Drive for Detroit: Week 2 in Review

September 11, 2013

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

The definition for "rivalry game" has grown pretty broad over the history of high school athletics. 

Some are considered rivalry games based purely on the fact they've been played for years. Others have been around for only a few, but the competition has become so fierce that it's the first date circled when schedules are printed each fall. Both include the intensity, anticipation and excitement that generally bring a few more casual fans to the bleachers on Friday night. 

Some of Michigan's best rivalry games are among the most notable results from Week 2.

West Michigan

Zeeland East 50, Zeeland West 44 (OT)

This is shaping up as one of the best football rivalries in the state, with three of the last four games decided by eight points or fewer and East — last season’s regular-season winner — then losing to West 46-0 in their playoff opener. East has the upper hand again between schools separated by mere yards. Click to read more from the Grand Rapids Press.

Also noted: 

Muskegon 35, Grand Rapids Christian 13: This would’ve been the best game on the west side any other week with the reigning MHSAA Division 2 runner-up Big Reds (2-0) continuing to look impressive in knocking off the reigning Division 3 champ Christian (1-1) in their first matchup since 1994. 

Comstock Park 39, Grand Rapids West Catholic 20: West Catholic (0-2) won the first five games of these teams’ recent series before Comstock Park (2-0) got on the board last week. 

Hamilton 21, Coopersville 20: A blocked extra point saved this win for the Hawkeyes (1-1) while dropping the Broncos to 0-2. 

Grand Rapids Catholic Central 16, Muskegon Catholic Central 13: These teams brought this series back last season after a seven-year break, and the Cougars (1-1) have won both while this time dropping the Crusaders to 0-2. 

Greater Detroit

Detroit U-D Jesuit 28, Detroit Country Day 27 (OT)

In part because it plays in a Detroit Catholic League Central with Orchard Lake St. Mary’s, Detroit Catholic Central, Birmingham Brother Rice and Warren DeLaSalle, U-D Jesuit has had some tough seasons over the last decade; its last playoff appearance was in 2000. But this win over the reigning Division 4 runner-up Yellowjackets (0-2) made the Cubs 2-0 — equaling last season’s win total — and could be an indication of more to come. Click to read more from MLive Detroit

Also noted: 

Belleville 17, Chelsea 14: The Tigers (1-1) are seeking their first playoff berth since 2004, and beating annual qualifier Chelsea (0-2) is a great start. 

Detroit Martin Luther King 6, Detroit East English 0 (2 OT): King (2-0) and East English (0-2) — formerly Crockett — are always two of the best teams in the city, and this might go down as the best regular-season game before the Public School League playoffs.

Farmington Hills Harrison 20, Rochester Adams 7: Harrison (2-0) made it four straight over Oakland Activities Association White rival Adams (1-1).

Plymouth 28, Milford 27: The Wildcats (2-0) came back from a two-touchdown deficit early in the third quarter to edge Milford (1-1).

Southwest and Border

Schoolcraft 37, Constantine 28

This was only the second week of nine on the Kalamazoo Valley Association schedule, but the league title could again be Schoolcraft’s to lose after this win over reigning Division 6 runner-up Constantine (1-1). A 47-yard touchdown pass after a Constantine turnover sealed the victory for the Eagles (2-0). Click to read more from the Kalamazoo Gazette

Also noted: 

Kalamazoo Central 23, Battle Creek Central 7: The 110th meeting in one of the nation’s longest football rivalries saw Kalamazoo Central (2-0) climb within 12 (47 wins to 59) of catching up to the Bearcats (1-1 this season) for the series lead. This game played for the Totem Pole traveling trophy dates to 1893.

St. Joseph 14, Battle Creek Harper Creek 9: After missing the playoffs for the first time in seven seasons in 2012, St. Joseph is 2-0 after handing a first loss to back-to-back MHSAA Semifinalist Harper Creek. 

Mattawan 64, Marshall 34: The Wildcats (1-1) awakened on offense after scoring only once on opening night; Marshall also upped its offensive output by 20 despite falling to 0-2. 

Plainwell 14, Three Rivers 7: They’re not in the same division of the Wolverine Conference anymore, but Plainwell (2-0) made it three straight over the Wildcats (1-1). 

Lower Up North

Maple City Glen Lake 28, Charlevoix 0

A big win by Charlevoix (1-1) over St. Ignace on opening night made this one look like a potential nail-biter. But Glen Lake (2-0) made it three in a row and two straight shutouts over the Rayders, and this week starts its pursuit of a second straight Northwest Conference championship. Click to read more from the Petoskey News.

Also noted:

Boyne City 35, Kent City 14: After a tough opening-night loss to Glen Lake, Boyne City (1-1) bounced back against the Eagles (1-1). 

