Drive for Detroit: Week 3 in Review

September 17, 2013

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Swartz Creek and Flint Kearsley combined for 137 points in Week 3, second most in MHSAA history for two football teams when the losing team scores at least 40 (Swartz Creek won 77-61). 

Reigning Division 7 runner-up Detroit Loyola dropped reigning Division 4 runner-up Detroit Country Day to 0-3 with a 20-14 win. And Deckerville, last season's 8-player MHSAA champion, beat 2011 champion Carsonville-Port Sanilac 42-0. 

All were pretty significant and worth mentioning for sure. But they were just honorable mentions in this week's recap of the most significant results from every region of the state. 

West Michigan

Muskegon 45, Rockford 0 

Instead of trying to explain the shock factor that accompanied this score, let’s instead focus on how good this likely means Muskegon (3-0) is again this season. The Big Reds are coming off a runner-up finish in Division 2, and have to be considered a favorite to return to Ford Field after defensively dismantling the Rams (2-1) while getting another big night from quarterback Deshaun Thrower. Click to read more from the Grand Rapids Press.

Also noted:

Holland West Ottawa 27, East Grand Rapids 23: The Panthers (2-1) earned another key nonleague win as they gear up for a tough O-K Red schedule; East Grand Rapids (2-1) will hope to pick up another this week before beginning in the similarly-strong O-K White. 

Muskegon Mona Shores 21, Caledonia 20: The Sailors, seeking their first playoff berth, are 3-0 for the first time since 1980 with this win over frequent postseason qualifier Caledonia (2-1).

Zeeland East 14, Hudsonville 12: This Chix (3-0) made it 18 straight wins in the regular season, this time against a Hudsonville team (2-1) that also should be in the O-K Red mix.  

Grand Rapids South Christian 34, Grand Rapids West Catholic 17: Another solid win by the reigning Division 4 champion Sailors (2-1) puts reigning Division 5 runner-up West Catholic (0-3) in a must-win scenario for the rest of the regular season. 

Lower Up North

Traverse City West 17, Traverse City Central 14 (OT)

At the high school level especially, with rosters changing dramatically each season, it’s difficult to pick which early-season games will be the most competitive. But this rivalry game was again as good as advertised, coming down to an overtime field goal. West avenged last season’s loss to regain the Nowak-Olson Memorial Trophy and earn a 5-4 edge in the teams’ most recent nine meetings. Click to read more from the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

Also noted: 

Traverse City St. Francis 36, Elk Rapids 26: Although these two no longer play each other in the Lake Michigan Conference, this matchup between Gladiators (2-1) and Elks (2-1) remains one of the best among Traverse City’s smaller schools.  

Cadillac 20, Petoskey 7: The Vikings (3-0) look good to be in the Big North Conference mix again after defeating another contender in Petoskey (2-1) on the first night of league play.

Hale 12, Oscoda 8: The Eagles (1-1) beat Oscoda (0-3) for the first time in their recent five-game series.

Indian River Indian Lakes 36, Pickford 34 (OT): The Bulldogs (2-1), seeking their first playoff berth since 2009, avenged last season’s loss against Pickford (2-1), a 2012 qualifier.

Bay and Thumb

Lapeer West 19, Lapeer East 13

As the Flint Journal led, “it was a classic finish to a storied rivalry.” These schools entered their final game against each other both 2-0 and were tied until the final two minutes. The series, which began in 1975, is ending because the schools are merging next summer. West finished with a 29-10 all-time lead. Click to read more from the Flint Journal.

Also noted:

Flint Beecher 40, Goodrich 7: The Bucs (3-0) pulled nearly a reversal of last season’s 26-0 loss to the Martians (1-2).

Saginaw Arthur Hill 21, Bay City Western 18: The Lumberjacks (3-0) already have equaled their best season since 2008 and did so last week by beating the regularly-ranked Warriors (1-2).

Saginaw Swan Valley 29, Freeland 19: Vikings running back Alex Grace ran for 337 yards as Swan Valley (3-0) continued to impress against the rival Falcons (2-1).

Yale 16, Croswell-Lexington 13: Yale (2-1) broke a four-game losing streak against Croswell-Lexington (1-2) which included regular season and playoff defeats in 2012. In doing so, Yale reclaimed The Helmet traveling trophy.

Upper Peninsula

Iron River West Iron County 23, Iron Mountain 20

How big was this win for West Iron? The Wykons hadn’t beaten their rival since 1990, including five seasons where they also lost playoff games to Iron Mountain. The Mountaineers (1-2) outscored West Iron by a combined 116-0 from 2010-12. And now the Wykons can celebrate their first 3-0 start since that same season 23 years ago. Click to read more from the Iron Mountain Daily News.  

Also noted:

Crystal Falls Forest Park 31, Hurley (Wis.) 14: The Trojans (3-0) earned a significant Great Western Conference edge by handing rival Hurley (2-1) its first loss.

