Drive for Detroit: Week 2 in Review

September 5, 2017

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor 

We're only two weeks into this football season, and of course there has been plenty to talk about. 

But our 8-player football divisions experienced a season's worth of highlights over this Labor Day weekend. 

See below for Week 2's most significant results from every region of the state in 11-player football, but also check out the 8-player highlights – which include the first win ever for one team and the first loss in forever for another. 

Bay & Thumb

Bay City Central 22, Midland Dow 21 (OT)

After falling a score short in its opener against Frankenmuth, Bay City Central (1-1) blocked an extra point and then got the game-winner from kicker Austin Welter to beat Dow (1-1) for the first time since 2011 – and after falling to the Chargers both during the regular season and playoffs in 2016. Those two losses last year were by 20 and then 31 points, respectively. Click for more from the Bay City Times.

Also noted:

Algonac 28, Almont 7 – After opening with a big loss to Marine City, the Muskrats (1-1) got a needed bounce-back against another of the Port Huron area’s elite in Almont (1-1).

Freeland 34, Chesaning 25 – The Falcons (2-0) kept their regular-season winning streak intact at 23 straight against an Indians that team opened with a shutout but fell to 1-1.

Flint Powers Catholic 37, Saginaw Heritage 34 (2 OT) – Andrew Simon was another kicking hero as Powers (2-0) won a second straight close game and sent the Hawks to 1-1.

Lake Fenton 21, Montrose 0 – This Genesee Area Conference Red opener was a big one to get out of the way for the reigning champ Blue Devils (1-1), with Montrose (1-1) always in the league title mix as well. 

Greater Detroit

Bloomfield Hills 28, West Bloomfield 24

The “new” Bloomfield Hills burst on the scene with its first winning campaign in 2016, starting 9-0 before falling to West Bloomfield 31-14 in a Division 1 playoff opener. To finish off this avenging, however, the Black Hawks needed to drive nearly the entire field over the final two minutes. Bloomfield Hills now sits 2-0 with both wins by four points or fewer, while West Bloomfield fell to 0-2 with two losses by five points or fewer. Click for more from the Oakland Press.

Also noted:

Warren DeLaSalle 31, Grandville 0 – The Pilots (1-1) traveled to face a second straight Ottawa-Kent Conference reigning champion, landing a stunning defeat on last season’s Red co-leading Bulldogs (1-1) after falling to Lowell in Week 1.

Clarkston 17, Southfield Arts & Technology 7 – The Wolves (2-0) have given up 14 points total in two impressive wins, while Southfield A&T might be the best 0-2 team in Michigan after another close loss to a power.

Utica Eisenhower 42, Macomb Dakota 16 – Eisenhower (2-0) ran its streak in this rivalry to three straight after also ending last season for Dakota (1-1) in a District Final.

Gibraltar Carlson 42, Trenton 14 – A week after taking a giant step forward in the Downriver League race with a win over Allen Park, Trenton (1-1) fell for the second straight season to Carlson (2-0), which is coming off a 4-5 finish but won three of its final four games last fall. 


DeWitt 14, Grand Ledge 7

The combination of Grand Ledge’s sizable Week 1 win over Hudsonville, DeWitt’s loss to Grand Rapids Christian and the Comets’ victory in the first game of this quickly-building rivalry last fall makes the Panthers victory all the more impressive. DeWitt held Grand Ledge scoreless until late in the fourth quarter – and to its fewest points in a regular-season game since 2013. Click for more from the Lansing State Journal.

Also noted:

St. Johns 56, Cadillac 43 – The Redwings (1-1) especially on offense bounced back after scoring 20 in a one-point loss Week 1 to East Lansing; Cadillac (1-1) also put up its highest tally since midway through 2015.

Ionia 35, Hillsdale 14 – This could eventually come into play as Hillsdale (1-1) tries to get back to the playoffs after seeing its 15-year streak end last fall and Ionia (1-1) tries to get in for the first time since 2013.

