Drive for Detroit: Semifinals in Review

November 24, 2014

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

The final stretch of this season's Drive for Detroit has begun. 

And if Friday and Saturday's MHSAA Finals are like the Semifinals this past weekend, we should be in for an incredible season-ending series at Ford Field. 

Six Semifinals were decided by seven points or fewer as the final 16 11-player teams earned their spots in championship games. 

Below is just a little on all 16 Semifinals, with links to media coverage. Check back Wednesday for game-by-game previews of all eight Finals, and then full coverage of each throughout the weekend. 


Clarkston 35, East Kentwood 13

The first quarter wasn’t over Saturday and reigning champion Clarkston (13-0) had already built a three-touchdown lead East Kentwood wouldn’t threaten. The Wolves earned the opportunity to repeat and extend their 26-game winning streak, while the Falcons (11-2) can still celebrate their best finish since 2003. Click for more from The Oakland Press.

Saline 30, Detroit Cass Tech 15

The Hornets (12-1) earned their first MHSAA Finals berth by holding a potent Cass Tech offense to its fewest points since last season’s Semifinal loss to Detroit Catholic Central. Saline allowed Technicians standout running back Mike Weber 135 yards on the ground, but kept an offense averaging 34 points per game out of the end zone for most of the afternoon. Cass Tech did finish 12-1 and is 59-8 over the last five seasons. Click for more from


Muskegon Mona Shores 25, Farmington Hills Harrison 24

The good news: Mona Shores defeated 13-time Finals champion Harrison after a late two-point conversion. The bad news: Mona Shores (12-1) did so without star quarterback Tyree Jackson, who was sidelined with a knee injury. The other good news: That the Sailors still pulled off this historic win said plenty about the team’s strength as a whole, in addition to its most well-known player. Harrison (10-3) finished with at least 10 wins for the fourth season in five. Click for more from the Muskegon Chronicle.

Warren DeLaSalle 31, Southfield 7

With Detroit Catholic Central, Birmingham Brother Rice and Orchard Lake St. Mary’s in the same Detroit Catholic League Central, DeLaSalle (10-3) can end up in the background of the football conversation at times. But the Pilots earned their third MHSAA Finals trip in nine seasons by holding a Southfield squad (9-4) filled with college prospects to its fewest points since Week 2 of 2012. Click for more from the Macomb Daily.


Muskegon 20, Zeeland West 0

The Big Reds (12-1) will return to the Finals for the third straight season, this time in Division 3 after solving reigning champion West’s offense like no opponent in that school's history. The Dux (12-1), in existence for 10 years, had never been shut out and hadn’t been held to single digits since Week 4 in 2010 – they entered Saturday averaging 50 points per game this season. Click for more from the Muskegon Chronicle.

Orchard Lake St. Mary’s 51, New Boston Huron 3

Huron (11-2) took a lot of steps as a program this fall, winning five more games than in any season in more than 60 years and six more than a year ago. But St. Mary’s (11-2) has played in 11 MHSAA championship games and surely has had extra motivation this fall after a rare playoff miss in 2013. Click for more from MLive Detroit.


Grand Rapids South Christian 50, Edwardsburg 48

The Sailors (11-2) are headed to Ford Field for the third straight season, but it was hardly that simple. Edwardsburg (11-2) came back from two touchdowns down in the second quarter and a 22-point deficit in the third as it fell one win shy of the Finals for the second time in five seasons. Click for more from the Grand Rapids Press.

Lansing Sexton 28, Detroit Country Day 14

The Big Reds (13-0) advanced to the MHSAA Finals for the first time after coming up just a touchdown shy in 2013. Sexton will be the first Lansing public school to play in a championship game, thanks in part to a group of seniors who scored all of the team’s touchdowns Saturday and helped it rise from 5-4 only two seasons ago. Country Day (8-5) finished with all of its losses to teams that advanced to at least Regional Finals. Click for more from the Lansing State Journal.


Grand Rapids West Catholic 42, Menominee 24

These two have seen each other in the playoffs every season beginning in 2010. This rematch of last season’s Division 5 Final went similarly, with West Catholic winning by 18 after doing so 27-14 in 2013. The Maroons (12-1) hadn’t been held to fewer than 28 points since West Catholic in that game at Ford Field – and hadn’t given up more than 25 since West Catholic (13-0) defeated them 55-34 in a 2011 Regional Final. Click for more from the Grand Rapids Press.

Lansing Catholic 21, Almont 14

High-powered Lansing Catholic will return to Ford Field for the second time in four seasons after escaping one of the toughest defenses it had seen this fall. Almont held the Cougars (13-0) to a season low points total. But Lansing Catholic’s unheralded defense did the same to the Raiders (12-1), who were averaging 50 per game entering Saturday and set a team record for wins this fall. Click for more from the Lansing State Journal.


Ithaca 20, Boyne City 16

The Yellowjackets (13-0) extended their winning streak to 69 – but for the second straight week, not without a dramatic fourth quarter. Boyne City (12-1) reached the 3-yard line with 13 seconds to play, but was stopped by an Ithaca defense that isn’t often noted but gives up only 8.4 points per game. Click for more from the Mount Pleasant Morning Sun.

Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central 28, Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian 0

The Falcons (12-1) earned their first Finals appearance since 2010 and a rematch with Ithaca after falling by 10 to the Yellowjackets in that previous championship matchup. St. Mary gained this weekend's opportunity with its fifth shutout of the season, against a NorthPointe Christian (11-2) team in its seventh of existence and first topping eight wins. Click for more from the Monroe Evening News.


Ishpeming 22, Saginaw Michigan Lutheran Seminary 18

These are not the Hematites of the last two seasons; most of the standouts who carried the program to two straight MHSAA titles graduated. But this group has been similarly strong and is now a win from just as good after its closest win since Week 7 of 2013. Ishpeming (12-0) made it 33 straight victories by pulling away midway through the fourth quarter. Click for more from the Marquette Mining Journal.

Detroit Loyola 41, Pewamo-Westphalia 21

Pewamo-Westphalia (10-3) made it harder on Loyola than any playoff opponent aside from Ishpeming since 2010, but still couldn’t completely slow the Bulldogs’ running back duo of Marvin Campbell and Mideyin Wilson. The ran for four touchdowns together and nearly 270 yards to put Loyola (13-0) back in the championship game for the third straight season. Click for more from MLive Detroit.


Munising 10, Beal City 7

Munising’s best season since 1980 continued with perhaps its most stunning win of an incredible run as it edged the two-time reigning runner-up Aggies (10-3) on a 33-yard field goal in the fourth quarter. An interesting tie-in: Munising coach Jeff Seaberg was on that 1980 team that won the Class C title but hadn’t won more than seven games in a season since. The Mustangs are 12-1. Click for more from the Iron Mountain Daily News.

Muskegon Catholic Central 42, Harbor Beach 6

The Crusaders’ run continued to roll as impressively as expected – their playoff wins were 56-8 over Fulton, 42-0 over Fowler and 48-7 over Mendon before handing 2012 champion Harbor Beach its lone loss this fall. The Pirates (12-1) hadn’t been held to single-digit scoring since their 2011 Division 7 Regional loss to Saginaw Nouvel. MCC (13-0) has won 25 straight. Click for more from the Muskegon Chronicle.

PHOTO: Ithaca (white with yellow) edged Boyne City in their Division 6 Semfinal to extend its winning streak to 69. (Click to see more from

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.)