Drive for Detroit: Week 12 in Review

November 17, 2014

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

The third weekend of this season's MHSAA Football Playoffs was highlighted by the continuation of one of the state's most impressive winning streaks – and the finishes of two others of note.

Ithaca emerged from a fourth-quarter deficit against Madison Heights Madison to win another Division 6 Regional title and push its winning streak to 68 games, the longest 11-player streak in the country. 

But there will be a new Division 2 champion; reigning three-time title-winner Birmingham Brother Rice fell to Catholic League rival Warren DeLaSalle. And for the first time in its short MHSAA history, the 8-player tournament will have a champion not from Michigan's thumb – 2013 champion Peck and 2012 winner Deckerville both were eliminated in Semifinals. 

We touch briefly below on both 8-player games and all 32 11-player Regional Finals, with links to additional coverage of the games of particular note. 


Cedarville 36, Deckerville 20

Cedarville eliminated a former champion to earn an opportunity to win its first title. The Trojans (11-1) put up 36 points despite playing through a blizzard and facing powerful Deckerville (9-3), which finished this fall with its only losses against the other teams in the Semifinals – Cedarville, Lawrence and Peck. Click for more from the Sault Ste. Marie Evening News.

Lawrence 66, Peck 40

This was a reversal of last season’s Semifinal between these teams, and Lawrence (12-0) hopes to now finish similarly as Peck when it won last season's championship. The Tigers again rode the many talents of quarterback Derek Gribler, who ran for 280 yards and three touchdowns and threw for 271 yards and six scores in one of the most impressive performances in the MHSAA’s young 8-player history. Peck finished 11-1 and had beaten Lawrence 73-34 in last season’s Semifinal before taking down Rapid River for the championship. Click for more from the St. Joseph Herald-Palladium.


Saline 42, Canton 35

Saline (11-1) advanced to the Semifinals for the first time, in the process setting a team record for wins; in fact, the Hornets’ two best finishes have come during the last three years. But it wasn’t without a wild finish. Canton ran for nearly 400 yards, and Saline quarterback Josh Jackson repeatedly matched – with the Hornets’ defense then coming up big at the end. The Chiefs (9-3) did post their best record since 2010. Click for more from

Other Regional Finals:

East Kentwood 31, Hudsonville 14 – The Falcons (11-1) made their first Semifinal since 2002 by winning a rematch against surging Hudsonville (7-5) after claiming the first meeting 35-28.

Clarkston 40, Walled Lake Central 22 – The reigning champion Wolves (12-0) ended the longest run for Walled Lake Central (9-3) since 2011.

Detroit Cass Tech 48, Clinton Township Chippewa Valley 35 – Wow; Cass Tech running back Mike Weber ran for 404 yards and five touchdowns as the Technicians (12-0) won their 12th game for the fourth season in five and ended the longest run for Chippewa Valley (8-4) since 2004. 


Warren DeLaSalle 26, Birmingham Brother Rice 21

As well as DeLaSalle (9-3) has played over the last month, this still has to count as a stunner – although DeLaSalle has been on the verge of a such a power move all season. DeLaSalle’s three losses came during one disappointing run – by seven to Brother Rice in Week 4, four to Orchard Lake St. Mary’s in Week 5 and then to Dearborn Fordson by four in Week 6. Those opponents are a combined 31-4 with St. Mary’s still alive in Division 3. This win earned the Pilots their fourth Semifinal berth over the last nine years – and ended a four-year Brother Rice run of 47-7. Click for more from the Detroit Free Press.

Other Regional Finals:

Muskegon Mona 39, Battle Creek Lakeview 0 – The offensively-powerful Sailors (11-1) put up their best defensive performance by handing Lakeview (9-2) its first shutout since 2012.

Farmington Hills Harrison 23, Flushing 10 – The Raiders (9-3) ended with their best record since 1997, but Harrison (10-2) moved on to its four Semifinal over the last decade.

