Drive for Detroit: Week 3 in Review

September 10, 2018

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Just like that, we're three weeks into another Michigan high school football season. 

And just like that, the picture of what we might expect this fall is beginning to get a little bit clearer.

There are 128 undefeated teams setting the pace. Some we're used to seeing at the top, and a number of others are enjoying encouraging turnarounds early this fall.

Below we offer glances at 45 games that popped from the page this past weekend, and we're just beginning to tell the story. 

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Bay & Thumb

HEADLINER: Davison 36, Flint Carman-Ainsworth 29 These Flint-area powers haven’t been in the same league since 2013, but Davison (3-0) ran its winning streak over Carman-Ainsworth (2-1) to three straight with a late score and win in the Saginaw Valley League Blue opener. Click for more from the Flint Journal and see below for highlights from WJRT.

Also of note: Flint Hamady 24, Flint Beecher 18 With the other three Genesee Area Blue teams starting out a combined 2-7, Hamady might be in nice shape already to win its first league title since 2007. The rival Buccaneers (1-2), however, are hoping to turn things around quickly as they seek to get back to the playoffs for the first time since 2015.

Remember this one: Sandusky 28, Ubly 22 These two and Harbor Beach have been in the mix for most of the Greater Thumb Conference East titles this decade; Sandusky (3-0) has an early upper hand this time, but Ubly (2-1) will be waiting for a trip-up.

Other shoutouts: Saginaw Swan Valley 41, Freeland 3 The Vikings (3-0) have looked unstoppable early, this time winning big against the rival Falcons (2-1). Cass City 40, Marlette 14 The Red Hawks (2-1) have bounced back from a Week 1 loss with two big wins including this one over a Marlette team that beat Harbor Beach in Week 2.

Greater Detroit

HEADLINER: Oak Park 23, Farmington Hills Harrison 15 In successive weeks, Oak Park (3-0) has defeated Birmingham Groves and now Harrison (2-1), the teams with which it shared the Oakland Activities Association White championship a year ago. The Knights are impressing especially on defense, giving up just under 12 points per game. Click for more from the Oakland Press and see highlights below from State Champs! Sports Network. 

Also of note: Clinton Township Chippewa Valley 45, Utica Eisenhower 24 The Big Reds (3-0) are the team to chase in the prestigious Macomb Area Conference Red after this win over last season’s champion Eisenhower (1-2) – which edged Chippewa Valley 49-42 a year ago in the game that eventually decided the title.

Remember this one: Lake Orion 28, Rochester Adams 24 The Dragons (1-2) had a tough 2017, which included a 39-8 defeat to Adams (2-1). But they got their first win this fall by handing a first loss to the reigning OAA Red co-champ.

More shoutouts: Canton 47, Plymouth 26 The Chiefs (2-1) handed the neighboring Wildcats (2-1) their first loss as the rivalry started a new chapter with both teams boasting new coaches. Dearborn Heights Crestwood 22, Romulus 20 Crestwood last was 3-0 in 1991, according to, and equaled last season’s overall win total by downing a reigning league champion in the Eagles (0-3).


HEADLINER: East Lansing 31, Grand Ledge 28 This one told a lot about one of mid-Michigan football’s premier leagues. East Lansing, last season’s Capital Area Activities Conference Blue runner-up, now looks most likely to provide newcomer DeWitt the biggest challenge in this fall’s league race. But Friday also showed reigning champion Grand Ledge has the opportunity to make an impact despite graduating much of last year’s team. Click for more from the Lansing State Journal.

Also of note: Greenville 41, Lowell 35 (OT) The Red Arrows (0-3) are having rare struggles to open this fall, but beating them is still a huge accomplishment – and Greenville (1-2) had dropped three games to Lowell over the last two seasons, including once in the playoffs.

Remember this one: Williamston 21, Fowlerville 14 These two are main reasons the CAAC Red has a new look this fall, and Williamston (3-0) has an early advantage on contending for the league title – although much-improved Fowlerville (2-1) showed it can’t be counted out.

