Drive for Detroit: Week 3 in Review

September 12, 2016

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Streaks are made to be broken, it is said. And that being the case, Week 3 saw plenty of the inevitable all over Michigan high school football fields. 

See below for quick details on some of the most intriguing results, including a number of teams adding to their best starts in a number of seasons, and a few breaking streaks by beating opponents for the first time in more than a decade. 

Bay & Thumb

Lake Fenton 61, Flint Beecher 14

This round of one of the Flint area’s top rivalries goes to Lake Fenton, which fell to Beecher by a point last year (and 38 in 2014) but is definitely one of a few favorites now in the Genesee Area Conference Red. The Blue Devils (3-0) unloaded their highest point total since 2012, with Beecher giving up its most points since 2004. Click for more from the Tri-County Times.

Also noted:

Alma 26, Saginaw Swan Valley 0 – The Panther's first win over Swan Valley (1-2) since 2011 corresponded with Alma’s first 3-0 start since 2012.

Fenton 28, Ortonville-Brandon 22 – The Tigers (1-2) were looking for a jumpstart as they pursue another Flint Metro League title, but Brandon (2-1) has shown it may be the team to take advantage if Fenton does fall again along the way.

Grand Blanc 42, Plymouth 27 – The Bobcats’ play to get back into the playoffs after two seasons away definitely will get a bump from starting 3-0 for a second straight season; Plymouth must bounce back from 1-2 to keep its three-year playoff streak intact.

Richmond 29, Croswell-Lexington 26 – Reigning Blue Water Area Conference champion Richmond (2-1) needed a late score to get past the Pioneers (2-1) for the fourth straight season. 

Greater Detroit

Clarkston 38, Oxford 7

The Oakland Activities Association Red is sorting itself out quite a bit already this season, with preseason contender Clarkston losing to Southfield Arts and Technology in Week 2. But the Wolves (2-1) stormed back by downing an Oxford team that while 1-2 did open with a win over reigning Division 1 champion Romeo. Clarkston’s top three ground gainers – led by Michael Fluegel and his 114 yards – all averaged at least 7.8 yards per carry. Click for more from the Oakland Press

Also noted:

Detroit Mumford 26, Detroit Collegiate Prep 14 – A nine-point loss to still-undefeated Detroit U-D Jesuit in Week 1 is looking even better for Mumford, which moved to 2-1 by beating a Collegiate Prep team (0-3) that went 9-1 last fall.

Walled Lake Western 48, Northville 34 – The Warriors’ 3-0 start has now included three wins over 2015 playoff teams, and Northville (2-1) didn’t lose during the regular season last year.

Rochester 38, Pontiac Notre Dame Prep 32 (OT) – The Falcons' move to 1-2 gave them as many wins as last season and 2014 as well, and with an impressive one against a Notre Dame Prep team that is 2-1 and went 8-3 last fall.

Dearborn Fordson 34, Belleville 25 – The Tractors (3-0) avenged a six-point loss last season to the Tigers (1-2), who went on to win the Western Wayne Athletic Conference Blue title while Fordson was among those tied for second. 


Bath 17, Fowler 14

Before Friday, Bath coach Matt Stephens was among the few on his sideline who had had football success against Fowler, having quarterbacked Fulton teams that beat the Eagles during the mid-2000s. But his Bees – which won a combined two games over the last two seasons – downed Fowler (2-1) for the first time since 1989 to move to 2-1 this fall. Click for more from the Lansing State Journal.

Also noted:

Laingsburg 27, Dansville 20 – The Wolfpack (3-0) broke a four-game skid against the Aggies (1-2), and with the Fowler loss as well suddenly look like the team to challenge favorite Pewamo-Westphalia in the Central Michigan Athletic Conference.

Breckenridge 40, Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart 34 – After posting a best record in more than a decade in 2014, the Huskies stepped back to winless a year ago; fast forward and they’re 3-0 with a win over a perennial winner in the Irish, who are 0-3 but also started that way on the way to 6-4 last fall.

