Drive for Detroit: Week 3 in Review

September 14, 2015

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Admittedly, last week's statewide slate of varsity football games didn't appear that intriguing on first glance.

Of course, that means we ended up with more noteworthy results than we expected – and some hard decisions picking which had the biggest impacts as we completed the first third of this season.

See below for five of the most significant finishes from every region of the state, plus links to coverage from those that stuck out most.

Bay & Thumb

Marlette 27, Reese 26

The Red Raiders are 3-0 for the fourth time in five seasons, but living a little on the edge after also beating Bad Axe by a point in Week 2. Reese (0-3) opened with 20 straight points, and took back the lead after Marlette’s first go-ahead score made it 21-20 during the second quarter. The Red Raiders took the lead back for good with a final score with just more than six minutes to play. Click for more from the Port Huron Times-Herald.

Also noted:

Pinconning 28, Whittemore-Prescott 6 – The Spartans (2-1) ended a five-game losing streak to the Cardinals (1-2), a 10-win team last season, with Pinconning’s start its best since its last playoff season of 2009.

Algonac 50, Imlay City 0 – The Muskrats’ story keeps getting better, with its 3-0 start equaling its best season finish since 2007 and its best start since 1972.

Lake Fenton 49, Montrose 21 – The Blue Devils (2-1) no doubt were happy to equal last season’s win total by contributing to the rival Rams’ first 1-2 start since 2009.

Saginaw Swan Valley 26, Alma 21 – The Vikings are finding their way post-Alex Grace, and moved to 2-1 by handing the Panthers (2-1) their first loss

Greater Detroit

Warren Mott 32, Macomb Dakota 27

After surging to a 26-0 lead, Mott held on against what was one of the state’s most impressive teams of the first two weeks. Dakota opened this fall by ending two-time reigning Division 1 champion Clarkston’s 27-game winning streak, then beat rival Clinton Township Chippewa Valley in Week 2. But Mott moved to 3-0 and in doing so gained nice footing in a Macomb Area Conference Red race that could be one of the most competitive in the state. Click for more from the Macomb Daily.

Also noted:

Clinton Township Chippewa Valley 32, Sterling Heights Stevenson 28 – Quarterback Patrick Briningstool’s two touchdown passes during the final five minutes finished a late comeback for the Big Reds (2-1), who avenged last season’s loss to the Titans (2-1).

Detroit Martin Luther King 20, Detroit East English 15 – The Crusaders (3-0) withstood their first tough challenge of the Detroit Public School League schedule and earned their second win by five or fewer points while handing East English (2-1) its first loss.

Sterling Heights 13, St. Clair 10 – The Stallions won two games combined over the last two seasons but are 3-0 for the first time since 1987 after dropping St. Clair to 0-3.

West Bloomfield 35, Clarkston 21 – The Lakers moved to 3-0 for the first time since 1989 thanks in part to four TD runs by Trishton Jackson, while the tough early go continued for the Wolves (1-2). 


Grand Ledge 34, Lansing Sexton 32

Grand Ledge had to outlast a previously inexperienced but quickly improving Sexton team to reach 3-0 for the first time since 2011. After just one game of league play, the Comets look like strong favorites in the Capital Area Activities Conference Blue, with Jackson the only other team in the league with fewer than two losses overall. Sexton (0-3) hadn’t lost a league game since Week 8 of 2012. Click for more from the Lansing State Journal.

Also noted:

East Lansing 28, Jackson 21 – Before handing Jackson (2-1) its first loss, the Trojans (1-2) had fallen by only 13 and seven points, respectively, to teams a combined 5-1.

Dansville 40, Fulton 27 – The Aggies have solidified themselves as a top-four team in the Central Michigan Athletic Conference the last few seasons, and for the second year in a row will take on powers Pewamo-Westphalia and Fowler in back-to-back weeks off a 3-0 start.

St. Johns 49, Mason 28 – Seemingly forgotten again in a league with usual favorites DeWitt and Mason (2-1), St. Johns (2-1) looks every bit the contender in the CAAC Red. 

Eaton Rapids 34, Ionia 26 (2 OT) – These teams are in similar position in the CAAC White, both facing tough opponents ahead and Eaton Rapids (2-1) thankful for a slight upper hand as Ionia (1-2) must continue to build after a second loss by six or fewer points.

Northern Lower Peninsula

Traverse City Central 32, Traverse City West 26 (OT)

This season’s Patriot Game again went to Traverse City Central, which also celebrated the 600th win in program history and sits fifth all-time among Michigan high schools for varsity football victories. The Trojans (3-0) have beaten rival West (0-3) three of the last four seasons in the annual game at Thirlby Field. Click for more from the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

Also noted:

Hillman 35, AuGres-Sims 20 – The Tigers (2-1) bounced back from a Week 2 loss to continue a recent winning streak over the North Star rival Wolverines (0-3).

Petoskey 38, Cadillac 13 – The Northmen (2-1) also bounced back from a Week 2 loss to down reigning Big North Conference champion Cadillac (0-3) for the first time since 2011.

Gaylord 17, Escanaba 7 – The Blue Devils (3-0) won this matchup of previous unbeatens, although Escanaba’s start remains its best since 2011.  

Grayling 30, Maple City Glen Lake 15 – The Vikings (2-1) got back on the right foot quickly after a big Week 2 loss to rival Gaylord by handing league foe Glen Lake (2-1) its first loss this fall. 

Southeast & Border

Morenci 22, Petersburg-Summerfield 8

Morenci’s success of a year ago wasn’t a one-time surge – the Bulldogs have now beaten three 2014 playoff teams to open this fall. Morenci has given up only single-digit points in nine its last 12 regular-season games, although the Tri-County Conference challenges should be tougher this time with Sand Creek rejuvenated and Clinton and Ottawa Lake-Whiteford both undefeated as well so far. Click for more from the Adrian Daily Telegram.

