Drive for Detroit: Week 11 in Review

November 10, 2014

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

A total of 16 MHSAA football teams in Divisions 1-5 entered the postseason with playoff-point averages above 100 – an impressive number indicating those teams not only had strong records, but played plenty of tough competition as well. 

Three of those 16 teams lost their playoff openers, joined by eight more over the weekend as more of the top achievers during the regular season were overtaken by those raising their games with only a few more to play. 

The top playoff-point teams in Division 3 (DeWitt) and Division 5 (Marine City) both suffered their first and only losses this season, and 10 more undefeated teams saw their seasons end with lone defeats of the fall. 

Read on to see some of the key results that whittled the playoff field to 68 that will play in 11-player Regional Finals and 8-player Semifinals this week. 


Clinton Township Chippewa Valley 28, Macomb Dakota 27

This has been anticipated as a top Macomb County matchup for a few years – but instead, Dakota had beaten the Big Reds (8-3) in 16 straight dating back to 2004 and including six times in the playoffs. Dakota (8-3) had beaten Chippewa Valley 42-21 in Week 2 and in the playoffs both of the last two seasons. Junior Stefan Clairborne blocked a late extra-point attempt to highlight a game-changing special teams performance. Click for more from the Detroit News.

Also noted:

Clarkston 23, Lapeer 20 – The reigning champion Wolves (11-0) survived the third three-point game of their 24-game winning streak, handing Lapeer (10-1) the only loss of its inaugural season.

Hudsonville 37, Rockford 15 – The Eagles (7-4) avenged their one-point Week 4 loss to Rockford (8-3), and then some, to claim a second-straight District title.

Detroit Cass Tech 28, Dearborn Fordson 21 – One of these had to fall for the first time this season, and the Technicians (11-0) hung on to claim their fifth straight District championship while ending the best season for Fordson (10-1) since 2008.


Muskegon Mona Shores 41, Midland Dow 14

In what seemed like an instant, this one belonged to Mona Shores. The Sailors (10-1) jumped out to a 21-0 lead in handing Dow (10-1) its lone loss this season. Mona Shores quarterback Tyree Jackson was at the center of the offensive effort as usual, but this time on the ground with three rushing touchdowns. Dow hadn’t given up more than 21 points in a game. Click for more from the Muskegon Chronicle.

Also noted:

Farmington Hills Harrison 10, Walled Lake Western 9 (OT) – These former longtime rivals hadn’t played each other since 2001 and battled to 3-3 before Harrison (9-2) prevailed in part by blocking an extra-point attempt by Western (9-2).

Southfield 14, Oak Park 13 – The Bluejays (8-3) won a rematch of these teams' 2012 District Final, which was won by Oak Park (8-3) also close, 19-12.

Wyandotte Roosevelt 28, Brownstown Woodhaven 21 – Roosevelt (9-2) will play this weekend for its fourth straight season of at least 10 wins, but this time ended the best ever for Woodhaven (10-1) by handing the Warriors their only loss. 


Mason 30, DeWitt 14

Few gave Mason (8-3) much chance against the reigning Division 3 runner-up Panthers (10-1), who entered the postseason with the highest playoff-point average in this division. But the Bulldogs, who entered the season with an experienced group of playmakers, have improved significantly around them after opening 1-3. DeWitt won their first meeting 25-10 in Week 3, but Mason has clamped down particularly on defense in earning this first Regional Final berth since 1995. Click for more from the Lansing State Journal.

Also noted:

Petoskey 20, Mount Pleasant 14 – The Northmen (9-2) earned their first Regional Final berth since 1998 by handing to Oilers (7-4) their second loss this season by six or fewer points.

Zeeland West 30, Stevensville Lakeshore 28 – Most of Friday had to be a little scary for the reigning champion Dux (11-0), who had beaten Lakeshore (8-3) in last season’s Semifinal by a much more comfortable 42-7.

New Boston Huron 44, Trenton 27 – The Chiefs (10-1) set a team record for wins and doubled last season’s total in beating Trenton (7-4) for their first District title. 


Lansing Sexton 41, Saginaw Swan Valley 20

Swan Valley running back Alex Grace finished one of the most incredible three-year varsity careers in MHSAA football history with 198 more rushing yards and three touchdowns to give him 2,426 and 36 this season and 7,551 yards and 99 rushing touchdowns for his career. His career yards rank third all-time and his TDs are second. But every time Grace made a play Friday – offensively and defensively as well – the Big Reds (11-0) seemed to respond. Sexton senior Ja’Von Wray ran for 235 yards and five touchdowns as his team scored more than the Vikings (10-1) had given up in any two games combined this fall. Click for more from the Lansing State Journal.

Also noted:

Whitehall 41, Comstock Park 36 – Some termed the Vikings’ win “miraculous” as Whitehall (9-2) came back from 23 points down to win their first District title since 2003 and end the Panthers’ run at 6-5.

Edwardsburg 34, Vicksburg 6 – The Eddies (10-1) avenged a 16-14 loss to Vicksburg (8-3) in Week 3 to push into double-figure wins for the first time since 2010 and second time in program history; Vicksburg’s record was its best since 1993.

Eaton Rapids 20, Battle Creek Harper Creek 10 – The Greyhounds (8-3) have gone from never making the playoffs before 2013 to making their second Regional Final in a row, this time over near-annual playoff team Harper Creek (6-5). 