Eaton Rapids 42, Ionia 41 (OT) – The Capital Area Activities Conference White looks even stronger than usual, which made handing Ionia (2-1) a first loss especially key as Eaton Rapids (2-1) looks to bounce back from 4-5 a year ago.

Mason 31, St. Johns 15 – The Redwings (0-3) may be struggling out of the gate, but that doesn’t take away from a Mason 3-0 start that’s seen its defense give up 22 points total so far. 

Northern Lower Peninsula

Traverse City Central 10, Traverse City West 8

As usual, the "Patriot Game" between these neighbors turned into a classic – Central downed West for the third straight season, but four of the last five meetings between these two have been decided by seven points or fewer. Although both entered the game averaging at least 40 points per, defense and turnovers were the narrative at Thirlby Field. Click for more from the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

Also noted:  

East Jordan 34, Central Lake 6 – The Red Devils are 3-0 after winning two games last season and none in 2014, and this one was especially impressive with Central Lake (1-2) a playoff team the last two seasons.

Oscoda 22, Whittemore-Prescott 14 (OT) – The Owls (2-1) bounced back from a five-point loss last week against AuGres-Sims to avenge last season’s 27-point defeat to the Cardinals (2-1).

AuGres-Sims 50, Hillman 32 – While this is starting to look like a down season after two straight league titles for the Tigers (0-3), it’s also starting to look like one of offensive outbursts for the Wolverines (3-0), who have scored 128 points.

Roscommon 26, Sanford Meridian 14 – The Bucks have to be enjoying their first 3-0 start since 2000, and especially after downing reigning Jack Pine Conference champion Meridian (1-2). 

Southeast & Border

Parma Western 32, Marshall 30

It was only a few seasons ago that Parma Western couldn’t be counted on to do much in a game like this Interstate 8 Athletic Conference opener. But the Panthers (1-2) surely learned something from their early struggles this season as they avenged losses of one and then 28 points over the last two to Marshall (1-2). Parma Western made the playoffs in 2015 for the first time ever, and this nearly was a must-win for the Panthers to do the same this fall. Click for more from the Jackson Citizen-Patriot.

Also noted:

Clinton 28, Adrian Madison 20 – Make that Clinton regular-season win streak 39 straight with another 3-0 start, but Madison (2-1) again gave the Redskins one of the rare tests of this run.

Hudson 26, Brooklyn Columbia Central 14 – The Tigers’ turnaround has thrown them into the conversation again in the Lenawee County Athletic Association, as Hudson (3-0) is now one win shy of last year’s total after beating reigning league runner-up Columbia Central (2-1).

Temperance Bedford 22, Ann Arbor Pioneer 21 – The Mules (3-0) reversed a six-point loss to Pioneer (0-3) last season and have now nearly also reversed last year’s 0-4 start.

Springport 48, Union City 26 – The Spartans are 3-0 for the first time since 2011 and have avenged two of last year’s five losses, handing Union City (2-1) its first defeat after falling to the Chargers by 16 a year ago. 

Southwest Corridor

Battle Creek Harper Creek 24, Jackson Lumen Christi 14

The Beavers’ bounce-back season continued as their 3-0 start gives them as many wins as all of 2015, and the victory over Lumen Christi (1-2) was their first since the formation of the Interstate 8 Athletic Conference. One game into the I8 schedule, Harper Creek is the only undefeated team in a league with at least four that would scare most area opponents. Click for more from the Battle Creek Enquirer.

Also noted:

Coldwater 17, Battle Creek Pennfield 6 Reigning I8 champion Coldwater (2-1) kept pace a win behind Harper Creek after falling to Marshall in Week 2; Pennfield also is 1-1 in the league and 2-1 overall. 

St. Joseph 27, Portage Northern 23 – This was the sixth straight time the Bears (3-0) and the Huskies (1-2) played to within 10 points of each other, with St. Joseph winning five of the recent nail-biters.

