Drive for Detroit: Week 2 Preview

August 30, 2017

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

The break was short for many teams heading into Week 2 of this football season.

While last week’s openers were mostly split between Thursday and Friday, nearly all of Michigan’s teams will play this week’s games tonight in advance of the Labor Day holiday and start of school for many next Tuesday.

Below is our weekly look – powered by MI Student Aid – at some of the games to see no matter your neighborhood (relatively and regionally speaking) and includes games that will be played on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

Remember, check out the MHSAA Score Center for the full schedule plus scores all three nights as they games are completed. A number of games also will be broadcast again this weekend, live, on

Bay & Thumb

Almont (1-0) at Algonac (0-1), Thursday

After a couple of seasons at or near the top of Port Huron-area football, Algonac opened last week with a 42-6 loss to Marine City – its first non-Richmond regular-season defeat since 2014. Up next is Blue Water Area Conference rival Almont, no doubt aching to win big as well after taking four losses (two in the playoffs) from the Muskrats over the last two seasons. The Raiders are coming off a big win over 2016 playoff team Grosse Ile.

Others that caught my eye: THURSDAY Freeland (1-0) at Chesaning (1-0), Saginaw Heritage (1-0) at Flint Powers Catholic (1-0), Beaverton (1-0) at Harbor Beach (1-0), Lake Fenton (0-1) at Montrose (1-0).

Greater Detroit

Southfield Arts & Technology (0-1) at Clarkston (1-0), Friday

Southfield A&T came out on the losing end of arguably the most exciting game of opening weekend. But if its 56-54 triple-overtime defeat to powerful Davison told us anything, it’s that last year’s 8-4 finish could be just a start for the second-year program built from the former Southfield and Southfield-Lathrup. The Warriors beat Clarkston 24-18 a year ago, actually, but the Wolves appear in form already as well coming off a 42-7 win over Lapeer (27-5 over the last three seasons with two of those losses to Clarkston).

Others that caught my eye: THURSDAY Romeo (1-0) at Clinton Township Chippewa Valley (1-0), FRIDAY Toledo Whitmer, Ohio (1-0) at Detroit Catholic Central (1-0), East Kentwood (1-0) at Orchard Lake St. Mary's (0-1), Macomb Dakota (1-0) at Utica Eisenhower (1-0).


Grand Ledge (1-0) at DeWitt (0-1), Thursday

The is the second year in a row the Lansing area’s most successful programs of the last decade have matched up (and the series will continue with DeWitt moving into the Capital Area Activities Conference Blue with Grand Ledge next fall). The Comets won last year’s meeting 28-21. Senior-dominated Grand Ledge impressed last week with a 41-14 win over Hudsonville, but a DeWitt team that put a number of new starters on the field last week also impressed coming back to nearly catch Grand Rapids Christian, on the road, before falling 38-30.

Others that caught my eye: THURSDAY Dearborn Divine Child (1-0) at East Lansing (1-0), Portland (1-0) at Lansing Sexton (1-0), Fulton (1-0) at Laingsburg (0-1), FRIDAY Beal City (1-0) at Clare (0-1).

Northern Lower Peninsula

Muskegon Catholic Central (0-0) at Frankfort (1-0), Friday

The anticipation for this one has been boiling over. Muskegon Catholic Central handed Frankfort its first and only loss last season, 35-0 in a Division 8 Regional Final at MCC on the way to winning a fourth straight MHSAA championship. The Panthers also got within 22-12 of MCC in a 2015 Regional Final, so there’s a nice build-up of history behind this meeting of small-school contenders. The Crusaders couldn’t lock down a Week 1 game this fall, so this is their season opener and the sophomore debut for heavily-followed quarterback Cameron Martinez. Frankfort did have a game in Week 1 and put up 70 points – its most in a game since 2004 – to down Manton by 30.

Others that caught my eye: THURSDAY St. Johns (0-1) at Cadillac (1-0), FRIDAY Newberry (1-0) at Gaylord St. Mary (1-0), Traverse City St. Francis (1-0) at Maple City Glen Lake (1-0), Escanaba (1-0) at Petoskey (0-1).

Southeast & Border

Pinckney (1-0) at Chelsea (1-0), Friday

Chelsea is 32-6 over its last three seasons and won all of its Southeastern Conference White games last season by at least 22 points. The Bulldogs will welcome Pinckney to the league Friday after the Pirates went 8-3 last season (their most wins since 1989) before coming over from the Kensington Lakes Activities Association West. Pinckney also had a coaching change in the offseason with defensive coordinator Rod Beaton getting a promotion, and his expertise will be especially handy this week. Chelsea 27 points last week on a Milan defense that gave up only 16 per game in 2016.