Lansing Sexton 20, Portland 14 – This provided an exciting preview of Capital Area Activities Conference White matchups to come, as the Big Reds (2-0) are set to join annual favorite Portland (1-1) in that division next year.

Saranac 27, Fowler 21 – The Redskins are 2-0 for the first time since 2011 with a win over Fowler (1-1) also for the first time since that fall. 

Northern Lower Peninsula

Traverse City St. Francis 35, Maple City Glen Lake 9

St. Francis enjoyed the debut of Glen Lake’s new artificial turf field by handing the Lakers their sixth straight loss in this rivalry. The Gladiators (2-0) ran their regular-season winning streak to 24 after also beating Glen Lake 35-9 last fall. But Glen Lake would love to repeat history – in 2016 it rebounded and won 10 of its next 11 to reach the Division 6 championship game. Click for more from the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

Also noted:

Rogers City 14, Indian River Inland Lakes 7 – Inland Lakes (1-1) got to celebrate last week its first win since 2015, but Rogers City (1-1) ended the fun with its first victory since Week 6 a year ago.

Alpena 27, Sault Ste. Marie 26 – The Wildcats (1-1) stopped a two-point conversion to get a win for the second straight season over the Blue Devils (1-1).

Gaylord St. Mary 28, Newberry 21 (OT) – The Snowbirds are off to a 2-0 start for the second straight season but this time with wins over two teams that made the playoffs the year before; Newberry is 1-1 coming off an 8-3 finish.

Petoskey 14, Escanaba 7 – The Northmen (1-1) got their first win, both equaling last year’s total and avenging last season’s 39-0 defeat to the Eskymos (1-1).

Southeast & Border

Milan 41, Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central 18

The Big Reds (1-1) didn’t enjoy a great start falling by 20 two weeks ago to Chelsea, but made up for it by avenging last season’s only regular-season loss. That 2016 10-point defeat to St. Mary cost Milan an outright Huron League championship, but this win broke a three-year losing streak against the Falcons (1-1). Click for more from the Monroe Evening News.

Also noted:

Parma Western 32, Battle Creek Pennfield 20 – The Panthers are enjoying their third 2-0 start in four seasons but also went 0-2 a year ago; the Panthers, a playoff team in 2016, now must battle back from a winless start.

Homer 52, Concord 12 – These two and Springport shared the Big 8 Conference title last season, but this big win by Homer (2-0) means Concord (0-2) will need to catch up quickly to stay in the mix.

Reading 34, Springport 7 – Staying in the Big 8, Reading made a statement to move to 1-1 after two straight 3-6 finishes, while Springport (1-1) also finds itself now a win back in its title defense.

Chelsea 10, Pinckney 7 – Chelsea (2-0) scored all of its points over the final few minutes to stun Pinckney (1-1) in the latter’s second game in the Southeastern Conference White. 

Southwest Corridor

Berrien Springs 27, Schoolcraft 14

Defense has been Berrien Springs’ strength in three straight playoff seasons, and the Shamrocks (2-0) earned one of their most impressive regular-season wins in some time by holding Schoolcraft (1-1) to its fewest points since Week 8 of 2014. The Eagles also hadn’t lost a regular-season game in more than two years. Click for more from the St. Joseph Herald-Palladium.

Also noted:

Climax-Scotts 52, Sand Creek 21 – A week after seeing their 19-game regular-season winning streak end, the Panthers (1-1) started anew by handing a first loss to a Sand Creek team that went 9-2 a year ago.

Delton Kellogg 34, Lawton 21 – Despite starting 1-1, Delton has put up 72 points over two games, with 34 the second-most Lawton (0-2) has given up during the regular season since 2014.

Coldwater 28, Marshall 7 – After losing to Marshall (1-1) by 10 last year and losing out on a share of the Interstate 8 Athletic Conference title because of that defeat, Coldwater (2-0) has jumped the first obstacle a tough league road.

Richland Gull Lake 10, Portage Northern 9 – The Blue Devils (1-1) have won two games in each of the last two seasons, but now own their first of this fall over a 2016 playoff team in the Huskies (0-2). 