Also noted:

Brooklyn Columbia Central 26, Hillsdale 22 – The Eagles (3-0) won two games last season and hadn’t beaten Hillsdale (1-2) since 2011, including a 41-3 loss to the Hornets a year ago.

Homer 32, Concord 30 – The Trojans (2-1) took the momentum away from Concord (2-1), which had celebrated the week before a solid win over reigning Big Eight Conference champion Union City.

Jackson Lumen Christi 20, Battle Creek Harper Creek 17 – The Titans (3-0) remained undefeated with their second win this season by three points or fewer, and this one much closer than last year’s 34-14 win over Harper Creek (1-2).

Vandercook Lake 41, Addison 7 – The Jayhawks (3-0) early are outscoring opponents on average 36-7 during their best start since 2008. 

Southwest Corridor

Portage Central 7, Stevensville Lakeshore 6

This was the second time in four seasons these teams played to within a point of each other – the other two games were decided by three and 10 – and Portage Central avenged last season’s 20-17 loss in part by blocking Lakeshore’s extra-point try with just under 10 minutes to play. The Southwest Michigan Athletic Conference West rivals have split their last four meetings – with the winner of this game going on to win the league title the last three seasons. Click for more from the St. Joseph Herald-Palladium.

Also noted:

Battle Creek Central 35, Battle Creek Lakeview 27 – Central (1-2) broke a four-game losing streak against Lakeview (1-2) after scoring only seven points against the Spartans during those previous four matchups.

Delton Kellogg 21, Constantine 18 – The Panthers (2-1) had dropped all six meetings with Constantine (1-2) when the two were in the former Kalamazoo Valley Association, but are 1-0 against the Falcons now that they are in the Southwestern Athletic Conference.

Kalamazoo Central 18, Kalamazoo Loy Norrix 6 – This gives the Maroon Giants (1-2) a 4-3 advantage over the recent history of this rivalry after Loy Norrix (1-2) won last season 20-19.

Coldwater 35, Battle Creek Pennfield 8 – The undefeated Cardinals (3-0) have yet to give up more than eight points in a game this fall and haven’t given up double digits in the regular season since Week 7 of 2014. 

Upper Peninsula

Bark River-Harris 56, Newberry 34

Every week the wins are getting more impressive for Bark River-Harris, which moved to 3-0 for the first  time since 2009 while handing Newberry (2-1) its first loss. The Broncos literally have doubled their offensive output every week this season, from 14 points in a one-point win over Crystal Falls Forest Park on opening night, to 28 against Gogebic last week and 56 on Friday. Click for more from the Escanaba Daily Press.

Also noted:

Ishpeming Westwood 20, L’Anse 12 – The Patriots (2-1) won this first matchup between these two since the early 1990s, with L’Anse dropping its first game after two league wins.

Munising 12, Felch North Dickinson 8 – Make that 11 straight regular-season wins for the Mustangs (3-0), although the Nordics (1-2) gave them the toughest test during that run.

Iron Mountain 26, Iron River West Iron County 0 – The Mountaineers (2-0) avenged a 24-0 shutout from a year ago at the hands of the rival Wykons (0-3).

Sault Ste. Marie 35, Marquette 21 – The Blue Devils (2-1) broke a five-game losing streak to Marquette (0-3) to move to 2-1 for the first time since 2008. 

West Michigan

Muskegon 39, Grandville 12

Friday turned into a flood of historical references and national headlines from Michigan's west coast after Muskegon became the state's first high school football program to earn 800 varsity wins – which also puts the Big Reds tied for ninth in national high school history. They are 2-1 this season and 800-274-43 dating to 1895 (and watch for more on this on Second Half soon from MHSAA historian Ron Pesch, a Muskegon resident and the expert on the subject). Grandville fell to 2-1. Click for more from the Muskegon Chronicle.  

Also noted:

East Grand Rapids 35, Caledonia 28 – With plenty of tough competition ahead, this was huge for the Pioneers (3-0) as Caledonia (2-1) also has been one of this area’s most impressive teams early.

Zealand East 39, Hudsonville 33 – Last season’s uncharacteristic 2-7 finish for East (3-0) included a 40-0 loss to Hudsonville (2-1), making this a pretty significant turnaround to say the least.

Ada Forest Hills Eastern 48, Grand Rapids West Catholic 15 – This is a signature win for the still-emerging coach Eddie Ostipow era at Forest Hills Eastern (3-0); the Hawks had dropped all three of their recent meetings with the two-time reigning Division 5 champion.

Muskgon Mona Shores 31, Rockford 10 – Last season’s three-point loss to Rockford (1-2) was Mona Shores’ only defeat of the regular season; the Sailors (3-0) might be even stronger this fall and will have more opportunities to prove it. 


Rapid River 28, Cedarville 14 – As explained last week, Cedarville’s only regular-season losses of the last three years have come, now three times, to the Rockets (3-0). But for the first time since both moved to 8-player football, they aren’t in the same league – which means a possible rematch in the playoffs for the second straight year would mean infinitely more than this appetizer.

Also noted:

Peck 28, Kinde-North Huron 22 – The generally-powerful Pirates came back from a significant Week 2 loss to Morrice by taking an early upper hand in the North Central Thumb 8-Man League.

Powers North Central 76, Bellaire 14 – Circle Week 8 against Rapid River on the North Central schedule; the Jets (3-0), in their first season of 8-player, are looking that dangerous after winning big over another of the annual powers in Bellaire (2-1).

PHOTO: St. Louis, here adding a few more points in last week's 38-6 win over Breckenridge, is 3-0 for the first time since 1978. (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.)