Drive for Detroit: Week 2 in Review

September 4, 2018

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

The east side of the Lower Peninsula enjoyed a rematch of last season’s Division 1 championship game. The west enjoyed a matchup of arguably the two best teams in all the state this fall.

In between, Week 2 of Michigan’s high school football season included at least three headline-grabbing upsets, a memorable last-second score, and the end of a losing streak stretching more than four years.

Muskegon and Clarkston had a lot to celebrate over the long weekend, but so did Saline, Lansing Catholic and Harbor Springs – not to mention rejuvenated Battle Creek Central and Detroit Cass Tech, coming off a play that surely will be remembered in that program’s storied history. 

And let’s give special shoutouts to Dexter – which ended a 42-game losing streak with a 36-22 win over Ypsilanti Community – and Spring Lake, which moved to 2-0 with a win over rival Fruitport after going winless for 2017.

Many more of last week’s storylines are covered below in our Drive for Detroit review, powered by MI Student Aid.

Bay & Thumb

HEADLINER: Flint Carman-Ainsworth 21, Midland 7 The reigning champions in the Saginaw Valley League Blue and Red, respectively, are off to opposite starts. Carman-Ainsworth is 2-0 heading into the start of league play this week, while Midland is a deceptive 0-2 after now falling to two 2017 playoff teams. Click for more from the Flint Journal and see below for highlights from State Champs Sports Network.

Also of note: Saginaw Swan Valley 56, Frankenmuth 20 The Vikings (2-0) were runners-up in Division 5 last season and Frankenmuth (1-1) was a semifinalist coming through opposite sides of the bracket. We could see how much changes over two months if they meet again this playoffs.

Remember this one: Richmond 24, Algonac 21 Last year it was Algonac winning this matchup to clinch the Blue Water Area Conference title in Week 8. This time the Blue Devils (1-1) have an edge on the Muskrats (0-2) but with the rest of the league schedule left to play.  

More shoutouts: Marlette 20, Harbor Beach 14 (OT) The Raiders (1-1) broke a seven-game losing streak against the Pirates (1-1), last season’s Greater Thumb Conference East champ. Swartz Creek 16, Flushing 13 The Dragons are 2-0 for the first time since 2012 after winning three games total last season and losing to Flushing (1-1; 9-3 in 2017) last year 53-12.

Greater Detroit

HEADLINER: Clarkston 28, West Bloomfield 25 This rematch of last season’s Division 1 championship game saw many more than five points score (Clarkston won that Finals meeting 3-2). The Wolves (2-0) held off West Bloomfield (1-1) multiple times at the end to secure its second-straight three-point win to open the season and an important first step in the Oakland Activities Association Red race – West Bloomfield won the league meeting a year ago. Click for more from MLive-Detroit.

Also of note: Detroit Cass Tech 21, Lakewood St. Edward (Ohio) 20 The Technicians (2-0) got past Ohio power St. Edward scoring all 21 of their points over the final five minutes and the winning touchdown on a 60-yard toss into the end zone on the game’s final play.

Remember this one: Oak Park 13, Birmingham Groves 7 These two and Farmington Hills Harrison shared the Oakland Activities Association White title last season. Oak Park (2-0) faces Harrison this week and Groves (0-2) is hoping to get into the mix after opening with close losses to the Knights and West Bloomfield.

Other shoutouts: Sterling Heights Parkway Christian 20, Waterford Our Lady 13 Parkway is now 2-0 by avenging two big 2017 losses, this one after falling to Our Lady (1-1) by 29 last season. Birmingham Brother Rice 13, Mishawaka Penn (Ind.) 7 The Warriors (2-0) appear back after a big Week 1 win over U-D Jesuit and this avenging of last year’s 38-0 loss to Indiana power Penn.


HEADLINER: Lansing Catholic 15, Grand Rapids West Catholic 14 This might have made the loudest boom of the weekend statewide as the Cougars (2-0) edged the reigning five-time Division 5 champion. Quarterback Josh Kramer ran for 149 yards and two touchdowns and also for the winning two-point conversion. West Catholic fell to 0-2 after also losing Week 1 to reigning Division 6 champion Jackson Lumen Christi. Click for more from the Lansing State Journal and see highlights below from WZZM.

