loss from East (5-5) in Week 2, but this one wasn't as close as that six-point defeat.

Byron Center 28, Battle Creek Harper Creek 3: Harper Creek (7-3) made the Semifinals the last two seasons, but were stopped quickly this time by the Bulldogs (7-3).

Wayland 38, Plainwell 28: A year after finishing 0-9 (after three straight ending 1-8), Wayland is 6-4 and knocked out a solid contender in Plainwell (8-2).

Eaton Rapids 49, Charlotte 21: Although Eaton Rapids (6-4) beat Charlotte in Week 3, it was expected by at least a few that the Greyhounds’ first playoff appearance would be a short one since Charlotte (7-3) had won five straight.

Division 4

Dowagiac 21, Edwardsburg 17

Dowagiac has been exceptional over the last three seasons – the Chieftains (7-3) are playing to reach 10 wins for the third straight. But it was hard to see this one coming with Edwardsburg (9-1) undefeated and having beaten Dowagiac 36-0 only two weeks ago to decide the Wolverine B West championship. Click for to read more from the Kalamazoo Gazette.

Also noted:

Belding 21, Spring Lake 20: This spoke to the strength of the O-K Blue, as third-place Belding (7-3) beat Lakes 8 Conference champion Spring Lake (8-2).

Allendale 24, Grand Rapids Catholic Central 21 (OT): Also from the O-K Blue, league runner-up Allendale (8-1) survived a scare from frequent playoff power GRCC (6-4).

Battle Creek Pennfield 21, Paw Paw 17: The Kalamazoo Valley Association was pretty strong too, with Pennfield (9-1) one of three co-champs and the winner in this one over Wolverine B East champ Paw Paw (8-2).

Saginaw Swan Valley 14, Yale 13: Swan Valley’s hope of returning to the Semifinals – and going to Ford Field – nearly ended until the Vikings (10-0) scored the go-ahead points with two minutes to play to escape Yale (6-4).

Division 5

Parchment 40, Jackson Lumen Christi 35

In a weekend full of upsets, this was the one that rang the statewide bell loudest. Parchment has had a nice run in a tough KVA and is 7-3 overall after finishing 3-6 only a year ago. But Lumen Christi had the highest playoff point average in Division 5 by a substantial chunk and was considered a definite contender as it pursued its first MHSAA championship since 1999. Click to read more from the Kalamazoo Gazette.

Also noted:

Reed City 49, Clare 7: The Central State Activities Association champion Coyotes (10-0) continued their dominating play in eliminating Jack Pine Conference champ Clare (7-3).

Millington 28, Almont 21: The Cardinals’ two regular season losses were their most since 2006, but Millington (8-2) is looking strong again after opening with a win over Blue Water Area Conference runner-up Almont (8-2).

Grand Rapids West Catholic 27, Portland 14: This rematch of last season’s Division 5 Final ended the opposite way, with West Catholic (6-4) continuing a five-game winning streak while Portland (7-2) closed with two straight defeats.

Detroit University Prep 42, Clinton Township Clintondale 34: University Prep (8-2) equaled its 2012 record in only its eighth season as a program and handed a first loss to Macomb Area Conference Bronze champion Clintondale (9-1) in one of its best wins during that brief history.

Division 6

Grandville Calvin Christian 14, Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian 12

These two and Hopkins played to a three-way tie for the O-K White championship during the regular season, which resulted in part because of NorthPointe’s 13-8 win over Calvin Christian (7-3) in Week 3. This time the Squires came out on top in a matchup of teams both looking for their first playoff wins. NorthPointe finished 8-2. Click to read more from the Grand Rapids Press.

Also noted:

Montrose 42, Reese 13: The Rams (10-0) won their 10th game for the third straight season and made it two this fall over solid Reese (8-2).

Shelby 35, Montague 23: Montague (6-4) played West Michigan Conference champion Shelby (9-1) closer than in Week 4, but the Tigers (9-1) bounced back from its lone loss, in Week 9, against Division 4 Spring Lake.

