Drive for Detroit: Week 2 in Review

September 9, 2019

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

After two weeks of this high school football season, it’s impossible to know how much of what we’re seeing now will be applicable by playoff time or even later this month.

But there are a number of teams we’ve highlighted in our Week 2 “review” that should be feeling pretty good about what they’ve shown us so far.

Many of the 45 achievers below are regularly mentioned in this report. Others likely are considered surprises at this point – but might not be for much longer.

"Drive for Detroit" is sponsored by MI Student Aid.

Bay & Thumb

HEADLINER Freeland 29, Essexville Garber 20 A 2-0 start isn’t unfamiliar to the Falcons – they’ve begun with two straight wins every season this decade. But coming off last week’s one-point victory over Marshall, this win over the Dukes also is noteworthy for the way Freeland (2-0) held on through the end – especially against a Garber team that opened with a nice win against Boyne City and just missed the playoffs a year ago. This also was an opener in the new-look Tri-Valley Conference Central, which includes most of the best from the East and Central over the past few seasons. Click for more from the Midland Daily News.

Watch list Midland 45, Flint Carman-Ainsworth 0 Although the Cavaliers (0-2) have stumbled so far, Midland’s opening run still needs some mention with this win added to the opening victory over Traverse City West. The Chemics started 0-2 against the same two teams a year ago and still finished 9-4 and made the Division 2 Semifinals.

Remember this one Lapeer 43, Midland Dow 6 The Chargers (0-2) have made the playoffs six years in a row, so Lapeer (1-1) bouncing back from its opening-night loss to Lake Orion in a big way deserves notice.

More shoutouts Saginaw Arthur Hill 40, Flint Southwestern 16 The Lumberjacks (1-1) ended a 25-game losing streak with their highest-scoring performance since 2013. Flint Kearsley 28, Ann Arbor Huron 6 A second win over a larger opponent has the Hornets (2-0) a win away from equaling last season’s total as they play for their first winning record since 2003.  

Greater Detroit

HEADLINER Birmingham Groves 24, West Bloomfield 17 The Lakers (1-1) have been considered among early Division 1 championship favorites this fall and had beaten Groves in back-to-back nonleague matchups over the last two seasons. But this shouldn’t be considered entirely stunning by the Falcons (2-0), who finished 10-3 last season and made the Division 2 Semifinals. The ending, on the other hand, was a little wild with a pair of late special teams fumbles turning into scores, including the game-winner. Click for more from the Oakland Press.

Watch list Lake Orion 37, Southfield Arts & Technology 7 The Dragons (2-0) have put themselves in the spotlight quickly with two impressive wins after also downing Lapeer in the opener. The run is especially notable after the team’s 0-2 starts the last two seasons.  

Remember this one Romeo 37, Port Huron Northern 6 Romeo is 2-0 for the first time since its Division 1 championship season of 2015, winning big against a Northern team that went 10-2 last season and won big as well in its opener this fall.

More shoutouts Warren Michigan Collegiate 30, Flint Beecher 6 The Cougars (2-0) roll into this week’s matchup with Detroit Country Day with an impressive win over a Bucs team that went 8-4 last season and started this fall with a sizable win. South Lyon 29, Trenton 21 The Lions are picking up where they left off after winning the Lakes Valley Conference in 2018, with Trenton (1-1) providing a strong challenge as it looks to make the playoffs for the sixth straight season.  


HEADLINER Portland 29, DeWitt 27 This very well could end up the game of the regular season in the Lansing area, with two of the region’s most successful programs facing off and the reigning Division 5 runner-up Raiders holding the Panthers off during a scoreless fourth quarter. DeWitt (1-1) had won 18 straight regular-season games and is 77-8 during the regular season this decade. Portland (2-0) has now won 18 straight regular-season games and 37 of its last 38. Click for more from the Lansing State Journal and see highlights below from State Champs Sports Network.

Watch list Holt 22, Hudsonville 21 Welcome back Rams. A pair of 3-6 finishes the last two seasons were helped along in part by 0-2 starts. But Holt is 2-0 for the first time since 2007 and after deciding to go for a 2-point conversion and the win late against the Eagles (1-1).

Remember this one Ithaca 16, Millington 0 The Yellowjackets (2-0) avenged last season’s playoff opener loss to the Cardinals (0-2), and now they are in the same league.