More shoutouts: Clare 42, Harrison 18 Harrison (1-2) remains the last team to beat Clare (3-0) in the Jack Pine Conference – back in Week 9 of 2015. Holt 14, Traverse City West 7 Downing a 2017 playoff team like West (1-2) is a great sign for Holt (1-2), especially after the Rams opened with losses to two more tough nonleague foes.

Northern Lower Peninsula

HEADLINER: Lake City 14, McBain 12 Recall that the Trojans (3-0) stormed back from 2-7 in 2016 to 12-1 last fall, and that they earned the Highland Conference title because of a 28-8 win over eventual runner-up McBain in Week 3. The Ramblers (1-2) made this one closer, but Lake City’s 12-game regular-season winning streak lives on. Click for more from the Cadillac News and see highlights below from MI Sports Now. 

Also of note: Manton 28, Beal City 22 The Rangers (3-0) were last 3-0 in their most recent playoff season, 2014, and hadn’t beaten Highland Conference foe Beal City (0-3) since joining the league in 2007.

Remember this one: Cheboygan 22, Boyne City 6 The Northern Michigan Football League Legends division could be shifting as Cheboygan (1-2) handed the reigning champion Ramblers (1-2) their first league defeat after a perfect run a year ago.

More shoutouts: West Branch Ogemaw Heights 18, Wyoming Kelloggsville 14 Kelloggsville (1-2) is struggling after last season’s 10-1 finish, but regardless this is big for Ogemaw Heights (1-2) as it equaled its win total for the last three seasons combined. Manistee 33, Ludington 14 The Chippewas (3-0) have bounced back from last season’s 2-7 finish and handed Ludington (2-1) its first defeat to start Lakes 8 Conference play.

Southeast & Border

HEADLINER: Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central 20, Riverview 6 St. Mary (2-1) has played three 2017 playoff teams to open this fall, including reigning Huron League champion Riverview (2-1). The Falcons are chasing in the league after falling to Milan last week, but now will cheer for Riverview to take down Milan this week and open the league race all the way back up. Click for more from the Southgate News-Herald. 

Also of note: Dundee 33, Hudson 6 The Vikings (3-0) equaled last season’s win total by defeating the reigning Lenawee County Athletic Association champion Tigers (2-1), a big step as Dundee seeks its first playoff berth since 2012.

Remember this one: Brooklyn Columbia Central 21, Ida 20 These are two more contenders in the LCAA, with Ida (2-1) last season’s runner-up and Columbia Central (3-0) one of the new favorites.

More shoutouts: Jackson 27, Monroe 20 The Southeastern Conference is treating Jackson (3-0) well. Although this was just a crossover, the win over Monroe (2-1) was impressive and with two league victories to begin the fall gave the Vikings their best start since 2003. Dexter 37, Ann Arbor Huron 14 A week after breaking a 42-game losing streak, Dexter (2-1) guaranteed its best finish since 2011.

Southwest Corridor 

HEADLINER: Hartford 26, Mendon 24 (OT) Mendon does not lose often during the regular season; in fact, the Hornets were riding a 21-game regular-season winning streak before Hartford pulled off this headline grabber. Mendon had won last year’s meeting 41-14 on the way to claiming the first Southwest 10 Conference title. Click for more from the St. Joseph Herald-Palladium and see below for highlights from FOX 17.

Also of note: Portage Central 21, Portage Northern 20 Central (2-1) scored the go-head touchdowns during the final minutes to bounce back from a Week 2 loss and make it five straight over the rival Huskies (2-1).

Remember this one: Berrien Springs 41, Schoolcraft 28 The Shamrocks (2-1) opened this season with a loss but have bounced back with two solid wins including this one over a Schoolcraft team that has made the playoffs nine straight seasons and also sits 2-1.

More shoutouts: Delton Kellogg 28, Fennville 7 The Panthers are 3-0 for the first time since 2009 after handing Fennville (2-1) its lone defeat. Battle Creek Central 30, Battle Creek Lakeview 15 Central’s second straight win over Lakeview (0-3) put the Bearcats at 3-0 after they won three games total both of the last two seasons.

