Drive for Detroit: Week 3 in Review

September 15, 2014

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Yes, it's only mid-September. We've got a long way to go in this MHSAA football season.  

But there were a number of games played during Week 3 that should impact significantly how league races unfold through the end of the October. 

A few you won't read about below but are worth including: Mason County Central ended a seven-game losing streak to Shelby with a 12-6 win and could make some noise in the West Michigan D. Newaygo beat annual favorite Reed City, 14-6, for the first time as a member of the Central State Activities Association and could now be the favorite in the new Gold division. 

And those are just scratches on the surface; read on for more that should provide lasting impact this fall. 

West Michigan

Lowell 30, East Grand Rapids 25

Make no mistake – East Grand Rapids (2-1) is back after two non-playoff seasons, and despite falling in this heartbreaker Friday. The Red Arrows (3-0) went ahead for good during the final minutes on Max Dean’s fourth touchdown of the night. Life doesn’t get easier for either team – East Grand Rapids faces Muskegon next and both play in the highly-competitive O-K White. But it’s tough to imagine a better way to kick off the league schedule. Click to read more from the Grand Rapids Press.

Also noted:

Rockford 10, Muskegon Mona Shores 7 – In two years, Mona Shores (2-1) has gone from sub-.500 to first-time playoff qualifier and now competitor with an elite program in Rockford (3-0).

Grand Rapids South Christian 33, Hudsonville Unity Christian 30 (OT) – The Sailors (1-2) have had a tough start against tough competition, but finally broke through against the improved Crusaders (2-1).

Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central 31, Caledonia 19 – After also opening with two tough losses, Forest Hills Central (1-2) got in the win column against a Caledonia (2-1) team that had been one of the state’s most impressive early.

Greenville 36, Comstock Park 16 – Greenville (2-1) is off to its best start since 2011, impressive all the more after beating Comstock Park (1-2), winners of 22 of its last 24 regular-season games.

Southwest and Border

Watervliet 18, Mendon 13

Even after winning 10 games two of the last three seasons, Watervliet probably was a passing thought for most in this game given Mendon’s 35-game regular-season winning streak. In fact, the Hornets hadn’t lost a regular-season game to an in-state opponent since 2006 – that 2010 loss was to Edgerton, Ohio. Mendon (2-1) was undermanned a bit – eight seniors did not play – but that shouldn’t take away from a huge victory for the Panthers (2-1). Click to read more from the St. Joseph Herald-Palladium.  

Also noted:

Stevensville Lakeshore 20, Portage Central 17 – Lakeshore (3-0) handed Portage Central (1-1) its first regular-season loss since Week 8 of 2012.

St. Joseph 17, Portage Northern 7 – Knocking off solid Portage Northern (2-1) makes the Bears (3-0) early favorites with Lakeshore in the always-tough Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference West.

Vicksburg 16, Edwardsburg 14 – The Bulldogs (3-0), coming off two straight sub-.500 seasons, beat Edwardsburg (2-1) after losing by a combined score of 81-27 over the last two meetings.

Coldwater 35, Battle Creek Pennfield 6 – The Cardinals (3-0) made the playoffs last season, for the first time ever, with an at-large bid at 5-4. But they are halfway to automatic qualification after dealing perennial playoff team Pennfield (0-3) another disappointment. 

Bay and Thumb

Montrose 27, Lake Fenton 12

The Rams (3-0) ran their Genesee Area Conference Red winning streak to 22 and set back again Lake Fenton (1-2), league runner-up to Montrose the last two seasons. Lake Fenton stood within two points of the lead in the third quarter before the Rams pulled away. The last league team to beat Montrose was Flint Beecher, this season’s Week 8 opponent. Click to read more from the Flint Journal.

Also noted:

Flint Carman-Ainsworth 31, Davison 8 – The Cavaliers (2-1) came back from their Week 2 one-point heart-breaking loss to Mount Pleasant by beating former league rival Davison (1-2) for the fifth straight time.

Flint Southwestern 58, Saginaw 8 – The Knights (2-1) equaled their win total of the last three seasons and can equal their most since 2008 with another victory; Saginaw fell to 0-3.

Marlette 51, Reese 34 – Marlette’s Connor Thomas, a member of the MHSAA Student Advisory Council, ran for 217 yards and four touchdowns and also caught a touchdown pass as the Raiders moved to 2-1 and Reese fell to 1-2.

St. Clair 32, Sterling Heights 31 – Sterling Heights (0-3) won only once in 2013, but nearly pulled off its best victory in at least a few years as the Saints (2-1) had to come back in the fourth quarter riding the strength of four rushing touchdowns from Larry Ochadleus.

Lower Up North

Traverse City Central 20, Traverse City West 13

Central (3-0) got some revenge after last season’s three-point overtime loss that played a part in the Trojans missing the playoffs. West (1-2) may still own a 12-6 advantage in their series, but Central definitely has the upper hand in this season’s Big North Conference race although it’s only one game old for both. Click to read more from the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

Also noted: 

Cadillac 27, Petoskey 7 – Cadillac (3-0) kicked off the Big North Conference season by handing a first loss to Petoskey (2-1) and keeping up a defensive effort allowing only nine points per game.

Maple City Glen Lake 15, Grayling 8 – The Lakers (2-0) have tough opponents lined up for at least the next five weeks but should contend, while Grayling (1-2) now is forced to bounce back to extend its five-season playoff streak.