Schoolcraft 28, Niles Brandywine 21: Co-KVA champ Schoolcraft (9-1) hasn't lost in two months, although Brandywine (8-2) gave the Eagles one of their closest games in a while.

Constantine 41, Michigan Center 26: This win over Michigan Center (8-2) gave Constantine (6-4) at least one postseason victory in each of the last 12 seasons.

Division 7

Britton-Deerfield 42, Hudson 28

Britton-Deerfield has made the playoffs all three seasons since its creation from the merging of the Britton-Macon and Deerfield districts. In fact, the Patriots reached the Regional Final in just their second season last fall. But Lenawee County Activities Association co-champion Hudson has reached the MHSAA Semifinals three of the last five seasons and had to be considered a possibility to get back again this month. Click to read more from the Adrian Daily Telegram.

Also noted:

Iron River West Iron County 21, Traverse City St. Francis 7: Given St. Francis’ history of postseason success, this seemed ripe for an upset – but West Iron (10-0) broke away from the Gladiators (5-5) in the second half.

Pewamo-Westphalia 57, Saugatuck 21: The Central Michigan Athletic Conference champion Pirates (9-1) bounced back from their lone loss the week before to finish the season for Southwestern Athletic Conference North winner Saugatuck (8-2).

Bath 27, Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port 14: This is not only Bath’s first playoff run since 2000, but first winning season since that fall – and the Bees (6-4) continued with a stunner against Greater Thumb Conference West runner-up Laker (7-3).

Madison Heights Bishop Foley 42, Royal Oak Shrine 10: A Week 3 loss to Shrine (6-4) got Bishop Foley off to a rough start in the Catholic League Intersectional, but the Ventures (7-3) scored their second-most points of the season in this rematch.

Division 8

Detroit Allen 54, Adrian Lenawee Christian 32

Detroit Allen (7-2) built on its first playoff berth with its first playoff win, ending a similarly historic season for Lenawee Christian – the Cougars set a team record for wins in finishing 7-3. Both programs have been in existence for only six seasons, and this fall Allen finished second to much larger River Rouge in the Michigan Metro Athletic Conference. Click to read more from the Adrian Daily Telegram.

Also noted:

Waterford Our Lady, 34, Clarkston Everest Collegiate 7: These two previously were one as a co-op team before splitting this season; Our Lady (8-2) will move on while Everest (7-3) finished an impressive first season on its own.

Powers North Central 35, Munising 21: Although Munising (6-4) made the playoffs for the second time in three seasons, neither of these teams has much recent postseason history – but Powers (8-2) made its own with this first playoff win.

Crystal Falls Forest Park 30, Bessemer 16: The Trojans (10-0) beat the Miners (6-4) for the second time in three weeks and have 10 wins again for the first time since 2010.

L’Anse 52, Lake Linden-Hubbell 34: The Purple Hornets (8-2) bounced back from a Week 9 loss with their most points of the season to outlast one of the best offensive performances as well by Lake Linden-Hubbell (5-5).


Engadine 28, Cedarville 26

Perhaps a little under the radar, Engadine has been arguably the hottest team in 8-player football with five straight wins after beginning this season 1-4. The Eagles’ third loss this fall was 42-16 to Cedarville (8-2) – but in six weeks, Engadine (6-4) found a way to reverse the tide just enough.  Click for more from WWTV 9&10.

Also noted:

Peck 32, Deckerville 14: The 8-player champion could come from the Thumb area for the third straight season; in 2012 it was Deckerville (5-5), and Peck (10-0) is looking like a favorite this time.

Carsonville-Port Sanilac 54, Portland St. Patrick 18: The Tigers (7-3) made it two straight wins and two straight over the Shamrocks (7-3) after also beating St. Patrick 45-12 in Week 9.

PHOTO: Detroit Catholic Central running back Connor Holton (22) prepares to sprint through a hole in the line while Northville linebacker Jack Ernst works to stop him. (See more at Terry McNamara Photography.)

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

By Scott Hassinger
Special for

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.)