Drive for Detroit: Week 1 in Review

September 2, 2014

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Opening night of MHSAA football season never disappoints.

This weekend’s first games of 2014 again produced plenty of discussion fodder. But they also included a couple interesting rarities worth pointing out.

  • We figured Stevensville-Lakeshore’s 2-0 win over Battle Creek Central on Thursday had to be a forfeit when the score came in. Actually, Lakeshore’s defense scored a safety with less than a minute to play.

  • Although we don’t tout a team’s losing streak, we certainly can celebrate the end of one – so congrats to Pinconning, which won for the first time since Week 7 of 2010, 27-8 over Caro; Clio, which won for the first time since Week 8 in 2009 by beating Mount Morris 24-14; and to Bay City All Saints for its first win since Week 7 of 2011, 45-14 over Bellevue. 

Those two certainly raised a few eyebrows among the 300-plus scores reported from Thursday-Saturday. Read below for more of the most significant results from every corner of Michigan. 

Greater Detroit

Detroit Cass Tech 27, Oak Park 26

Those following live or over the Twittersphere had to think Cass Tech was in trouble early as it trailed by two scores. But the Technicians came back to take the final lead with 2:16 to play at Wayne State University. The game featured two of the state’s top running backs – Cass Tech’s Mike Weber and Oak Park’s John Kelly – and an impressive debut by Technicians sophomore quarterback Rodney Hall. Click to read more from MLive-Detroit.

Also noted:

Orchard Lake St. Mary's 21, Southfield 19 – The Eaglets are coming off a rare playoff miss but began bouncing back by beating a Bluejays team coming off its third straight postseason appearance.

Clarkston 24, Macomb Dakota 21 – The reigning MHSAA Division 1 champion looked strong in beginning its title defense, edging a Dakota team that had won 17 straight regular-season games.

Birmingham Groves 42, Birmingham Seaholm 19 – Groves won this battle of rivals for the first time since 2011 and after falling to Seaholm by seven and six points, respectively, the last two seasons.

Dearborn Fordson 41, Temperance Bedford 21 – Fordson is seeking a ninth-straight playoff berth and got rolling by beating a Bedford team that suffered its only 2013 loss in the Regional Final.

West Michigan

Muskegon 21, Detroit Catholic Central 14

This ended up everything it was billed as Muskegon scored during the final minutes to survive in arguably the most anticipated opener of this season. The Big Reds are back-to-back MHSAA Division 2 runners-up and Detroit Catholic Central has finished second in Division 1 the last three seasons. Both have a number of new key contributors, but both also are again considered contenders to reach Ford Field this November. Click to read more from the Muskegon Chronicle.

Also noted:

Grand Rapids Christian 28, Grand Rapids South Christian 14 – The Eagles have won this clash of Grand Rapids titans five seasons running, even more impressive since South Christian has played at Ford Field to finish the last two.

East Grand Rapids 17, Grand Rapids Catholic Central 14 – The Pioneers also face Lowell, Muskegon, Forest Hills Central, Caledonia and Grand Rapids Christian among others, making every win count that much more as they look to return to the playoffs after a two-year hiatus.

Muskegon Orchard View 22, Montague 16 – Although Montague dropped down just a bit in finishing 6-4 last season, this was one of the biggest stunners statewide last weekend with Orchard View seeking its first winning season since 2009.

Muskegon Mona Shores 31, Saline 28 – Coming off its first playoff appearance, the Sailors appear headed for a return after edging another 2013 playoff qualifier.

Bay and Thumb

New Lothrop 28, Traverse City St. Francis 20 (3 OT)

New Lothrop hasn’t lost a regular-season game since Week 9 of 2009 – a stretch of now 37 – although St. Francis did its best to break the streak. Neither team scored during the first overtime, and both scored during the second overtime but missed extra points. Click to read more from the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

Also noted:

Montrose 52, Reese 7 – These teams combined for 20 wins last season, and Montrose is off to a great start on a fourth straight of at least 10 victories.

Saginaw Swan Valley 42, Saginaw Nouvel 0 – Alex Grace added another 195 yards to his more than 5,000 gained for the Vikings over the last two seasons.

Midland Dow 46, Mount Pleasant 16 – The Chargers broke a seven-game losing streak to Mount Pleasant and should be among favorites in the Saginaw Valley Association Blue.

Flint Carman-Ainsworth 26, Grand Blanc 14 – The Cavaliers followed up their best finish ever (11-2) by opening with a third straight win over this nonleague rival. 


