Drive for Detroit: Week 1 in Review

August 27, 2012

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Two months from now, the majority of successes and failures from the opening weekend of high school football won't have made or broken most of the more than 600 teams playing in the MHSAA this fall. 

But players, coaches and fans all over the state will still be talking about some of the tremendous matchups that once again marked the first nights of the season. 

To identify the best of those games, it was easy to simply point toward Detroit or Grand Rapids. But that would've been too easy; below, the most significant results from every corner of our expansive state.

Greater Detroit                                                         

Detroit Cass Tech 25, Birmingham Brother Rice 18

A late start was worth the wait for those who stuck around for the finale of the Prep Kickoff Classic at Wayne State. Not that anyone was doubting Cass Tech’s defense, but it was especially impressive given the standouts the Technicians graduated after last season’s Division 1 championship run. The loss will no doubt pay off for the reigning Division 2 champion Warriors too – they’ve made the playoffs with at least three losses the last four seasons, and made it to at least the Semifinals in two of those four. Click to read more from the Detroit Free Press.

Also noted:

Southfield 21, Martin Luther King 20 (2 OT) – The Bluejays edged another Detroit PSL favorite in the second-best game of the Classic; the teams combined for 17 wins last season.

Pontiac Notre Dame Prep 17, Almont 14 – University of Michigan women’s soccer prospect Taylor Timko drilled a 35-yard field goal for the final lead with 2:48 to play.

Troy 24, Romeo 20 – Romeo has made the playoffs eight straight seasons, so Troy has additional reason to be glad after a losing season in 2011.

Carleton Airport 25, Adrian 24 – After finishing last season with a 28-21 playoff-opening loss to Adrian, Airport edged the Maples in a game that will no doubt have rankings implications.

West Michigan

Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central 59, Zeeland West 58

The Dux hadn’t lost since the 2010 playoffs after going undefeated in winning Division 4 last season. But Forest Hills Central got a start on its drive for a third-straight playoff berth as these teams combined for 117 points – tied for 11th in the MHSAA record book for games in which the losing team scored at least 40. Click to read more from the Grand Rapids Press.

Also noted:

Grand Rapids Catholic Central 33, East Grand Rapids 14 – Interesting “did you know” ... the Cougars were 2-10 against East Grand Rapids going back to 1987 before this impressive win.

Fruitport 21, Muskegon Reeths-Puffer 20 – The Trojans hung on for their fourth straight opening-night win over the Rockets.

Lowell 16, Rockford 6 – Lowell had a new quarterback and Rockford was missing its starter, but both will no doubt be putting up many more points as the fall goes on.

Muskegon 21, Orchard Lake St. Mary 14 – The Big Reds’ first four opponents include three of the best teams in the state regardless of division, but they got off to a quick start by downing the reigning Division 3 champion. 


DeWitt 38, Mount Pleasant 14

The Panthers stacked impressive offensive numbers against the reigning Division 3 runner-up Oilers, who had won 32 straight regular-season games. New quarterback Jordan Johnson, a sophomore, threw for 246 yards and three touchdowns and also ran for two scores for DeWitt.

Also noted:

Farwell 61, Coleman 54 – This ranks 13th in the MHSAA record book for total combined points in games in which the losing team scored at least 40.

Mendon 27, Fowler 7 – This replay of last season’s Division 8 Final again went Mendon’s way, but was much closer throughout.

Holt 24, Hudsonville 21 – With its annual game against Rockford no doubt a little on their minds, Holt’s Rams went to Hudsonville and first avenged another 2011 loss.

Lansing Catholic 45, Pewamo-Westphalia 21 – The Cougars look to be the quicker of the two reigning MHSAA runners-up to rebuild, with plenty of points potential despite a new quarterback and a number of other first-year starters.

Bay and Thumb

Richmond 25, Marine City 24

Knocking off the reigning Division 4 runner-up is a great way for Richmond to get rolling after two straight losing seasons. The Blue Devils recovered an on-side kick to get the ball back for the go-ahead drive. Read more from the Port Huron Times-Herald.

Also noted:

Midland 29, Canton 28 (OT) – This big-time matchup might’ve gotten lost in the Detroit and Grand Rapids area slugfests, but Midland’s win was one of the most solid of the weekend as both teams stand to be among the best in Division 1 this fall.

