Drive for Detroit: Week 10 in Review

November 3, 2014

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

A number of MHSAA football teams began practice last week enjoying the unseasonable warmth and glowing sun – and finished their games playing through some combination of strong wind, rain or snow and freezing temperatures.

The results that emerged from the first week of the postseason were more predictable, but far from automatic.

Of 136 games played over nine divisions, 103 (or 76 percent) were won by home teams – those with higher playoff-point averages than their first-round opponents at the end of the regular season. That means home-field advantage was a pretty good thing – but far from a sure one with seasons and careers hanging in the balance.  

Take a look below at four games that stuck out from each division as the field was split from its original 272 teams.


Rockford 20, Traverse City West 14 (OT)

Only three Division 1 games this week were decided by less than two touchdowns, making this the closest of the bunch. At-large qualifier Traverse City West (5-5) has made the playoffs 11 times during its 18-year history – and faced Rockford eight times, including to open the playoffs the last three seasons. This one was clearly closer than last year’s 19-0 Rams victory, with West coming back from a 14-point halftime deficit. The win earned Rockford a rematch with rival Hudsonville in the District Final. Click for more from the Grand Rapids Press.

Also noted:

Macomb Dakota 21, Utica Eisenhower 14 – This score was identical and no doubt similarly nerve-wracking for Dakota (8-2) as the first time it played Eisenhower (5-5), in Week 5.

Grand Ledge 14, Hartland 0 – In mid-September, the Comets (7-3) were 1-2; now they’re seeking a first District title since 2005 after beating a league champion in Hartland (7-3).

West Bloomfield 34, Livonia Stevenson 6 – The Lakers (9-1) set a school record for wins with their first playoff victory in school history; Stevenson finished 6-4, one win better than 2013. 


Muskegon Mona Shores 42, Caledonia 14

A year ago Mona Shores made the playoffs for the first time; Friday saw the Sailors (9-1) claim their first playoff victory and look even more like a Division 2 contender despite another tough matchup coming this week against undefeated Midland Dow. Mona Shores had beaten Caledonia 40-7 in Week 4, but that was before the Fighting Scots put together a run that included shutouts of Rockford and Lowell and similarly big wins over East Grand Rapids and Grand Rapids Christian. Caledonia finished 7-3, two wins better than in 2013. Click for more from the Muskegon Chronicle.

Also noted:

Farmington Hills Harrison 42, Fenton 10 – Harrison’s run since falling big to Oak Park in Week 3 keeps getting better and better; the Hawks (8-2) came back from a seven-point defeat to reigning Division 1 champion Clarkston in Week 9 by handing the first and lone loss to Fenton (9-1).

Walled Lake Western 14, South Lyon 13 – The Warriors (9-1) stopped South Lyon and its best season since 2006 with a last stand against the Lions (8-2) during the final minutes.

Southfield 40, Detroit Martin Luther King 12 – The Bluejays (7-3) claimed their second playoff win over King (8-2) in three seasons and this time will again face Oak Park in the District Final. 


Lowell 28, East Grand Rapids 27

A series of classics between these Ottawa-Kent White rivals added another chapter, with East Grand Rapids holding the lead into the final three minutes before Lowell moving ahead for good on a 73-yard touchdown reception by Gabe Steed. The Red Arrows (9-1) have won at least one playoff game every season since last falling in an opener in 1999. East Grand Rapids finished 6-4, still its best finish in three years after missing the playoffs the last two. Click for more from the Grand Rapids Press.

Also noted:  

Dearborn Divine Child 9, Allen Park 7 – Divine Child’s first playoff win since 2010 gave it four more victories than how the Falcons (7-3) finished a year ago and also ended the best season for Allen Park (8-2) since 2011.

Trenton 20, Romulus 6 – The Trojans (7-3) are in the playoffs and have their first playoff win both since 2008 after ending Romulus’ first playoff appearance since 2000; the Eagles (6-4) did double their win total from 2013.

Cedar Springs 36, Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern 0 – These O-K Bronze rivals played to a 14-8 win for Cedar Springs (9-1) in Week 6, but the Red Hawks found something that worked and ended Forest Hills Northern’s season at 7-3 for the second straight year. 


Comstock Park 19, Cadillac 10

On win total alone, this would be a down season so far for Comstock Park (6-4), winners of at least nine games the last four seasons and 12-1 a year ago. But the Panthers have recovered strongly from a 1-3 start that included losses to teams with a combined 25-5 record. Comstock Park also defeated Cadillac in the playoffs a year ago, in the Regional Final, and in both cases it was Cadillac’s lone loss of the season. Click to read more from the Cadillac News.

Also noted:

Hudsonville Unity Christian 46, Grand Rapids Catholic Central 43 – The Crusaders (6-4) earned their first playoff win in program history, edging regular playoff qualifier Catholic Central (6-4) be re-taking the lead during the final minute.

Vicksburg 14, Three Rivers 13 – The Bulldogs’ best run since 1993 will continue after Vicksburg (8-2) avenged its Week 6 loss to the Wildcats (6-4).

Detroit Old Redford 14, Dearborn Heights Robichaud 6 – The Ravens (7-3) earned their first playoff win with a bit of an upset in edging Western Wayne Athletic Conference Red champion Robichaud (8-2). 