More shoutouts St. Johns 46, Ann Arbor Pioneer 33 After being shut out by East Lansing last week, the Redwings (1-1) bounced back by avenging a 2018 one-point loss to Pioneer (1-1). Lansing Catholic 56, Grand Rapids West Catholic 28 After two games this fall the Cougars have scored 112 points – nearly one-third of their total over 11 games a year ago – and this week beat the always playoff-bound Falcons (0-2) for the second straight season.

Northern Lower Peninsula

HEADLINER Maple City Glen Lake 28, Traverse City St. Francis 7 September isn’t two weeks old, but it’s hard to not anticipate some good things ahead for the Lakers (2-0) after they opened with a win over Millington and followed up by breaking an eight-game losing streak against the Gladiators (1-1) this weekend. St. Francis won last year’s meeting 50-12 and hadn’t been held to single digits in a regular-season game since 2013. Click for more from the Traverse City Record-Eagle and see highlights below from MI Sports Now.

Watch list Traverse City Central 37, Marquette 28 After falling to DeWitt by just five points at home Week 1, the Trojans (1-1) hit the road and ran their winning streak to six straight over Marquette (0-2).

Remember this one Charlevoix 18, Boyne City 14 The Rayders (2-0) won just once in 2018 and last opened with two straight wins in 2016, when they also last made the playoffs.

More shoutouts Cheboygan 8, Grayling 6 The Chiefs (1-1) are working toward their first playoff berth since 2013 and are a step closer after ending a recent three-game losing streak to Grayling (1-1). McBain 31, Roscommon 0 The Ramblers (1-1) also bounced back from a Week 1 loss by downing a Bucks team that is so far winless but finished 10-2 a year ago.

Southeast & Border

HEADLINER Erie Mason 80, Britton Deerfield 42 These two tied for the 14th-most points in an 11-player game where the losing team put up at least 40, and Erie Mason improved to 2-0 for the first time since 2003 while guaranteeing to tie its best finish for an entire season since 2005. Through two weeks quarterback Noah Beaudrie has thrown for 473 yards and six touchdowns and run for 509 and eight scores. The Patriots (1-1), meanwhile, upped their season scoring average to 35 ppg despite the defeat.

Watch list Clinton 45, Blissfield 13 Last season’s Tri-County Conference runner-up Clinton (2-0) will enter league play 2-0 for the first time since 2016 after avenging last season’s loss to the Royals (1-1), who opened this fall with a 19-point win over reigning TCC champion Ottawa Lake Whiteford.

Remember this one Sand Creek 31, Adrian Lenawee Christian 28 The Aggies (2-0) also play in the strong TCC, so this last-minute win over postseason regular Lenawee Christian (1-1) could end up a difference-maker when playoff selection time rolls around.

More shoutouts Jackson Lumen Christi 22, Parma Western 7 The Titans (2-0) pushed their winning streak to 25, and if it continues to grow this Interstate 8 Athletic Conference opener could be looked back at as key with Western (1-1) staying close into the fourth quarter. Temperance Bedford 20, Flushing 19 Bedford bounced back from a Week 1 loss to earn what could be a key win for its playoff hopes against a Flushing team that has made the last two postseasons but finds itself 0-2 with those defeats by a combined 12 points.

Southwest Corridor

HEADLINER Portage Northern 14, Stevensville Lakeshore 6 In keeping with recent history, this matchup was decided by eight or fewer points for the eighth time in nine seasons and gives reigning league co-champ Northern (2-0) a valuable early edge in the Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference West race. But 2017 champ Lakeshore is far from being out of it, and a few more contenders also could have a say. Click for more from and see below for highlights from FOX 17.

Watch list Kalamazoo Central 40, Portage Central 27 Defeating Portage Central last season was the first sign of Kalamazoo Central’s rise that turned into a league title and its first playoff berth since 2004. So the Maroon Giants (1-1) should be excited about the possibilities after bouncing back from last week’s one-point defeat to Mattawan with another notable victory over the annually-strong Mustangs (1-1).

Remember this one Cassopolis 28, Mendon 0 The Rangers (2-0) ran their scoring margin for the season to an early 78-0 advantage and earned a significant edge in their quest to repeat as Southwest 10 Conference champions, as 2017 winner Mendon (1-1) is always in the hunt as well.

