Drive for Detroit: Week 2 in Review

September 5, 2012

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Why does high school football remain a community staple? Perhaps the most telling reasons are the pride or disappointment that can result from playing the neighboring school a few miles down the road. Whether that game is played early in the schedule or at the end of October – it's going to be brought up again and again during the year to come. 

Week 2 featured plenty of games that will be recalled after the snow begins to fall.

For most, league play ramps up this week. But these are the best of the momentum-builders and rivalry clashes that were played all over the state over this Labor Day weekend.

West Michigan

Zeeland East 60, Zeeland West 52 (2 OT)

This is one of the top rivalry games in Michigan, no question. And this was another classic, with East scoring in double overtime and then its defense holding on to avenge last season’s 26-21 loss to the Dux. The Chix have scored a combined 124 points during their 2-0 start. It’s been a rougher one for West (0-2), which in addition to this defeat put up 58 points on opening night and still lost by one to Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central. Click to read more from the Holland Sentinel.

Also noted:

Grand Rapids Catholic Central 14, Muskegon Catholic Central 0 – This slugfest between annual powers could get cited in November if these two again make their usual deep playoff runs.        

Grand Rapids Kenowa Hills 28, Greenville 22 – Kenowa Hills is winning close (see also the four-point win over Traverse City West on opening night), but winning nonetheless.

Whitehall 28, Ravenna 7 – Whitehall joined the West Michigan Conference contenders in 2011 by beating Ravenna, and this seems to indicate that wasn’t just a one-year showing.

Grand Rapids West Catholic 28, Comstock Park 0 – The Falcons rebounded from a shutout in Indianapolis to shut out a team that won 10 games in 2011.

Southwest and Border

Morenci 34, Hudson 28

Keeping in mind that Morenci pushed into the playoffs as a 5-4 qualifier in 2011, this win was maybe a close second in significance. Maybe. Hudson (1-1) had won 33 straight regular-season games and at least 12 total in each of the last three seasons. The Tigers had beaten Morenci 10 straight times. Last but not least, this is Morenci’s first 2-0 start since 2001. Click to read more from the Adrian Daily Telegram.

Also noted:

Mattawan 49, Sturgis 27 – The Wildcats avenged last season’s nine-point loss in this matchup of 2011 playoff qualifiers to start 2-0 for the first time since 2006.

Schoolcraft 42, Constantine 32 – The Eagles broke a seven-game losing streak to Constantine and now look like the favorites in the Kalamazoo Valley Association.

Jonesville 52, Springport 51 – It’s big that these two scored a combined 103 points; it’s bigger that Jonesville won just once in 2011 and Springport was a playoff team.

Kalamazoo Loy Norrix 22, Kalamazoo Central 9 – This one always is significant, regardless of the talent on the two teams; Loy Norrix made it two straight in the series after previously dropping seven in a row.

Greater Detroit

Detroit East English 34, Detroit Martin Luther King 26

Make East English the favorite to finish first in the Detroit PSL East and rival Detroit Cass Tech as best in city. East English (1-1) and King (0-2) were considered the main contenders of their newly-formed division, and East English running back Desmond King averaged nearly 10 yards per carry to push his team to the forefront. King fell to 0-2. Click to read more from the Detroit Free Press.

Also noted:

Farmington 14, Southfield 6 – The Falcons have made the playoffs four straight seasons, so success is expected; this win was especially significant not only because it was the OAA White opener, but given Southfield’s impressive win over Detroit King during opening weekend.

Farmington Hills Harrison 19, Rochester Adams 7 – The OAA White is absolutely loaded, and these two are the usual favorites; Harrison sits atop the pack once again.

Dearborn Heights Robichaud 28, Dearborn 21 – This was just the third meeting between the two during the modern era, but also since 2009; it was also the first time Robichaud got the win.

Allen Park Cabrini 35, Madison Heights Bishop Foley 23 – Cabrini equaled both its total wins from last season (two) and Catholic League Intersectional wins (one).

Lower Up North

Traverse City West 16, Grand Haven 14

Aside from rivalry games victories over Traverse City Central, this might be West’s best win of the last five seasons. Grand Haven (1-1) is a force while playing in arguably the best league in the state – the O-K Red – and had beaten the Titans the last three seasons. It also was a great way for TC West (1-1) to bounce back after that four-point loss to Kenowa Hills on opening night. Click to read more from the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

Also noted:

Cadillac 15, Bay City John Glenn 14 – Cadillac had lost five straight to John Glenn, including by 35 points in 2011.