Deckerville 32, Carsonville-Port Sanilac 12 – The Eagles might find themselves fans of the 8-player game quickly after beating the reigning MHSAA champion in their first game since switching from 11 players.

Linden 17, Fenton 15 – These two have been playoff  regulars, but this win could be especially key for Linden after it lost to Fenton by three in 2011 and just got into the postseason at 5-4.

Reese 47, Montrose 26 – Both of these teams could find themselves atop league standings when the regular season is done.

Upper Peninsula

Ishpeming 34, Iron Mountain 0

Last season Iron Mountain won this matchup and finished a game ahead of Ishpeming in the Mid-Peninsula Athletic Conference. But it appears the Hematites could be heavy favorites this fall after this dominating performance. Read more from the Marquette Mining Journal.

Also noted:

Rock Mid-Peninsula 26, Bellaire 22 – The Wolverines went 2-8 last season after three years without a team, making this win over an 8-player power all the more significant.

Norway 12, Niagara (WI)  Northern Elite 9 – Norway scored with less than a minute remaining to avenge last season’s one-point loss.

Marquette 34, Detroit Denby 12 – The home team prevailed, but the neater part was that this game was played at all between opponents with a nine-hour drive between them.

Iron River West Iron County 19, Pittsford 16 – Opponents from even farther apart than Marquette and Denby met somewhat in the middle Saturday in St. Ignace for a hard-fought contest.

Lower Up North

Kingsley 18, Traverse City St. Francis 0

This was one of the state’s biggest stunners for a few reasons: Kingsley lost to St. Francis 57-8 last season, with the Gladiators then going on to the Division 7 Semifinals; Kingsley then lost an all-state running back early Friday. But the defense didn’t break. Read more from the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

Also noted:

Boyne City 22, McBain 14 – Boyne City bounced back quickly from its 2011 losing season by beating a team that had a combined 19 wins over the last two.

Manistee 36, Ludington 34 – This made two seasons in a row that Manistee won by less than a field goal; in 2011 the score was 40-39.

Johannesburg-Lewiston 28, Atlanta 26 – The Cardinals had beaten Atlanta by an average of nearly 47 points over the last three seasons before having to survive this one.

Southwest and Border

Portage Central 36, Battle Creek Harper Creek 32

The Mustangs had a hard fall last season from 9-2 in 2010 to just 3-6, and were shut out by Harper Creek 24-0; Harper Creek went on to finish 12-1 and advance to the Division 3 Semifinals. But Portage Central again could be in at least its league title mix after coming back from a three-score deficit in this opener. Click to read more from the Kalamazoo Gazette.

Also noted:

Dowagiac 21, Vicksburg 7 – Dowagiac had its best finish in 15 years last season, but lost to Vicksburg 6-3; the Chieftains hope this revenge win is the start of another special run.

Quincy 7, Bronson 6 – The Orioles had lost five straight to Bronson, and missed qualifying for the playoffs last season by just a win.

Lawton 21, Cassopolis Ross Beatty 19 – Lawton made it two straight on opening night over the Rangers; both made the playoffs last season.

Trophy Games


Each week, the MHSAA highlights trophy games around the state. Here's a list of those from Week 1.

  • The Sword: Bloomfield Hills Andover and Bloomfield Hills Lahser met on the gridiron for the last time in the regular season. The two schools will merge next year. The teams annually played for The Sword. Final: Lahser 70, Andover 7.
  • Brown Jug Games: Two such games were played last week, Mesick at Manton and Brooklyn Columbia Central at Napoleon. Finals: Manton 41, Mesick 6; Columbia Central 28, Napoleon 6.
  • Totem Pole: Battle Creek Central was at Kalamazoo Central on Friday. This is said to be the longest running rivalry west of the Allegheny Mountains, with the two schools playing games since 1893. Final: Kalamazoo Central 20, Battle Creek Central 0.
  • Addison and Hudson met on Friday in Hudson, and the two teams have played for a trophy for a number of years sponsored by a local insurance company and a local automotive group. Final: Hudson 41, Addison 0
  • Cheese Log: A border battle between Ironwood and Hurley (WI) took place at Ironwood on Friday, and a cheese log has historically been on the line in this game. Final: Hurley 49, Ironwood 7.

PHOTO: East Lansing junior running back Kenny Washington took a hand-off and looked to turn the corner during Friday's 38-18 win at Haslett.

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.)