Also of note: Haslett 20, Lansing Sexton 6 The Vikings moved to 2-0 with their second win over a 2017 playoff team – Sexton (0-2) coming off an 8-4 finish – and Haslett has outscored its first two opponents by a combined 48-13.  

Remember this one: Harrison 38, Houghton Lake 34 Half the Jack Pine Conference made the playoffs in 2017, including these third and fourth-place finishers, respectively, and the result this time could come into play if either challenges for the league title. Both are 1-1 overall.

Other shoutouts: Dansville 33, Laingsburg 0 The Aggies (1-1) bounced back from a tough Week 1 loss to Leslie to earn a nice win over a Laingsburg program that is 0-2 but won eight games each of the last three seasons. East Lansing 20, Dearborn Divine Child 10 The Trojans are looking especially tough defensively as they too are 2-0 for the first time since 2012 and after losing to Divine Child (0-2) a year ago.

Northern Lower Peninsula

HEADLINER: Harbor Springs 14, Frankfort 7 Frankfort was 28-7 over the last three seasons, so this is impressive for more than adding to Harbor Springs’ first 2-0 start since 2013. The Rams also are working to bounce back from last season’s 4-5 finish. Frankfort fell to 1-1 after opening with a win over Newberry. Click for more from the Petoskey News-Review.

Also of note: Rogers City 24, Tawas 8 The Hurons (2-0) equaled their win total for all of 2017, holding a Tawas team that scored 48 against Lincoln Alcona in a Week 1 win to only eight points.

Remember this one: Traverse City St. Francis 50, Maple City Glen Lake 12 This is the third straight season St. Francis has beaten Marquette and Glen Lake (0-2) to start, but a combined 92-15 scoring edge easily is the widest over the recent series.

More shoutouts: Kingsley 43, West Branch Ogemaw Heights 0 The Stags have welcomed back coach Tim Wooer with a 2-0 start after winning one game all of last season. Benzie Central 33, Kalkaska 0 The Huskies couldn’t finish 2016 and won one game last fall – but their 2-0 start equals their number of wins from the past four seasons combined.

Southeast & Border

HEADLINER: Saline 17, Grand Rapids Catholic Central 7 The Hornets broke the two-time reigning Division 4 champion’s 21-game winning streak, handing GRCC (1-1) its first defeat since Week 8 of 2016. Saline locked down the Cougars’ running game and scored the final 17 points to improve to 1-1 as well. Click for more from the Saline Post.

Also of note: Sand Creek 27, Climax-Scotts 16 The Aggies (1-1) are trying to bounce back from last season’s 4-5 finish, and avenging a 31-point loss to Climax-Scotts (1-1) certainly helps.

Remember this one: Napoleon 35, Addison 20 These were two of three co-champions last season in the Cascades Conference, but now Addison (1-1) must catch up quickly with the third title winner Michigan Center up next and Napoleon (1-1) not seeing Michigan Center until Week 8.

More shoutouts: Milan 26, Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central 21 These two frequently have decided the Huron League title, and Milan (2-0) surely is hoping that turns out the case again. St. Mary fell to 1-1 having played two 2017 playoff teams to open. Pittsford 10, Petersburg Summerfield 0 The Wildcats (2-0) have yet to give up a point this season and avenged a 12-point loss to the Bulldogs (1-1) from a year ago.

Southwest Corridor

HEADLINER: Battle Creek Central 34, Richland Gull Lake 33 The Bearcats may be back. Battle Creek Central pulled off a second straight win by seven or fewer points to reach 2-0 for the first time since 2005. Battle Creek Central finished 3-6 both of the last two seasons and last made the playoffs in 2008. Click for more from the Battle Creek Enquirer.

Also of note: Three Oaks River Valley 32, Galesburg-Augusta 24 River Valley had won a combined two games over the last four seasons but is 2-0 for the first time since 2006 and guaranteed to equal its best record since 2002.

Remember this one: Kalamazoo Central 30, Portage Central 14 The Maroon Giants (1-1) this fall are seeking their first playoff berth since 2004 and had lost to annual playoff qualifier Portage Central (1-1) by 22 and 10 the last two seasons.