Southfield 35, Wyandotte Roosevelt 7 – The Bluejays (9-3) have come back off a Week 9 loss to make the Semifinals for the first time since 2008; Roosevelt (9-3) can still celebrate extending its District title string to four straight.


Zeeland West 30, Lowell 27

The reigning Division 3 champion Dux (12-0) survived a second-straight close call after defeating Stevensville Lakeshore by only two in the District Final. Dakota Guerink and Nick Jasch both ran for two touchdowns and West’s defense made a late stop to ice the win. Lowell’s Max Dean capped a solid season with four more touchdown runs as the Red Arrows (10-2) finished with double-figure wins for the eighth time in nine seasons and 12th in 15 years. Click for more from the Holland Sentinel.

Other Regional Finals:

Muskegon 42, Petoskey 7 – The Big Reds (11-1) have scored 128 points in three playoff games in advance of facing Zeeland West this week; Petoskey (9-3) finished four wins better than 2013 and made a Regional Final for the first time since 1998.

Orchard Lake St. Mary’s 49, Mason 10 – The Eaglets (10-2) have now doubled last season’s win total and made their sixth Semifinal in eight seasons; Mason (8-4) made its first Regional Final since 1995 despite a 1-3 start this fall.

New Boston Huron 38, Redford Thurston 29 – Huron’s best season ever continues as the Chiefs (11-1) won their fifth straight by at least 10 points while Thurston can still celebrate a District title despite also opening this fall 1-3.


Detroit Country Day 21, Chelsea 0

As an at-large qualifier, Country Day (8-4) has cruised through the playoffs somewhat under the radar. But keep in mind that its losses this fall were to three reigning MHSAA champions – Brother Rice, Zeeland West and Division 8 Muskegon Catholic Central – and reigning Division 7 runner-up Detroit Loyola. The Yellowjackets have been nothing if not steady during the playoffs, outscoring their opponents by a combined 77-6 – with Chelsea (9-3) suffering its only loss of more than seven points this fall but after bouncing back from 2-7 a year ago. Click for more from the Oakland Press.

Other Regional Finals:

Grand Rapids South Christian 49, Whitehall 14 – The Sailors (10-2) made it 10 straight and nine straight by double figures in advancing to the Semifinals for the third straight season; Whitehall finished 9-3 after going 1-8 only a year ago.

Edwardsburg 42, Eaton Rapids 8 – The Eddies are back in the Semifinals for the first time since 2010 with their third game in four weeks holding an opponent under 10 points; Eaton Rapids finished its second playoff season 8-4, a win better than its first playoff season a year ago.

Lansing Sexton 35, Richmond 7 – The Big Reds (12-0) booked their return to the Semifinals by locking down an offense averaging 40 points per game for Richmond (10-2) entering the weekend.


Menominee 43, Freeland 35

Menominee’s offense has been typical of the Maroons (12-0) – they’re 12 points from scoring 600 for the second straight year and have averaged more than 40 per game three of the last four seasons. But a defensive stand late finally stopped Freeland (10-2) in this back-and-forth battle that ended with Menominee heading to the Semifinals for the third straight season – to face Grand Rapids West Catholic, last year’s opponent in the Division 5 Final. Click for more from the Midland Daily News.

Other Regional Finals:

Grand Rapids West Catholic 56, Reed City 28 – Although Reed City (9-3) became only the second team to score this many points on the Falcons, West Catholic (12-0) broke 50 for the first time since Week 2.

Lansing Catholic 49, Flint Powers Catholic 21 – The Cougars (12-0) have arrived in the Semifinals for the second time in four seasons by outscoring their playoff opponents 180-35, although Powers (8-4) put up the most points among the three teams eliminated.