More shoutouts Watervliet 22, Saugatuck 14 This was a major win as the Panthers (1-1) work to rebound from last season’s 2-7 finish; Saugatuck (1-1) was 9-2 a year ago and has won at least that many games four straight seasons. Battle Creek Lakeview 28, Mattawan 12 The Spartans (2-0) have had a few tough seasons but with this win tied their victory total of a year ago and against a Mattawan team that has made the playoffs two straight years. 

Upper Peninsula

HEADLINER Iron Mountain 42, Ishpeming Westwood 22 Two weeks into the season, Iron Mountain (2-0) could have its two main obstacles out of the way as it looks to challenge reigning champion Calumet in the Western Peninsula Athletic Conference Copper. This week’s win followed up last week’s over Negaunee, and the Copper Kings await in Week 6. Westwood (1-1) was second and Iron Mountain third in the league last season. Click for more from the Iron Mountain Daily News.

Watch list Ishpeming 36, Lake Linden-Hubbell 34 The Hematites (2-0) are reigning champions in the West-PAC Iron and setting themselves up to be in the mix again, although the Lakes (1-1) could still find themselves in contention as well with a little help.

Remember this one Manistique 28, Gwinn 8 The Emeralds broke a 21-game losing streak on the field (not counting forfeits for games not played last season) with their first win since Week 9 of 2015.

More shoutouts Gladstone 20, Gaylord 7 The Braves (2-0) are halfway to last year’s win total with this one over a Gaylord team that made the playoffs last season and now sits 1-1 this fall. Sault Ste. Marie 20, Alpena 14 The Blue Devils (2-0) also downed a Big North Conference opponent, avenging last season’s loss to the Wildcats (0-2).

West Michigan

HEADLINER Muskegon 41, Detroit Martin Luther King 18 It’s impossible to not lead with Muskegon for the second straight week after the Big Reds defeated their second reigning MHSAA champion already this fall. And this one surely meant a little more as it came in a rematch of last season’s Division 3 championship game, won by King 41-25. Click for more from the Muskegon Chronicle.

Watch list Caledonia 19, Cedar Springs 12 The Fighting Scots’ Week 1 loss to Holt is looking even better after Holt beat Hudsonville, and this victory over Cedar Springs (1-1) says a lot about Caledonia’s potential heading into Ottawa-Kent Conference Red play starting this week.

Remember this one Byron Center 33, Middleville Thornapple Kellogg 14 After two straight sub-.500 seasons, the Bulldogs (2-0) also could be on their way to big things after sending the Trojans to 1-1.

More shoutouts Rockford 24, Lowell 7 The Rams evened these teams’ latest four-game series at 2-2 and moved to 2-0 to start a season for the first time since 2014. Zeeland West 48, Grand Rapids Christian 27 The Dux (2-0) added to their opening-night win over East Grand Rapids with another impressive one, as the Eagles (0-2) likely will be in the mix again in the O-K Gold.


HEADLINER Pellston 42, Posen 38 The Hornets finished 4-5 in their first season of 8-player football in 2018, winning four of their final six games. This fall they’re off to a 2-0 start, and a first winning season since 1995 might become part of the conversation soon. Pellston scored the go-ahead touchdown against Posen (0-2) with 5:03 to play after trailing by 18 midway through the third quarter. Click for more from the Petoskey News-Review.

Watch list Vestaburg 22, North Adams-Jerome 6 The Wolverines (2-0) moved to 8-player football this fall, and so far so good after finishing 0-9 last season and 1-8 in 2017.  

Remember this one Bridgman 46, St. Joseph Lake Michigan Catholic 8 It also will be interesting to see how this first season of 8-player goes for Bridgman, which has outscored its first two opponents by a combined 102-24.  

More shoutouts Martin 20, Wyoming Tri-unity Christian 0 Martin (2-0) also is a first-year 8-player program and its scores the last two weeks have been much closer, but against two of the traditional best in Bellevue and this week Tri-unity (0-2). Powers North Central 62, Rapid River 6 These Jets (2-0) are scoring like the title-winning Jets of a few seasons ago, with a combined 128 points over their first two games.

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PHOTO: A Marquette defender closes in Friday as Traverse City Central quarterback Peyton Smith decides if he will hand off or keep the ball. (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.)