Drive for Detroit: Week 1 in Review

August 28, 2017

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Does anyone remember a more eventful opening weekend than the one Michigan fans enjoyed these last few days?

The 2017 kickoff had comebacks, like Marshall’s from 28 down to win. It had record-book performances, like Austin Brown’s eight first-half touchdown passes for Madison Heights Madison and Jake Moody’s 57-yard field goal for Northville (see below).

There were winning streaks broken, a rematch of a 2016 MHSAA Final, and two reigning champions facing off as well. Scoring? Two games saw a combined 110 points, one of them finishing in triple overtime. How about a massive upset by a team that didn’t win a game last year? Yep, yes, and got it.

Check out Jake Moody’s school-record kick, and then read on for the most significant games from every region of the state and 8-player as we get our “Drive for Detroit” rolling again and with our first Week 2 preview only three days away.  

Bay & Thumb

Davison 56, Southfield Arts & Technology 54 (3 OT)

Davison eventually emerged from what tied for the 10th most high-scoring overtime game in MHSAA history. The Cardinals trailed by 14 heading into the fourth quarter but followed star running back Tariq Reid to the comeback win and most exciting finish of the Xenith Prep Football Classic at Wayne State University (which can be watched on replay on Click for more from MLive-Detroit.

Also noted:

Grand Blanc 51, Flint Carman-Ainsworth 46 – Grand Blanc also pulled off a memorable comeback, scoring twice over the final 1:07 for a Vehicle City Classic win at Atwood Stadium also available for replay on

Flint Southwestern 26, Flint Beecher 12 – Southwestern, with an opening win, equaled its total number of victories for both 2016 and 2015.

Marine City 42, Algonac 6 – After missing the playoffs last year for the first time since 1997, Marine City won big against an Algonac team that was a combined 21-5 over the last two seasons.

Richmond 19, Marysville 10 – The Blue Devils avenged last year’s only regular-season loss against a Marysville team that lost only in the District Finals last fall. 

Greater Detroit

Detroit Central 32, Detroit Loyola 8

Central is riding a nice run with three straight playoff appearances, and its seven wins last year were the most since going 9-3 in 2010. But still, this was big: Loyola has played in Division 7 championship games four of the last five seasons including 2016, and hasn’t been held to single-digit scoring in a game since a 2015 Semifinal loss. The Trail Blazers rebounded from a 1-4 start last year to win a Division 6 District title, and it looks like the momentum has carried over to this fall. Click for more from the Detroit News.

Also noted:

Detroit East English 38, River Rouge 29 – East English is another playoff regular, with four berths in five seasons, but the Bulldogs missed last fall and River Rouge was 33-6 over the last three years and has major expectations for this one. Watch it on

Macomb Dakota 31, Orchard Lake St. Mary’s 24 – The Cougars made it two seven-point opening-night wins in a row over the Eaglets, who still went on to win Division 3 championships the last two seasons.

Trenton 20, Allen Park 14 – This could end up being the Downriver League decider already, as Allen Park was perfect in the league last season (and 11-1 overall); this also was Trenton’s first win over the Jaguars since 1998 (a string of 10 straight losses) and first since the two became league mates in 2009.

Dearborn Divine Child 42, Benton Harbor 12 – Divine Child picked right back up after last year’s Division 3 Semifinal run, handing Benton Harbor its first regular-season loss since Week 8 in 2015. 


Grand Ledge 41, Hudsonville 14

This was quite a turnaround for a senior-loaded Comets team that fell to Hudsonville 21-14 in the 2016 opener. The Eagles scored first and the teams were tied 7-7 at halftime before the Comets broke free. Grand Ledge quarterback Nolan Bird threw for 229 yards and three touchdowns, including two to Cal Johnston. Click for more from WLNS (at 4:17).

Also noted:

New Lothrop 28, Lake Fenton 22 (OT) – After watching a 61-game regular-season winning streak end in Week 9 last October, New Lothrop started a new one against a Blue Devils team coming off a league title as well.

Haslett 43, Fowlerville 20 – The Vikings scored all of 154 points last season and finished 4-5, but posted their most points in nearly two years against a Gladiators team coming off a playoff berth.

Okemos 46, Mason 0 – This definitely bears watching; Okemos had a combined three wins over the last two seasons and scored only 158 points total last season while Mason has made the playoffs eight of the last nine years.

Ithaca 38, Clare 14 – For more than a half, the Yellowjackets’ now 65-game regular-season winning streak was under threat by annual playoff qualifier Clare. 

Northern Lower Peninsula

Indian River Inland Lakes 27, St. Ignace 20

This was one of the biggest shockers statewide and especially for those following our smaller schools. Inland Lakes has had some recent success, with playoff berths in 2013 and 2014 – but went 0-9 last fall. St. Ignace, meanwhile, is coming off a second straight trip to the Division 8 Semifinals. The Saints started last season by shutting Inland Lakes out 44-0. Click for more from 9&10 News.

Also noted:

Frankfort 70, Manton 40 – These two tied for the highest-scoring 11-player game in the state in Week 1, Frankfort coming out on top after also winning the matchup 44-34 last year.

Traverse City St. Francis 21, Marquette 7 – St. Francis reportedly became the 12th program in state history with at least 500 victories with this one.

Boyne City 51, Negaunee 13 – The Ramblers went on a 25-0 second-half run to win big over one of the annual best from the Upper Peninsula (Negaunee was 10-1 last season).

Traverse City West 42, Midland 20 – The Titans made it three wins in five seasons and two in a row over one of the Saginaw Valley League’s strongest programs. 