Upper Peninsula

HEADLINER: Calumet 14, Ishpeming Westwood 12 A few late defensive stops could end up being the difference in the Western Peninsula Athletic Conference large-school title race as Calumet (3-0) hung on to deal Westwood (2-1) its first defeat. The Copper Kings have playoff-caliber Iron River West Iron County and Norway next, but both are in the league’s other division. Click for more from the Houghton Daily Mining Gazette.

Also of note: Ishpeming 46, Norway 19 The West PAC small-school division is loaded, but with this win it looks like Ishpeming (3-0) and West Iron might be favorites with Norway (2-1) on the chase.

Remember this one: Gladstone 14, Menominee 0 The Braves (2-1) didn’t play Menominee (0-3) last season, but before that hadn’t beaten the Maroons during their yearly series since 2008. Menominee shares the longest active playoff streak of 22 seasons with Rockford, but must win out to guarantee pushing it to 23.

More shoutouts: Escanaba 27, Detroit Loyola 24 After a Week 1 loss, Escanaba (2-1) has won two games by four points combined, with this one over rejuvenated Loyola (2-1). Negaunee 30, Hancock 29 The Miners (1-2) needed this after a tough start, and got past a Hancock team that’s also 2-1 and coming off its best season since 2006.

West Michigan

HEADLINER: Holland West Ottawa 45, Rockford 40 The Ottawa-Kent Conference Red season is one week old, but West Ottawa (3-0) made quite an opening statement with its third straight win over the perennially powerful Rams (1-2) – coincidentally all three have been decided by five points. This time quarterback Isaac VanDyke scored with 20 seconds to play to extend the streak. Click for more from the Holland Sentinel and see highlights below from WZZM.

Also of note: Muskegon Orchard View 32, Muskegon Catholic Central 14 The Cardinals (1-2) didn’t have the greatest start with two 20+ point losses, but beating MCC (1-2) for the first time since 1966 could be the beginning of a turnaround.

Remember this one: Muskegon 49, East Grand Rapids 21 The Big Reds (3-0) were the state’s biggest story after two huge wins to open this season, but they trailed East Grand Rapids (1-2) by 14 in this game before scoring 42 unanswered points.

More shoutouts: Grandville 37, Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central 36 The Bulldogs (1-2) are on the board after losses to two reigning MHSAA champions to start the season, but the Rangers (1-2) might also be one of the state’s best 1-2 teams after falling by just a point two straight weeks. Wayland 19, Grand Rapids South Christian 14 Wayland (3-0) has equaled its win total of both the last two seasons thanks to its first victory over the Sailors (2-1) since 2007.


HEADLINER: Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart 22, Deckerville 12 The Irish brought a tradition of success from 11-player this fall, and the transition appears to be going smoothly as they moved to 2-1 with this win over the reigning 8-player Division 1 runner-up. The Eagles (1-2) have lost two straight but to teams that are a combined 5-1. Click for more from the Mount Pleasant Morning Sun.

Also of note: Pickford 38, Crystal Falls Forest Park 20 The Panthers (3-0) avenged last season’s 8-Player Division 2 Semifinal loss to the eventual champion Trojans (1-2). 

Remember this one: Brethren 42, Marion 20 Brethren (2-1) sits alone atop the West Michigan D League standings with this win over the reigning champion Eagles, a 54-0 winner in last year’s meeting. 

More shoutouts: Genesee 8, New Haven Merritt 6 In its first season of 8-player, Genesee is 3-0 – after winning a combined three games over the last three seasons. Merritt (1-2), meanwhile, has two losses by a combined eight points. Camden-Frontier 44, Portland St. Patrick 0 The Redskins (3-0) have outscored their opponents by a combined 169-6 and handed the reigning 8-player Division 2 runner-up Shamrocks (2-1) their first shutout since 2014.

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PHOTO: East Lansing and Grand Ledge players work to secure the ball during Friday's Trojans 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.)