Almont 35, Marine City 7

The run to the 2011 Semifinals makes it tough to call this the best win in Almont history – but it has to be a close second to that season's Regional Final win over Jackson Lumen Christi. Marine City was the reigning Division 4 champion, in Division 5 for this fall’s playoffs, and 23-1 over the last two seasons with more than 1,000 points scored during that time. Almont held the Mariners (10-1) to their fewest points since the 2011 Division 4 Final and has given up a meager 56 points this season. The Raiders, meanwhile, ran for 294 yards and scored the most points Marine City had given up since last season’s championship game at Ford Field. Click for more from the Port Huron Times Herald.

Also noted:

Reed City 22, Remus Chippewa Hills 21 – For the second straight week, Reed City (9-2) faced a rematch against a league rival, and Chippewa Hills (8-3) made this one much closer than the Coyotes’ 60-32 win in Week 8.

Flint Powers Catholic 19, Frankenmuth 15 – The Chargers (8-3) held on, on the road, in a rematch of the 2012 District Final in which they beat Frankenmuth (9-2) 34-0.

River Rouge 42, Ida 14 – The Panthers (10-1) reached double figure wins for the second time in three seasons and second time ever in ending the longest run for Ida (8-3) since 1990.  


Madison Heights Madison 32, Flint Beecher 6

Madison eliminated Beecher (10-1) for the second straight season to earn its fourth Regional Final berth in six seasons – and the opportunity to end Ithaca’s 11-player nation-best 67-game winning streak this week. Madison (9-2) scored 20 unanswered points in the second half to pull away while grounding a Beecher offense that hadn’t been held to single digits since 2012. Click for more from the Royal Oak Daily Tribune.

Also noted:

Leroy Pine River 34, Sanford Meridian 27 – Pine River (8-3) won a combined 11 games from 2009-13 and had never won a playoff game before two weeks ago; Meridian (8-3) did finish with its best record since 2009.

Watervliet 28, Schoolcraft 21 – Last season Watervliet won 10 straight before falling to Schoolcraft 28-26 in the District Final; this time Watervliet (10-1) has won 10 straight since falling opening night and avenged that loss to the Eagles (7-4).

Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central 50, Clinton 15 – The Falcons (10-1) won their sixth District title in seven seasons against last year’s Finals runner-up Clinton (10-1), which is 32-3 over the last three seasons.


Saginaw Michigan Lutheran Seminary 46, Whittemore-Prescott 0

Offensive firepower has gotten more attention during Seminary’s best season since 1994 – and Seminary scored 40 or more points for the seventh time this season. But Seminary (10-1) also has five shutouts and has given up only 96 points, particularly impressive this time given Whittemore-Prescott hadn’t been shut out since 2010. Whittemore-Prescott (10-1) also had beaten all of its opponents by at least 10 points this fall in earning its best record since 2002. Click for more from the Saginaw News.

Also noted:

Ishpeming 20, Iron River West Iron County 7 – It had been nearly a year since a team had given Ishpeming (10-0) this much of a challenge, a positive for the Wykons (9-2) in falling to the Hematites in the District Final for the second straight season.

Pewamo-Westphalia 34, Hudson 27 – The Pirates (9-2) eliminated a league champion for the second straight week, this time Lenawee County Athletic Association power Hudson (9-2).

Bridgman 17, Cassopolis 14 – The Bees (8-2) set a program record for wins in claiming their first District title and ending Cassopolis at 7-4 for the second straight season.


Harbor Beach 39, Waterford Our Lady 21

The Pirates (11-0) are 46-4 over their last 50 games and earned their fourth straight District title against their toughest opponent this fall to date. Harbor Beach had given up only 31 points total entering Saturday’s tilt. But despite allowing a few more, the defense also came through with two touchdown returns off turnovers. Our Lady finished 9-2, one win better than last season. Click for more from the Oakland Press.

Also noted:

Munising 24, St. Ignace 6 – The Mustangs (10-1) have double-digit wins for the first time since 1980 and another highlight after handing St. Ignace (10-1) its lone loss.

Beal City 53, Johannesburg-Lewiston 27 – The Aggies (9-2) have topped 50 points in both of their playoff games and ended the season for Johannesburg-Lewiston (9-2) for the third time in five years.

Morenci 42, Ottawa Lake Whiteford 22 – The Bulldogs (10-1) continued their best run since reaching the 1996 Finals by finishing a sweep of Tri-County Conference rival Whiteford (7-4).


Cedarville 28, Rapid River 0

The Trojans (10-1) will play in their first 8-player Semifinal after eliminating rival Rapid River (10-1), last season’s 8-player runner-up and the Bridge Football Alliance champion ahead of Cedarville the last two seasons. Cedarville fell just short against the Rockets, losing 20-19 in Week 6, but came on big in the rematch with a touchdown in each quarter. Click for more from the Escanaba Daily Press.

Also noted:

Deckerville 72, Kingston 22 – Deckerville (9-2) won its second Regional title in three seasons by beating Kingston (7-4) a second time this fall; the Eagles won their first meeting only 14-8 in Week 2.

Peck 56, Morrice 8 – The Pirates (11-0) set up a Semifinal rematch with Lawrence by ending the first 8-player season for Morrice at a solid 6-5 – the Orioles’ best record since 2006.

Lawrence 50, Battle Creek St. Philip 14 – Lawrence (11-0) beat St. Philip (9-2) for the second time in three weeks and by scoring at least 50 points for the 10th time this fall.

PHOTO: Warren DeLaSalle, on offense, downed Detroit East English 21-14 in their Division 2 District Final. (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.)