Others that caught my eye: THURSDAY New Haven (1-0) at Ida (1-0), Homer (1-0) at Concord (0-1), Petersburg-Summerfield (1-0) at Pittsford (1-0), FRIDAY Detroit Mumford (1-0) at Saline (0-1).

Southwest Corridor

Schoolcraft (1-0) at Berrien Springs (1-0), Thursday

Berrien Springs has been right on the verge of a big season over the last few, with three straight playoff appearances and a 17-5 record since the start of 2015. The Shamrocks looked ready to make this the year opening with a 53-0 win over Buchanan last week. But giving Schoolcraft its first regular season loss since 2014 would really make a statement. The Eagles are 20-2 going back to the start of 2015 and downed Fennville 41-0 to start this year’s campaign. If Schoolcraft comes through this one on top too, Berrien Springs still will have a few more opportunities to make noise – see Week 4 against Benton Harbor and Week 9 against Muskegon Oakridge.

Others that caught my eye: THURSDAY Coldwater (1-0) at Marshall (1-0), Battle Creek Central (0-1) at Portage Central (1-0), Paw Paw (1-0) at Sturgis (1-0), FRIDAY Grand Rapids South Christian (1-0) at Benton Harbor (0-1).

Upper Peninsula

Ishpeming (1-0) at Norway (1-0), Friday

The Hematites seem to be getting most of the tough ones out of the way early as they work back from last year’s 3-5 finish. Ishpeming started this fall by avenging a 2016 loss to Iron Mountain 34-7, and now comes Norway, which shut out the Hematites 14-0 last year. The slight difference this time is these teams are no longer in the same league, literally; the Knights left the Mid-Peninsula Conference for the Mid-Eastern Conference this season. They opened with a 34-7 nonleague win over Niagara (Wis.) after ending last fall as a District champ.

Others that caught my eye: THURSDAY Iron Mountain (0-1) at Gwinn (0-1), Calumet (1-0) at Negaunee (0-1), FRIDAY Traverse City Central (1-0) at Marquette (0-1), SATURDAY Munising (0-1) at St. Ignace (0-1).

West Michigan

Lowell (1-0) at Rockford (1-0), Friday

One of the best scheduling moves in the state in 2016 was the re-introduction of this matchup between two of the elite programs in all of the Grand Rapids area and statewide. Lowell won that first matchup since the end of a two-year series in 2011-12, 21-10, but it also was Rockford’s opener as it had to miss its Week 1 game last fall with a team-wide sickness. This time both teams have a win out of the way, and impressive ones on both sides. The Rams shut out Saline 14-0 to start, while the Red Arrows downed Warren DeLaSalle 36-6.

Others that caught my eye: THURSDAY Grand Rapids Christian (1-0) at Caledonia (1-0), Detroit Loyola (0-1) at Grand Rapids Catholic Central (1-0), Warren DeLaSalle (0-1) at Grandville (1-0), FRIDAY Muskegon Mona Shores (1-0) at Zeeland West (1-0).


Crystal Falls Forest Park (0-1) at Powers North Central (1-0), Friday

At least the faces will look mostly different from those who more or less decided which was the best team in the Upper Peninsula (and arguably statewide) last season. Reigning two-time MHSAA champion North Central graduated the majority of its stars from the last two seasons including quarterback Jason Whitens, and Forest Park’s record-setting back Dan Nocerini is now playing at Michigan Tech. After losing only to North Central (twice) last season, the Trojans opened last week with a 38-36 defeat to Rapid River. But some of the same success could be brewing again for the Jets, who made it 27 straight victories with a 66-0 shutdown of Felch North Dickinson.

Others that caught my eye: THURSDAY Lawrence (1-0) at Deckerville (1-0), Mayville (1-0) at Morrice (1-0), North Adams-Jerome (1-0) at Battle Creek St. Philip (1-0), Wyoming Tri-unity Christian (0-1) at Suttons Bay (1-0).

Second Half’s weekly “Drive for Detroit” previews are powered by MI Student Aid, a part of the Student Financial Services Bureau located within the Michigan Department of Treasury. MI Student Aid encourages students to pursue postsecondary education by providing access to student financial resources and information, including various student financial assistance programs to help make college more affordable for Michigan students. MI Student Aid administers the state’s 529 savings programs (MET/MESP) and eight additional aid programs within its Student Scholarships and Grants division. Click for more information and connect with MI Student Aid on Facebook and Twitter @mistudentaid. 

PHOTO: East Kentwood (with red trim) faces Orchard Lake St. Mary's this week after opening with a win against Harrison Township L'Anse Creuse. (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.)