More shoutouts: Springport 22, Union City 20 The Spartans (2-0) launched their Big 8 Conference schedule by avenging last season’s 26-point loss to the Chargers (1-1). Marshall 28, Battle Creek Harper Creek 27 After falling in overtime in its opener, Marshall (1-1) edged Harper Creek – which has lost its two games by a combined three points. 

Upper Peninsula

HEADLINER: Ishpeming Westwood 34, Iron Mountain 7 The Patriots have kept churning after last season’s record nine-win finish, adding this victory for a 2-0 start during which they’ve outscored those opponents by a combined 76-7. Iron Mountain (1-1) opened with a solid win over Negaunee and will work to still figure into the Western Peninsula Athletic Conference “large school” race. Click for more from the Marquette Mining Journal and see below for a highlight from ABC10.

Also of note: Escanaba 15, Petoskey 14 The Eskymos (1-1) took an opening night loss to Alpena and needed every last point against this Big North Conference opponent in a game that could prove important to Escanaba’s eventual playoff hopes.

Remember this one: St. Ignace 38, Newberry 30 The Saints (1-1) played through an uncharacteristic one-win season a year ago and then fell on opening day last month, but avenging a 37-point loss to Newberry (0-2) from last  year is a significant step in a better direction.

More shoutouts: Calumet 30, Negaunee 8 The Copper Kings (2-0) have outscored their first two opponents by a combined 78-14 to set up one of the U.P.’s best matchups this week against Westwood. Ishpeming 38, Lake Linden-Hubbell 12 The Hematites (2-0) have begun a bounce-back from a tough end to last fall with a pair of wins by a combined 90-12 score.

West Michigan

HEADLINER: Muskegon 24, Detroit Martin Luther King 21 This was everything expected and more from a matchup of two of the absolute top teams in the state, regardless of division. The Big Reds (2-0) took their final lead late to cement the victory and add to a 16-game winning streak and 18-game regular-season winning streak. The Crusaders (1-1) haven’t won fewer than 11 games since 2014 and are expected to make a double-digit run again. Click for more from the Muskegon Chronicle.

Also of note: Holland West Ottawa 42, Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central 41 (2OT) The Panthers moved to 2-0 with a second straight impressive win and after falling by three to the Rangers (1-1) a year ago.

Remember this one: Rockford 36, Lowell 0 The Rams (1-1) had lost all four of their games this decade to the Red Arrows (0-2), but got a dboost that should pay off later as they seek to make the playoffs for the 24th straight season.  

More shoutouts: Grand Haven 13, Traverse City West 10 The Titans (1-1) had won the last two meetings between these teams by 27 and 28 points, and Grand Haven (2-0) won only one game all of last season. Saugatuck 49, Watervliet 42 This was expected to be high-scoring and also delivered thanks in part to Brad Dunn’s 316 yards and five touchdowns rushing for the Indians (2-0), who handed Watervliet (1-1) its first regular-season loss since Week 6 of 2016.


HEADLINER: Morrice 34, Deckerville 14 Twice in the last three seasons these two also have met in the playoffs, so this might not be the final chapter of this fall. Both times Morrice (2-0) won the regular-season meetings and Deckerville (1-1) won in the playoffs – including 38-0 in last season’s Regional Final – so the Orioles won’t rest much despite an impressive victory. Click for more from the Owosso Argus-Press.

Also of note: Pickford 52, Engadine 7 The Panthers (2-0) won big in the latest installment of what’s become a nice rivalry with Engadine (1-1), especially since both are now in the Great Lakes Conference East beginning this fall.

Remember this one: Suttons Bay 45, Bellaire 6 Both teams made the playoffs last season, previously playing in different leagues, but the Norsemen have opened with a 107-6 combined score over two games as they look to challenge in the Midwest Central Conference West both now share.  

More shoutouts: Colon 45, Bellevue 20 The Magi (2-0) won just two games all of last season, but got a big one off Bellevue (1-1), which won 10 in 2017. Onekama 53 Central Lake 6 The Portagers (2-0) sent the reigning 8-player Division 1 champion Trojans to 0-2 by avenging last season’s 14-point defeat.

Second Half’s weekly “Drive for Detroit” previews and reviews 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: Lake Linden-Hubbell's Kyle Simpson (52) and Cole Gregiore (20) try to stop Ishpeming's Hunter Smith. (Photo by Cara Kamps.)

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.)