Drive for Detroit: Week 3 Preview

September 7, 2017

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

The most difficult part of previewing the state’s top football matchups each week is coming up with an introduction that hits on a common theme for what we can expect from those games – but this week we’ll stick with the obvious.

Every featured Drive for Detroit preview matchup tonight and Saturday pits a pair of undefeated teams whose seasons will hardly be over if they take a loss over the next two days – but who also could be rewarded as victors with some serious momentum as league schedules get underway and the first third of the regular season waves good-bye.

Our weekly previews are powered by MI Student Aid. Find all of our scores as they come in on the MHSAA Score Center, and click on teams off that page for updated standings and playoff points. will broadcast eight games this weekend from across the state – click here for the schedule.

Bay & Thumb

Richmond (2-0) at Croswell-Lexington (2-0), Friday

Richmond has won or shared the Blue Water Area Conference title three of the last four seasons, fending off mostly Algonac and Almont during that time. This could be Croswell-Lexington’s turn to jump into the mix. The Pioneers are coming off two straight playoff seasons and fell to the Blue Devils by only three points in last year’s meeting.

Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Flint Powers Catholic (2-0) at Bay City Central (1-1), Flint Carman-Ainsworth (1-1) at Davison (2-0), Detroit Country Day (1-1) at Flushing (1-1), Beaverton (2-0) at Gladwin (0-2).

Greater Detroit

Bloomfield Hills (2-0) at Clarkston (2-0), Friday

The Black Hawks have won 11 straight regular-season games, including 28-24 last week over highly-regarded West Bloomfield to open the Oakland Activities Association Red schedule. Now Bloomfield Hills – last season’s OAA Blue champ before switching divisions – gets the reigning OAA Red winner Clarkston and faces a defense that held both Lapeer and Southfield Arts & Technology to seven points apiece over the first two weeks, respectively.  

Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Livonia Churchill (2-0) at Livonia Stevenson (2-0), Belleville (2-0) at Dearborn Edsel Ford (2-0), Wyandotte Roosevelt (2-0) at Lincoln Park (2-0), SATURDAY Detroit Catholic Central (1-1) at Detroit U-D Jesuit (1-1).


Perry (2-0) at Lake Odessa Lakewood (2-0), Friday

This could end as one of the most important nights in Perry football history. The Ramblers are off to the best possible start as they pursue their first playoff appearance, and can take the momentum to an unprecedented level with a win over the reigning Greater Lansing Activities Conference champion. The Vikings won last year’s meeting only 37-32, their closest victory of a perfect league run.  

Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Williamston (2-0) at Portland (1-1), Bath (2-0) at Fowler (1-1), Houghton Lake (2-0) at Clare (1-1), East Lansing (1-1) at Grand Ledge (1-1).

Northern Lower Peninsula

Traverse City Central (2-0) vs. Traverse City West (2-0) at Thirlby Field, Friday

It’s nearly a guarantee this will be the most attended high school game in Michigan this weekend and one of the most highly-attended anywhere this year. These teams meet annually on the field they share to honor military and local first-response personnel in a “Patriot Game,” and they’ll draw 10,000 fans for this long-awaited rematch after Central downed West 10-8 during the regular season and 13-12 in a Division 2 District opener in 2016.

Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Lincoln Alcona (2-0) at Rogers City (1-1), Indian River Inland Lakes (1-1) at Gaylord St. Mary (2-0), Boyne City (2-0) at Cheboygan (1-1), SATURDAY Elk Rapids (2-0) at Traverse City St. Francis (2-0).

Southwest Corridor

Portage Central (2-0) at Stevensville Lakeshore (2-0), Friday

The Southwest Michigan Activities Conference West is expected to again be one of the most competitive leagues in the state, and for the fourth straight season these two powers will kick off their league schedules against each other. Last year’s meeting didn’t feature the usual down-to-the-end drama of previous matchups this decade. But both enter tonight with similar wins over Battle Creek Central and the need for a quick upper hand as league mate St. Joseph also has won its first two games this fall.

Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Maple City Glen Lake (1-1) at Watervliet (2-0), Edwardsburg (2-0) at Paw Paw (2-0), Cassopolis (2-0) at White Pigeon (2-0), Plainwell (1-1) at Vicksburg (2-0).

Southeast & Border

Battle Creek Harper Creek (2-0) at Jackson Lumen Christi (2-0), Friday

Lumen Christi tripped up only twice on last year’s march to the Division 6 title – to Grand Rapids West Catholic on opening night and Harper Creek in Week 3 in a 10-point loss that ultimately led to those two sharing the Interstate 8 Athletic Conference title. The Titans avenged the first defeat by downing West Catholic two weeks ago – and there’s a great chance again this game will have league title implications.

Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Petersburg-Summerfield (2-0) at Ottawa Lake Whiteford (2-0), Marshall (1-1) at Parma Western (2-0), Napoleon (1-1) at Michigan Center (2-0), Blissfield (1-1) at Ida (2-0).

Upper Peninsula

L’Anse (2-0) at Ishpeming Westwood (2-0), Friday

This one doesn’t feature the usual heavyweights of a top U.P. matchup. But there are some valid reasons for it being the top pick this week. L’Anse, which already has equaled last season’s two wins, has given up 12 points over two games and last week downed a Lake Linden-Hubbell team that didn’t lose a regular season game in 2015 or 2016. Westwood also went only 2-7 last year, and also has given up only 12 points over two games – and if it scores 26 tonight will match its offensive output for all of last season as well.

Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Lake Linden-Hubbell (0-2) at Munising (1-1), Newberry (1-1) at Bark River-Harris (2-0), Hurley, Wis. (2-1) at Calumet (2-0), Iron River West Iron County (1-1) at Iron Mountain (0-2).

West Michigan

East Grand Rapids (2-0) at Lowell (2-0)

It’s become one of the givens every season: Lowell is going to play a loaded nonconference schedule. The Red Arrows will look to make it two straight 3-0 starts against a Warren DeLaSalle/Rockford/East Grand Rapids trio and after downing the Pioneers 34-7 last fall. But East Grand Rapids also has two wins over notable opponents – annual power Farmington Hills Harrison and 2016 playoff qualifier Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern, and the Pioneers surely are aching to take a win from their former league rival for the first time since 2010.

Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Rockford (1-1) at Muskegon Mona Shores (2-0), East Kentwood (2-0) at Hudsonville (1-1), Greenville (2-0) at Cedar Springs (1-1), SATURDAY Grand Rapids West Catholic (1-1) at Zeeland West (1-1)


Camden-Frontier (2-0) at Battle Creek St. Philip (2-0), Saturday

These two met under similar circumstances in Week 4 last season, both undefeated with St. Philip the reigning MHSAA runner-up and Camden-Frontier an upstart quickly gaining respect. The Redskins receive plenty now with a 10-2 record since switching to 8-player, but this will certainly be their first significant test of 2017. Last year’s loss contributed to St. Philip just missing the playoffs; the Tigers are looking strong so far with a win over 2016 semifinalist Wyoming Tri-unity Christian already to their credit.

Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Crystal Falls Forest Park (1-1) at Stephenson (2-0), Portland St. Patrick (2-0) at Webberville (1-1), Pickford (2-0) at Engadine (2-0), SATURDAY Atlanta (2-0) at Wyoming Tri-unity Christian (1-1).

Second Half’s weekly “Drive for Detroit” previews 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: Lowell blasts forward for a touchdown during its win over Warren DeLaSalle in Week 1 at Wayne State University. (Click for 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.)