Calumet 30, Harrison 21

Calumet, the state’s northernmost school, traveled to Harrison in the middle of the Lower Peninsula – and went home with a win as it continued to reverse last season’s 2-7 finish. The Copper Kings opened this fall 1-2 and needed to win out beginning with Week 7 to qualify for the postseason. Harrison also went 2-7 a year ago, finishing 8-2 this time after its first playoff appearance since 1999. Click for more from the Houghton Daily Mining Gazette.

Also noted:

Hopkins 22, Muskegon Oakridge 16 – After falling by six points in its 2012 playoff game and eight points in 2013, Hopkins (9-1) advanced to the District Final against last season semifinalist Oakridge (8-2).

Olivet 33, Stockbridge 32 – This rematch of the deciding game in the Greater Lansing Activities Conference was much closer than when Olivet (8-2) won 69-48 in Week 6; Stockbridge ended its first playoff season since 2010 at 6-4.

Ida 24, Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard 0 – The Bluestreaks (8-2) earned their first playoff win since 1990 with their second straight shutout in October, this one over Gabriel Richard (7-3), which averaged 31 points per game. 


Flint Beecher 21, Montrose 13

These Genesee Area Conference Red rivals met for the second time in three weeks and again played it close, with Beecher following its 19-14 win in Week 8 with a season sweep. The Buccaneers also set a program record for victories in moving to 10-0 for the first time – they were 8-5 in making the Semifinal round in 2012. Montrose finished 6-4. Click for more from the Flint Journal.

Also noted: 

Schoolcraft 42, Constantine 28 – The Falcons (8-2) won the Kalamazoo Valley Association title ahead of Schoolcraft, but the Eagles (7-3) will move on and despite falling to Constantine 31-17 in Week 2.

Negaunee 21, Charlevoix 12 – The Miners quickly made their 5-4 record at the start of the playoffs look a lot better, and the Rayders should celebrate 6-4 as well after going 1-8 in both 2012 and 2013.  

Watervliet 22, Niles Brandywine 21 – The Panthers (9-1) made the always-gutsy decision after a touchdown late to go for the two-point conversion and the win instead of a tie, and held on to finish the Bobcats at 8-2 for the second straight season.  


Cassopolis 29, Decatur 28 (OT)

Cassopolis slugged through a tough league season, going 1-3 in the Berrien-Cass-St. Joseph Red (with two one-point losses) in starting the season 2-3 overall. But the Rangers (7-3) took the final edge in this opener on a partially-blocked extra point that still found its way through the uprights, and beat a Decatur team that finished 8-2 and suffered its two losses by a mere combined 10 points. Click for more from the Cassopolis Vigilant.

Also noted:

Cass City 14, Marlette 8 – The Red Hawks (7-3) returned to the playoffs for the first time since 2006 with their first postseason win since 2005, while Marlette (6-4) finished its third winning season over the last four.

Pewamo-Westphalia 39, Union City 7 – P-W (8-2) actually had a negative yard total passing, but ran for 380 in handing Union City (8-2) its second straight loss to finish the fall.

Bridgman 33, Gobles 8 – The Bees (7-2) celebrated their first playoff win ever after bouncing back from a Week 9 loss to rival Buchanan; Gobles finished 7-3, a two-win improvement from 2013. 


Bark River-Harris 14, Lake Linden-Hubbell 6

Since a 9-2 finish in 2009, Bark River-Harris won one, zero, one and two games, respectively, before returning to the ranks of the Upper Peninsula small-school elite this fall. Beating solid Lake Linden-Hubbell (7-3) should provide some confidence as well as the Broncos (8-2) prepare for a rematch with Crystal Falls Forest Park, which beat them 48-18 on opening night. Click for more from the Houghton Daily Mining Gazette.

Also noted:

Central Lake 18, Frankfort 6 – The Trojans (6-4) got into the playoffs despite four losses to other eventual playoff teams and made their selection stand up against Frankfort (5-4), in the playoffs for the first time in three seasons.

Johannesburg-Lewiston 35, Hillman 18 – The Cardinals (9-1) set themselves up to take on powerful Beal City for the third time in four seasons by ending the best season for Hillman (8-2) since 2011.

Morenci 25, Petersburg-Summerfield 0 – The Bulldogs (9-1) continued their best run since 2001 with their sixth shutout and second this season of Tri-County Conference foe Summerfield (5-5).


Lawrence 57, Portland St. Patrick 6

The Tigers started off this season in dominating fashion while facing only one eventual playoff team over the first five weeks, but haven’t slowed the last five despite taking on some of the best 8-player teams in the state. Lawrence followed up its Week 9 21-point win over Battle Creek St. Philip (9-1) – this week’s Regional Final opponent – with another big win over similarly-strong Portland St. Patrick (8-2). Lawrence has scored fewer than 50 points only once this fall and has yet to give up more than 20.

Also noted:

Rapid River 46, Engadine 26 – The Rockets (10-0) got a much closer game from Engadine (5-5) than the 40-point win in Week 5.

Cedarville 39, Bellaire 0 – These Bridge Football Alliance rivals faced off for the second time in three seasons with the result more of the same for the Trojans (9-1), who ended Bellaire’s season at 7-3.

Kingston 44, Owendale-Gagetown 8 – An 0-2 start made this season look a little like two-win 2013, but Kingston (7-3) has won seven of its last eight and earned a rematch against Owendale-Gagetown (8-2); the Cardinals beat the Bulldogs 48-20 three weeks ago.

PHOTO: Southfield's Kanye Harris follows blockers into Detroit Martin Luther King's defense during the Bluejays' District win over the Crusaders. (Photo courtesy of the 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.)