Lincoln Alcona 22, Rogers City 6 – Alcona (3-0) quietly has won 15 straight regular-season games, with this one impressive as Rogers City (2-1) appears in the midst of turning things around after four straight sub.-500 finishes.

Cheboygan 13, Escanaba 12 – The Chiefs (1-2) were off to a rough start after two straight playoff seasons, but took a first step toward extending the streak while dropping Escanaba to 1-2. 

Upper Peninsula

Gladstone 24, Negaunee 19

Although Gladstone started with two wins this fall after going 0-9 two of the last three seasons, it was fair to assume the Braves’ success would come to a quick end with Negaunee followed by the Great Northern U.P. Conference schedule. It’s time to rethink that assumption. Not only is Gladstone 3-0 for the first time since 2009, but got there by beating a Miners team that also started 2-0 and won 10 games each of the last two seasons. Click to read more from the Escanaba Daily Press.

Also noted:

Hurley, Wis. 18, Crystal Falls Forest Park 14 – Hurley (4-0) is one of the top-ranked small schools in Wisconsin, and beating Forest Park (2-1) no doubt will help that cause in addition to giving Hurley a huge advantage in the Great Western Conference race.

Ishpeming Westwood 48, Rudyard 0 – This wouldn’t usually register except that Westwood (3-0) won two games total in 2013 and three in 2012; Rudyard (0-3) is hoping for a quick turnaround.

Lake Linden-Hubbell 33, L’Anse 20 – The Lakes (2-1) avenged last season’s 52-34 playoff-opener loss to the Hornets (1-2).

Menominee 37, Pontiac Notre Dame Prep 23 – We love when our best from the Upper Peninsula get together with tough teams from downstate, and this was a great way for the Maroons (3-0) to prepare for their Great Northern U.P. Conference schedule while giving Notre Dame Prep (1-2) another competitive nonleague game.


Lansing Sexton 32, Grand Ledge 21

Although the league opener, this could end up one of the most important games in the Capital Area Activities Conference Blue this season if not the championship decider. Sexton (3-0) has yet to play a home game this season but has continued to build an impressive resume adding the Comets to Detroit East English and Monroe among those defeated so far. Grand Ledge (1-2) made a run at the lead during the second half but couldn’t climb back after Sexton went up three scores during the second quarter. Click to read more from the Lansing State Journal.

Also noted:

Okemos 23, Lansing Everett 13 – The Chieftains (2-1) are looking like contenders in the CAAC Blue as well although a difficult early slate gets tougher with Grand Ledge and Sexton next; Everett (1-2) will attempt to bounce back against Holt.

Jackson Lumen Christi 34, Battle Creek Harper Creek 14 – These two have looked like favorites in the first-year Interstate 8 Athletic Conference, although Lumen Christi (3-0) remains undefeated and Harper Creek (1-2) must bounce back from a tough start.  

St. Johns 28, Haslett 13 – The Redwings (3-0) are one of the surprises in the CAAC Red and best teams from the Lansing area, while Haslett (1-2) is working to stay in contention in the competitive league.  

Ithaca 33, Saginaw Michigan Lutheran Seminary 14 – This was a little more of a scare than Ithaca (3-0) has had in a while, as the Yellowjackets trailed MLS (2-1) by a point at halftime.

Greater Detroit

Brownstown Woodhaven 42, Allen Park 35 (OT)

Woodhaven (3-0) came out ahead in another close Downriver League battle, this time in overtime after beating Southgate Anderson by two in Week 2. The Warriors need only one more win to equal last season’s finish and already have avenged three of those 2013 losses. Always-solid Allen Park is still there despite falling to 2-1. Click to read more from the Detroit Free Press.

Also noted:

Macomb Dakota 35, Warren Mott 7 – Dakota (2-1) is laying a strong early claim on the Macomb Area Red title, with Mott (2-1) previously expected to be a contender but now facing an uphill battle. 

Sterling Heights Stevenson 21, Clinton Township Chippewa Valley 7 – This changes up the MAC Red race as well with Chippewa Valley (1-2) formerly a contender and Stevenson (2-1) now an intriguing possibility despite a Week 2 loss to Utica Eisenhower.

Oak Park 27, Farmington Hills Harrison 0 – The right to challenge Southfield in the Oakland Activities Association White belongs firmly to Oak Park (2-1), which hasn’t given up a point since Week 1 and dropped Harrison to 2-1 as well.  

Clinton 54, Ottawa Lake Whiteford 30 – Whiteford (2-1) might’ve been the biggest obstacle as Clinton (3-0) goes for a third straight 9-0 regular season. 


Portland St. Patrick 27, Waldron 6

The Shamrocks (3-0) have the highest playoff point average in 8-player thanks in part to handing Waldron (2-1) its first loss. The victory also made Portland St. Patrick 21-4 since moving to 8-player football in 2012 – and continued an impressive defensive effort this fall as the team is giving up only eight points per game. Click to read more from the Hillsdale Daily News.

Also noted:  

Rapid River 36, Ontonagon 22 – Although Ontonagon (0-2) is new to 8-player football, it gave Rapid River (3-0) its closest regular-season game since Week 9 of 2012.

Deckerville 66, Carsonville-Port Sanilac 13 – The Eagles (3-0) added to their recent dominance of rival CPS (0-3) with their second-most points in three seasons of 8-player ball.

PHOTO: Lowell charges toward the end zone during its 30-25 come-from-behind win over East Grand Rapids on Friday. (Click to see 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.)