Southeast & Border

Jackson Lumen Christi 27, Grand Rapids West Catholic 24

Life after graduating single-season rushing record holder Bo Bell actually started out even better than a year ago for the Titans, who fell to West Catholic 30-13 last season on the way to winning the Division 6 championship. West Catholic, which went on to win Division 5 last fall, drove to the Titans’ 3-yard line but couldn’t get a go-ahead score before time expired. Click for more from the Grand Rapids Press.

Also noted:

Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central 28, Pewamo-Westphalia 21 – St. Mary appears to be a contender again after a 4-5 season, starting this one by handing the reigning Division 7 champ its first loss since the 2015 title game.

Michigan Center 35, Climax-Scotts 6 – The Cardinals handed Climax-Scotts its first regular-season loss since Week 8 of 2014 after falling to the Panthers 48-14 a year ago.

Hanover-Horton 31, Concord 28 – Staying in the Cascades Conference, Hanover-Horton started its rebound from 2-7 a year ago by downing the reigning Big 8 Conference co-champion Yellow Jackets.

Pittsford 13, Morenci 12 – Pittsford’s last two seasons ended in the playoffs, but began with 44-6 and 34-7 losses to Morenci.

Southwest Corridor

Marshall 35, Jackson 34 (OT)

The most impressive comeback of many this weekend arguably took place at Marshall, where the Redhawks found themselves down 28-0 in the second quarter and came all the way back to begin a turnaround from last season’s 4-5 finish. Jackson, 5-4 last fall, must bounce back quickly with tough Zeeland East up next. Click for more from the Battle Creek Enquirer.

Also noted:

Coloma 61, Gobles 8 – Coloma is playing this season for its first winning record since 2009 and first playoff berth since 2008, and beating a Gobles team that was 8-3 last year is an incredible start.

Vicksburg 38, Dowagiac 27 – Vicksburg came back from 10 points down in the third quarter in a matchup of 2016 playoff teams to run its winning streak over Dowagiac to three straight.

Kalamazoo Hackett 34, Saugatuck 21 – The Fighting Irish, a combined 7-11 over the last two seasons, handed Saugatuck its first regular-season loss since 2014 and after falling by 44 in this matchup a year ago.

Homer 36, Constantine 34 – These teams’ first meeting since 1956 (according to was decided by a Homer touchdown pass with four seconds to play. 

Upper Peninsula

Ishpeming 34, Iron Mountain 7

Iron Mountain may have scored first in the latest of this annual series, but Ishpeming certainly left a strong impression beginning its bounce-back from last season’s uncharacteristic 3-5 run. Last year’s opener saw the Mountaineers end the Hematites’ 27-game regular-season winning streak, so Ishpeming no doubt was inspired even more than usual against its traditional Week 1 rival. Click for more from the Marquette Mining Journal.

Also noted:

Bark River-Harris 14, Iron River West Iron County 12 – The Broncos started making last year’s 3-6 finish a memory with one of its best defensive performances in three seasons and against a 2016 playoff team.

Gladstone 42, Gwinn 0 – Gwinn also was a playoff team last year and Gladstone also was 3-6, but the Braves flipped this one big-time after losing 36-16 in their 2016 meeting.

Hancock 21, Lake Linden-Hubbell 14 – In winning a season opener for the first time since 2010, Hancock also ended Lake Linden-Hubbell’s 18-game regular-season winning streak that began opening night 2016.

Menominee 26, Marinette (Wis.) 6 – The 111th meeting of this record interstate rivalry saw Menominee move its all-time advantage to 54-50-7.

West Michigan

Grand Rapids Catholic Central 20, Detroit Country Day 7

The rematch of last season’s Division 4 championship game was only a tad more high-scoring than last year’s defensive struggle, as GRCC put up 20 points this time to follow up that 10-7 victory when they last met at Ford Field. The Cougars scored the first 20 points of the game, in fact, leading off with a pair of touchdowns in the first quarter as quarterback Jack Bowen threw for one and ran in another. Click for more from the Grand Rapids Press.

Also noted:

Montague 48, Reed City 14 – The Wildcats not only took a first step toward a third straight playoff season, but handed Reed City its first regular-season loss since Week 9 of 2014.

Grand Rapids Christian 38, DeWitt 30 – The Eagles held off a late DeWitt comeback attempt in a matchup of what could be two of the top Division 3 teams in the state again.

Rockford 14, Saline 0 – The Rams made up for missing last year’s opener with a team-wide sickness by handing usually high-scoring Saline its first shutout since 2006.

Hudsonville Unity Christian 52, Allendale 44 – These two returning playoff teams were even a few points better after combining for 72 a year ago; Unity Christian downed the Falcons for the fourth straight time. 


Battle Creek St. Philip 14, Wyoming Tri-unity Christian 8 (OT)

After just missing the playoffs last season at 5-4, St. Philip took a major step toward guaranteeing a return by edging a Tri-unity team that went 11-1 and made the Semifinals in 2016. Both teams shined defensively in an uncharacteristically low-scoring 8-player game, even a matchup of elite teams. Click for more from WZZM13.

Also noted:

Brimley 26, Posen 18 – Brimley couldn’t field a team last season, but back on the field the Bays got their first win since 2014.

Rapid River 38, Crystal Falls Forest Park 36 – Forest Park’s only two losses in last year’s 8-player debut were to eventual champion Powers North Central, and Rapid River avenged a 64-22 defeat in this one.

North Adams-Jerome 48, Burr Oak 46 – The Rams equaled last season’s win total in their 8-player debut after making the switch this past offseason.

Bellevue 40, Webberville 6 – The Broncos also switched from 11-player after last season and two straight 3-5 finishes, and they got off to a great start downing a 2016 playoff team. 

PHOTO: Walled Lake Western defenders wrap up a West Bloomfield ball carrier during Western's 19-14 win Thursday at Wayne State University. (Photo by John Johnson). 

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.)