South Haven 28, Plainwell 19 – The Rams have won only three games each of the last two seasons and no more than that since 2008, but are 2-1 having downed a Plainwell team (1-2) that has made the playoffs the last five years.

St. Joseph Lake Michigan Catholic 20, Niles Brandywine 6 – One of the toughest losses of two seasons of ups and downs for Lake Michigan Catholic was a 57-18 defeat to Brandywine last fall; this one put Brandywine at 1-2 and the Lakers at 3-0 after they won two games total in 2015. 

Upper Peninsula

Newberry 48, Bark River-Harris 34

As expected, these Mid-Eastern Conference contenders combined to put up plenty of points. But Newberry (3-0) continued to put up more, running its total to 154 over three games and putting itself in fine position in the league standings by downing the reigning co-champion. Bark River-Harris (2-1) had beaten the Indians in two straight, including 56-34 a year ago. Click for more from the Escanaba Daily Press.

Also noted:

Iron Mountain 48, Iron River West Iron County 21 – The Mountaineers’ great start keeps picking up steam as they’re now 3-0 for the first time since 2011 and with a second straight win over the rival Wykons (1-2).

Ishpeming Westwood 18, L’Anse 16 – The Patriots (1-2) got a much-needed win as they go for a third-straight playoff berth but now head into Mid-Peninsula Conference play; the Purple Hornets (0-3) have a similarly hard road coming up.

Escanaba 27, Gaylord 13 – The Eskymos are 3-0 for the first time since 2010, with Gaylord (1-2) the second straight 2015 playoff team to fall to the Great Northern Conference contenders.

Felch North Dickinson 24, Munising 6 – The Nordics are hoping to climb back to their elite status from the start of this decade, and at 2-1 they’re only a win shy of equaling their total of both of the last two seasons; they’ll meet Munising (0-3) again in Week 6. 

West Michigan

Zeeland West 38, Grand Rapids West Catholic 22

The battle of reigning MHSAA champions went to the Division 4 winner, as West (3-0) continued its 28-game regular-season winning streak with one of its most impressive over a run that’s been especially stellar this fall. Adding in the reigning Division 5 champion Falcons (2-1), West has beaten teams that went a combined 28-7 in 2015. Click for more from the Grand Rapids Press.

Also noted:

Leroy Pine River 34, Beal City 7 – The Bucks (2-1) had last beaten Beal City (1-2) in 2000 and have helped the always-powerful Aggies to their toughest start since that year.  

Lowell 34, East Grand Rapids 7 – Even when it’s not much of a game, Lowell (3-0) taking on East Grand Rapids (1-2) is still going to be a game of statewide interest.

Rockford 37, Muskegon Mona Shores 23 – The Rams’ 21-season playoff streak got a needed jolt; beating Mona Shores (1-2) is a much better way for Rockford (1-2) to enter the Ottawa-Kent Conference Red schedule.

Hamilton 34, Zeeland East 21 – The Hawkeyes (3-0) are soaring after winning a combined four games over the last three seasons; handing annually-strong East (2-1) a loss makes the start even more impressive. 


Rapid River 36, Webberville 34 (OT)

Rapid River made a long drive south for one of the most intriguing nonleague matchups of the 8-player season and headed back across the bridge at 2-1 after edging the home Spartans in overtime. Webberville had given up only 26 points over its first two games. Click for more from the Escanaba Daily Press.

Also noted:

Engadine 42, Pickford 32 – The Eagles also are 3-0 for the first time since 2011 after finding openings in a Pickford defense that had given up only six points over its first two games of a 2-1 start.

Owendale-Gagetown 70, Flint International Academy 50 – No team statewide is scoring like the Bulldogs (3-0), who went over 70 points for the second straight week – although first-year Flint International (1-2) scored the most O-G has given up since 2013.

PHOTO: A Breckenridge ball carrier works to beat a Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart defensive player to the goal line during the Huskies' Week 3 win. (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.)