Marquette 17, Sault Ste. Marie 14: Few teams in Michigan can match the Marquette's start of three wins against 2012 playoff teams, with Sault Ste. Marie (1-2) its final opponent before the start of league play.

Menomionee 40, Harbor Beach 21: What a way for Menominee (3-0) to enter league play – coming off beating a Harbor Beach team (2-1) coming off the Division 8 championship.

Powers North Central 22, Lake Linden-Hubbell 14: The Jets are 3-0 for the first time since 1998, while the Lakes fell to 1-2 for the first time since 2004.

Greater Detroit and Southeast

Madison Heights Madison 29, Warren Woods Tower 22 (OT)

It’s only the end of Week 3, but Madison (3-0) looks pretty good to repeat at Macomb Area Conference Silver champion thanks to this win combined with last week’s over Warren Fitzgerald, the only team to beat Madison during last season’s title run. Madison trailed Warren Woods Tower (2-1) by two scores early before coming all the way back. Click to read more from the Detroit Free Press.

Also noted:

Detroit Mumford 26, Detroit Cody 22: By improving to 3-0, Mumford bested its records of the past two seasons while dropping Cody – a playoff team last season – to 1-2. 

Oak Park 36, Rochester Adams 30: The Knights (3-0) scored twice over the final eight minutes to survive an Adams team that is much better than its 1-2 record indicates.

Warren DeLaSalle 42, Harper Woods Chandler Park 14: Chandler Park (2-1) is considered a team to watch in the Detroit area, which makes this win even more impressive for the Pilots (2-1).

Clinton Township Chippewa Valley 42, Utica Eisenhower 21: The Big Reds (3-0) continued their best start since 2006, with Eisenhower (1-2) now left to chase Chippewa Valley and Macomb Dakota in the Macomb Area Conference Red.  


Olivet 28, Schoolcraft 14

Wasn’t the Kalamazoo Valley Association supposed to come down again to Schoolcraft and Constantine? The Eagles no doubt used that as a motivating factor in handing the reigning league champ its first regular season loss since 2011 and only a week after Schoolcraft had beaten Constantine. Now it’s Olivet setting pace in the KVA, with Constantine coming up in Week 8. Click to read more from the Battle Creek Enquirer.

Also noted:

Eaton Rapids 17, Charlotte 12: The Greyhounds (2-1) regained the Little Brown Jug traveling trophy for the first time since 1992 against a solid Charlotte team (2-1), and with one more win will equal their most for a season since 1997.

Lansing Sexton 35, Grand Ledge 0: The Big Reds (3-0) haven’t given up a point in two weeks and with this win put the rival Comets (0-3) in a must-win situation for the rest of the regular season.

Grass Lake 27, Michigan Center 20: Only a loss to Michigan Center (2-1) kept Grass Lake (3-0) from a second straight outright Cascades Conference title last season; the Warriors, Cardinals and Manchester ended up sharing first place, but now Grass Lake has an upper hand.

Howell 14, Hartland 12: The Highlanders (3-0) survived to remain undefeated and avenge last season’s 12-point loss to the rival Eagles (1-2).

Southwest and Border

Plainwell 10, Dowagiac 0

These two don’t play in the same division of the Wolverine Conference, but are arguably the two best teams in the league. Dowagiac (2-1) entered this matchup 19-1 over its last 20 regular-season games and having won all seven of this recent series with the Trojans (3-0). Click to read more from the Kalamazoo Gazette.

Also noted:

Decatur 27, Saugatuck 20: This was the first time Decatur (3-0) gave up points this season, but this also was the most impressive of the victories; Saugatuck (2-1) had outscored its first two opponents by a combined score of 117-12.

Battle Creek Harper Creek 14, Marshall 6: The Beavers (2-1) were in need of a quick bounce-back after last week’s five-point loss to St. Joseph, and got it with a close win over Marshall (0-3).

Portage Central 34, Mattawan 8: After falling to Mattawan (1-2) by a point last season, Portage Central (3-0) left no question this time in the teams’ Southwest Michigan Athletic Conference West opener.  

St. Joseph 32, Stevensville Lakeshore 20: The Bears (3-0) continued their impressive opening surge by winning the annual War by the Shore trophy and ending a four-game regular-season losing streak to Lakeshore (2-1).

Trophy Games

Every week of football season, the MHSAA highlights trophy games around the state. Here are two more not previously mentioned above: 

Little Brown Jug - Suttons Bay vs. Kingsley: The Stags held onto this trophy for the third straight season. Final: Kingsley 34, Suttons Bay 21. 

Bayou Battle Paddle - Fruitport vs. Spring Lake: Spring Lake claimed this trophy for the second time in three seasons, both times with one-point wins. Final: Spring Lake 10, Fruitport 9.

PHOTO: Detroit Mumford (maroon jerseys) edged Detroit Cody 26-22 to move to 3-0. (Photo courtesy of Detroit Public School League.)

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.)