Standish-Sterling 47, Gladwin 7: The Panthers (2-0) made it 10 straight over Gladwin after also beating the Flying G’s (1-1) in last season’s playoff opener. 

Harbor Springs 40, Frankfort 12: The Rams (2-0) pulled within a win of last season’s total while dropping the Panthers to 1-1 as they try to make up for last year’s first playoff miss since 1994. 

Traverse City West 21, West Branch Ogemaw Heights 8: The Titans (1-1) got a leg up by winning their Big North Conference opener while also avenging last season’s 56-39 loss to Ogemaw Heights (1-1).

Upper Peninsula

Houghton 26, Ishpeming Westwood 20 (2 OT)

Not only did Westwood (0-2) own two straight wins over Houghton before last weekend, but the Patriots won those games by a combined score of 70-0. They led again this time by two touchdowns early before the Gremlins (1-1) came back to claim their first victory this fall and pull within one more of equaling their victory total of all 2012. Click to read more from the Marquette Mining Journal

Also noted: 

Iron Mountain 27, Gwinn 8: Iron Mountain (1-1) bounced back from an opening-night loss; Gwinn (1-1), despite this loss, played the Mountaineers much closer than the last two seasons. 

St. Ignace 26, Mancelona 20 (OT): After their first opening-night loss in four seasons, the Saints (1-1) bounced back while dropping Mancelona to 0-2 after the Ironmen lost just once in 2012. 

Ishpeming 38, Manistique 0: The Hematites (2-0) have outscored their first two opponents, both 2012 playoff teams, by a combined 74-0. Have no fear Emeralds: You also started last fall 0-2 but made the postseason. 

Powers North Central 14, Munising 12: Munising (0-2) no doubt is smarting after losing its first two games by a combined nine points, but the Jets surely are celebrating their second straight 2-0 start. 


Lansing Everett 48, Saginaw 14

Five Capital Area Activities Conference Blue teams left Greater Lansing for Week 2 games, but only the Vikings (2-0) returned with a victory. Everett’s offense has scored 83 points so far and looks even better than last season’s best effort in four seasons. Saginaw did struggle to keep up this time, but is 1-1 entering Saginaw Valley Association North play this week. 

Bath 40, Fulton 22: For a Bees (1-1) team that hasn’t made the playoffs since 2000, a second straight win over traditionally powerful Fulton has to be encouraging. The Pirates (1-1) also are looking to climb back into the playoffs after missing in 2012. 

Fowler 26, Laingsburg 12: This has been one the best Central Michigan Athletic Conference games for a decade; Fowler (1-1) enjoyed a nice bounce-back after a loss to Mendon on opening night, but the Wolfpack finds itself in a recently-rare 0-2 spot.

Beal City 48, Clare 0: This was expected to be much closer, but Beal City (2-0) might just be this strong. The Aggies have now outscored their first two opponents by a combined 109-0 while Clare is 0-2 again although it ended up 9-3 with the same start in 2012. 

St. Johns 28, Dearborn 13: The Redwings (1-1) followed up a lackluster opening-night loss to Charlotte with an impressive win over a playoff regular in Dearborn (0-2). 

Bay and Thumb

Essexville-Garber 25, Millington 6

The Saginaw News called this a “program-defining” win for Garber, and it might’ve been the team’s biggest in the Tri-Valley Conference East since also beating the Cardinals in 2009. The Dukes (2-0) broke a two-season playoff hiatus last fall, and this season could be league title contenders as well — although the Cardinals (1-1) certainly shouldn’t be expected to fall out of the mix. Click to read more from the Saginaw News

Mount Pleasant 21, Flint Powers Catholic 14: The Oilers (1-1) had a rare struggle in 2012 and opened this fall with a loss to DeWitt, but got back on the right foot by beating recently powerful Powers (1-1).

Fenton 43, Adrian 7: The Tigers (2-0) continued to roll after a rivalry win over Linden in Week 1; Adrian fell to 1-1 but 0-2 versus Fenton over the last two seasons.

Flint Carman-Ainsworth 49, Saginaw Heritage 20: Carman-Ainsworth (2-0) enhanced its status as a Saginaw Valley South favorite by knocking off a solid Hawks team (1-1). 

Richmond 28, Croswell-Lexington 21: The Pioneers (1-1) had beaten Richmond (1-1) in six straight including a second time last season during the playoffs. 

Trophy Games

Each week the MHSAA highlights trophy games played across the state. One was mentioned above, and we also knew about this one heading into the weekend. 

Promise Bowl Trophy: Jackson High and Lumen Christi began playing for this prize a year ago, and the Titans own both matchups so far. Final: Lumen Christi 43, Jackson 14.

PHOTO: Lansing Everett (white jerseys) improved to 2-0 with last week's win on the road against Saginaw High. (Click to see more from High School Sports Scene.) 

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.)