Ithaca 38, Clare 13

Ithaca stands alone with the most consecutive high school football wins in the United States. The Yellowjackets ran their streak to 57 straight, while Iowa City Regina (Iowa) – which also had won 56 in a row – fell by a point, 29-28, to Solon (Iowa) on Friday. Clare entered this season with eight straight playoff appearances and should be a favorite to remain atop the Jack Pine Conference. Ithaca has won four straight MHSAA Division 6 championships and debuted a new starter at quarterback – junior Jacob Smith, younger brother of graduated all-stater Travis – and he threw for 245 yards and four touchdowns. Click to read more from the Lansing State Journal.

Also noted:

Grand Ledge 28, Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central 24 – This says a lot about the Comets’ hoped-for turnaround this fall after they finished 4-5 a year ago; Forest Hills Central also went 4-5 in 2013, but against a similarly rigorous schedule.

DeWitt 39, Linden 0 – The Panthers return much of the team that made last season’s Division 3 Final, but this score was a little higher than most probably expected against a Linden team DeWitt beat in the playoffs the last two seasons by a combined 14 points.

Okemos 28, Mason 14 – Could this first win over the rival Bulldogs since 2011 be a sign of things to come for a Chieftains team returning 17 starters after finishing 3-6 in 2013?

Lansing Sexton 35, Detroit East English 26 – The Big Reds have MHSAA title aspirations, and beating a strong East English team at Wayne State University was a powerful step.  

Upper Peninsula

L'Anse 16, Houghton 14

L’Anse opened newly-dedicated Volunteer Field with a pair of late defensive stands to beat Houghton for the sixth straight opening night. The Purple Hornets are coming off consecutive 8-3 seasons, but fielded a number of new contributors who held strong against a Houghton team that made the playoffs last season for the first time since 2001. Click for read more from the Houghton Daily Mining Gazette.

Also noted:

Escanaba 24, Alpena 18 – Coming off its worst finish (3-6) in six seasons, Escanaba started this fall by avenging a 15-7 loss to Alpena in last season’s opener.

Cedarville 52, Posen 0 – This was little like last season’s 42-40 nail-biter opener also won by Cedarville before both went on to make the 8-player playoffs.

Iron River West Iron County 28, Munising 6 – Make that 12 straight seasons West Iron has started 1-0, and 12 straight regular-season wins dating to Week 8 of 2012.

Ishpeming Westwood 40, Stephenson 16 – Rebounding Westwood is halfway to equaling last season’s win total with this win over a program that’s made the playoffs four of the last five years. 

Southwest and Border

Edwardsburg 42, Three Rivers 40 (2 OT)

Edwardsburg’s 2013 ended with a disappointing four-point loss in its first playoff game – which also ended up being the Eddies’ only loss of last season. They were faced with a similar situation Thursday – but made a series of big plays to come out on top. The Eddies blocked a field goal to help send this game into overtime and scored the winning points on their lone complete pass of the evening. Edwardsburg has beaten Three Rivers in three straight; this season the two are in separate divisions of the Wolverine B Conference for the first time. Click to read more from the Kalamazoo Gazette.

Also noted:

Gobles 33, Watervliet 32 – Watervliet didn’t lose last season until the playoffs, but Gobles bounced back big after missing the playoffs in 2013 and falling to the Panthers 43-14 in last fall’s opener.

Fennville 18, Lawton 0 – Fennville is seeking its first winning season since 2010, and shutting out a Lawton team coming off its fifth straight playoff appearance is a great start.

Plainwell 28, Dowagiac 13 – Plainwell has won two straight over Dowagiac after seven straight losses to the Chieftains.

Portage Northern 28, Battle Creek Lakeview 24 – Northern’s last football game before Thursday was a 31-7 playoff loss to Lakeview last fall.

Lower Up North

Traverse City Central 34, Marquette 13

Central opened last season with a 31-23 loss to Marquette – the first of four defeats by eight or fewer points as the Trojans finished 5-4 and missed the playoffs by a win. This time, Central’s offense rolled to more than 400 yards with two backs each running for more than 100. Click to read more from the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

Also noted:

Hillman 39, Rudyard 33 – The Tigers opened with a close one, scoring the game-winner with 27 seconds to play as they pursue their ninth straight playoff berth.

Traverse City West 31, Midland 14 – The Titans opened with a nice turnaround after falling to Midland 16-0 in last season’s opener; Midland went on to win 10 games.

Petoskey 53, Sault Ste. Marie 14 – The Northmen lost two games last season by a combined four points and missed the playoffs for the second straight, but hope this fourth straight win over Sault Ste. Marie is a jump start back toward the postseason.

Charlevoix 13, Elk Rapids 12 – For the second straight year, the Rayders were coming off a 1-8 finish but opened with an upset of a team coming off a playoff berth.

PHOTO: Detroit Cass Tech's Mike Weber (25) breaks toward an opening against Oak Park at Wayne State University. (Photo courtesy of Detroit Public School League.)

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.)