Almont 35, River Rouge 12 – Make this officially the best season in Almont history at 12-0 and the Raiders’ defense arguably the most impressive in the state (still giving up only 5.7 points per game); River Rouge (10-2) hadn’t lost since Week 2 and finished with double-figure wins for the second time in three seasons. 


Ithaca 41, Madison Heights Madison 27

With a quarter to play, Ithaca’s winning streak was in danger for one of the few times since it began opening night of 2010. The Yellowjackets (12-0) trailed 27-19, an unfamiliar spot for a team that rarely has had to come back during the last five seasons. But they scored 22 unanswered points over the final seven minutes to give a signature win to a current group of younger players that didn’t play a large role in Ithaca’s runs of the last four seasons. Click for more from the Mount Pleasant Morning Sun.

Other Regional Finals:

Boyne City 28, Leroy Pine River 16 – The Ramblers (12-0) are back in the Semifinals for the first time since 2001 after ending the longest playoff run ever for Pine River (8-4).

Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian 41, Watervliet 35 – The Mustangs (11-1) have built steadily to this first Regional title over their seven seasons of football; Watervliet’s end was heart-breaking as it was the second time in four seasons the Panthers (10-2) fell in a Regional by a touchdown.

Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central 27, Jackson Lumen Christi 26 – Only the possibility of Ithaca’s winning streak ending kept this from being the main game in Division 6, as St. Mary (11-1) returned to the Semifinal by handing Lumen Christi (11-1) its lone loss despite more than 400 yards rushing by Khari Willis. 


Detroit Loyola 60, New Lothrop 26

Loyola (12-0) pulled one victory closer to returning to Ford Field for the third straight season by winning big in this matchup of undefeated teams. Marvin Campbell, the team’s top running back during its 2013 run as well, had five touchdowns as Loyola got ahead early and never trailed. It was the third time in four seasons New Lothrop (11-1) had reached the Regional Final; the Hornets haven’t lost a regular season game since 2009. Click for more from the Detroit Free Press.

Other Regional Finals:

Ishpeming 22, Traverse City St. Francis 13 – The two-time reigning champion Hematites (11-0) stood strong against a challenge in their first game this season decided by fewer than 10 points; St. Francis finished its best since 2011 at 11-2.

Saginaw Michigan Lutheran Seminary 44, Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port Laker 8 – The Cardinals are back in the Semifinals for the first time since winning the Class D title in 1986; Laker’s lone loss this season ended their best run since 2002 at 11-1.

Pewamo-Westphalia 53, Bridgman 12 – The Pirates (10-2) have become regulars at this stage of the playoffs with four straight Regional Final appearances and three titles during that time; Bridgman ended its longest playoff run at 8-3 and with a team record for wins. 


Munising 43, Crystal Falls Forest Park 14

The road downstate in Division 8 generally goes through Crystal Falls Forest Park – and Munising traveled it well this weekend, figuratively speaking. This Regional Final was moved to the Superior Dome at Northern Michigan University, and the Mustangs (10-1) left with their second Regional title and first since 1980. Forest Park (9-1) had made Semifinals in eight of the previous 10 seasons before suffering this first in-state loss this fall – the Trojans’ other defeat was by four to Hurley of Wisconsin. Click for more from the Marquette Mining Journal.

Other Regionals Finals:

Beal City 28, Baldwin 0 – The Aggies (10-2) returned to the Semifinals for the third straight year by shutting down an offense for Baldwin (10-2) averaging 47 points per game heading into the weekend.

Muskegon Catholic Central 48, Mendon 7 – The Crusaders (12-0) again made quick work of a former MHSAA champion, with Mendon (10-2) joining Fowler and Fulton among those that have fallen to MCC this postseason.

Harbor Beach 21, Morenci 7 – Morenci (10-2) had been strong on defense and held Harbor Beach (12-0) to half its 46-ppg average, but also was held to a season low.

PHOTO: Zeeland West advanced past Lowell 30-27 in a snowy Division 3 Regional Final. (Click to see more from

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.)