Boyne City 18, Kent City 13 – Boyne City is 2-0 for the first time since 2008, also the last the last time the Ramblers made the playoffs.

Traverse City Central 50, Escanaba 6 – These longtime annual foes renewed their rivalry for the first time since 2007.

McBain 42, Manistee 40 – The Ramblers made it three straight over Manistee; the Chippewas finished just short after winning their opener by two points.

Thumb and Bay

Croswell-Lexington 27, Richmond 24

In the pecking order of the Port Huron area’s best, this combined with Richmond’s win over Marine City on opening night might mean the Pioneers are tops so far. Croswell-Lexington (2-0) didn’t take its first lead until 31 seconds remained in regulation and trailed 21-0 midway through the second quarter. But after edging the Mariners by a point, the Blue Devils (1-1) couldn’t regain the lead this time. Click to read more from the Port Huron Times Herald.

Also noted:

Flint Powers Catholic 27, Mount Pleasant 7 – The reigning Division 5 champion used a big second quarter to push ahead of the reigning Division 3 runner-up.

Saginaw Nouvel 33, Lansing Catholic 28 – The reigning Division 7 champion Panthers came back to edge the reigning Division 5 runner-up; the Cougars hadn’t lost during the regular season since 2009.

Midland 31, Davison 20 – Not too much flash and dash, just two solid wins now for the Chemics as they head into Saginaw Valley League North play.

Beaverton 14, Tawas 12 – The Beavers broke a 12-game losing streak on opening night and are 2-0 for the first time since 1984 after beating a 2011 playoff team this week.


Lansing Everett 38, DeWitt 10

This might’ve come as a shock to those not familiar with Lansing-area football. True, the Panthers had beaten the Vikings 48-7 in 2011. But Everett (2-0) has had nearly the same starting lineup the last three seasons and was picked by its league coaches to finish first in the Capital Area Activities Conference Blue now that those players are juniors and seniors. The title quest begins this week, while DeWitt (1-1) remains the heavy favorite in the CAAC Red. Click to read more from the Lansing State Journal.

Also noted:

Belding 63, Lakewood 42 – This is one of five games statewide over the first two weeks in which the teams combined for more than 100 points and the losing team scored at least 40.

Bath 19, Fulton 17 – The Bees are 2-0 for the first time since 2000 and broke a 14-game losing streak to the Pirates after falling to them by just a point in 2011.

Haslett 28, Okemos 20 – This Meridian Bowl featured old rivals not just in that Haslett and Okemos share the same township, but because Chieftains coach Jack Wallace spent most of the last three decades coaching Fowlerville.

Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart 49, Manistee Catholic Central 41 – The Irish made it seven straight over their former league foe, but not without 90 points being scored between the two.

Upper Peninsula

Cedarville 32, Deckerville 8

Using the transitive property of who beat who, Cedarville might now be the team to beat in 8-player football this fall. The Trojans are 2-0 after going 9-2 and making a Regional Final in 2011. Deckerville opened the season with a 32-12 win over reigning MHSAA 8-player champion Carsonville-Port Sanilac, giving Cedarville something more to feel good about heading back into league play. Click and scroll to the bottom to read more from the Soo Evening News.

Also noted: 

Negaunee 12, Calumet 6 – These two had last met in the regular season in 1958, but also in two playoff games since 1995; the Miners won both of those and this long-awaited rematch as well.

Crystal Falls Forest Park 35, Norway 22 – Norway made this much closer than last season’s 34-0 shutout, but the Trojans are 2-0 as usual heading into a tough matchup with Hurley (Wis.).   

Powers North Central 36, Munising 12 – Good news for a North Central turnaround; the Jets fell to Munising 45-8 in 2011, when Munising finished in the playoffs and North Central ended 4-5.

L’Anse 40, Iron River West Iron County 20 – The Purple Hornets are 2-0, equaling last season’s win total, and with 74 points are also halfway to that 2011 output. 

PHOTO: Midland quarterback Alec Johnson follows his blockers during last week's win over Davison. (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.)