Upper Peninsula

L'Anse 32, Lake Linden-Hubbell 12

Lake Linden-Hubbell (1-1) hadn’t fallen during the regular season since 2014 and hadn’t lost to L’Anse since a 2013 District opener. But the Purple Hornets – 2-0 coming of a 2-7 run last fall – appear to have turned things around as they look to break a three-season playoff drought. Click for more from the Houghton Daily Mining Gazette.

Also noted:

Gwinn 30, Iron Mountain 24 – The Modeltowners (1-1) bounced back from a rough Week 1 defeat to Gladstone to quickly put Iron Mountain down 0-2 after the latter finished 8-3 a year ago.

Calumet 28, Negaunee 21 – This was a nonleague game but a great confidence builder for Calumet (2-0), which went 10-2 last season despite splitting with the Miners (0-2).

Norway 35, Ishpeming 22 – The Hematites (1-1) came out on a roll with a big Week 1 victory, but Norway (2-0) took that momentum away with a second straight win in the series.

Munising 20, St. Ignace 8 – The Mustangs (1-1) struggled to only two wins last season, but handed 2016 Division 8 semifinalist St. Ignace a rare early second loss. 

West Michigan

Lowell 14, Rockford 0

Lowell handed the Rams (1-1) their first shutout since Week 5 of 2014 and scored all the points it needed during the first half to extend its regular-season winning streak to 19. The Red Arrows (2-0) didn’t have a penalty or a turnover in holding an opponent scoreless for the first time since Week 5 of 2015. Click for more from the Grand Rapids Press.

Also noted:

Muskegon Catholic Central 31, Frankfort 6 – The Crusaders (1-0) won this rematch of last season’s Division 8 Regional Final by a nearly identical score and remains the only team to have beaten Frankfort (1-1) since 2015.

East Kentwood 21, Orchard Lake St. Mary's 0 – The Falcons (2-0) put themselves into the thick of O-K Red talk with a surprising shutout of the reigning Division 3 champion Eaglets (0-2).

Muskegon Mona Shores 42, Zeeland West 20 – The Sailors moved to 2-0 by avenging last season’s four-point loss to West (1-1), which hasn’t won its first two games for the first time since 2013.

Muskegon 28, Lincolnshire Stevenson (Ill.) 7 – Muskegon traveled to Illinois to avenge its only regular-season loss of 2016, a three-pointer to Stevenson on the way to finishing Division 3 runner-up.


Crystal Falls Forest Park 66, Powers North Central 58 (OT)

The Trojans (1-1) can argue they were the second-best 8-player team in the state last year, losing twice to North Central while giving the Jets their toughest games. Forest Park now also can boast that it handed North Central (1-1) its first 8-player loss, ending the Jets’ winning streak at 27 since making the switch in 2015. Click for more from the Escanaba Daily Press.

Also noted:

Deckerville 52, Lawrence 0 – The Eagles (2-0) have outscored their first two opponents by a combined 94-6, with this especially impressive against a Lawrence program that is 37-8 since moving to 8-player in 2013.

Atlanta 28, Fife Lake Forest Area 18 – Two weeks ago, Atlanta won its first game since 2014; on Thursday it moved to 2-0 for the first time since 1992 against a Forest Area team that is 1-1 but was 7-3 in 2016.

Rapid River 50, Eben Junction Superior Central 42 (2OT) – Combined with Forest Park’s win over North Central, Rapid River (2-0) looks like the team to beat in the Western Eight Conference after surviving Superior Central (0-2) and beating the Trojans in Week 1.  

Bear Lake 44, Baldwin 28 – The Lakers (1-1) earned their first win ever in handing Baldwin (1-1) its first loss since moving from 11-player before this season. 

PHOTO: A Newberry ball carrier is chased by Gaylord St. Mary defenders during the Snowbirds' overtime win Friday. (Photo by Jeff Rochefort.)

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.)