Drive for Detroit: Week 3 in Review

September 16, 2019

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

"We're here," and "We're better than last year." 

If Michigan high school football teams collectively had a few messages to pass on during Week 3, those came through the loudest. 

Whether it was Portage Northern, Oak Park, Holland Christian or others, a number of contenders announced with their play that they will be factors deep into the fall. 

And more teams than should be listed in one sentence continued to equal or better their successes of a year ago – and we continue to make mention of many of those in this week's review below.  

"Drive for Detroit" is sponsored by MI Student Aid.

Bay & Thumb

HEADLINER Flint Hamady 25, Flint Beecher 6 The Genesee Area Conference is down to just four teams, and this matchup may have decided the eventual champion. Hamady (3-0) ran its regular-season winning streak to 16 with a third-straight win over the Bucs (1-2), and its remaining two league opponents have started a combined 0-6. Click for more from the Flint Journal and see highlights below from WJRT.

Watch list Flint Powers Catholic 28, Kalamazoo Central 22 The Chargers are 3-0 for the first time since 2012, and this one likely will be quite memorable as Kalamazoo Central (1-2) is a league title contender that was coming off a big win over Portage Central after suffering its other loss by just a point.

Remember this one Flint Kearsley 29, Flushing 21 With their first win over Flushing (0-3) since 2006, the Hornets (3-0) tied their win total from last season and their most in a season since going 4-5 in 2012. The Raiders are better than their record, with close losses also to Detroit Country Day and Temperance Bedford.

More shoutouts Carrollton 29, Millington 27 The Cavaliers (1-2) also equaled their win total from all of last season, dealing a third loss to a Cardinals team that suddenly must win out to guarantee extending their 15-season playoff streak. Midland Bullock Creek 33, Hemlock 31 The Lancers (2-1) went 2-7 the last two seasons and haven’t won more than two since going 3-6 in 2014, but they are on pace to equal or surpass that success after handing Hemlock (2-1) its first defeat.

Greater Detroit

HEADLINER Oak Park 64, Clarkston 41 The Knights (2-1) needed just about all of their 64 points to extend their winning streak against Clarkston to three, as the Wolves (1-2) led 41-40 with just under six minutes to play. A six-point Week 1 loss to West Bloomfield gave an indication Oak Park would be strong again this fall, but this comeback backs that up as the Knights now prepare for a massive Oakland Activities Association White matchup this week against Birmingham Groves. Click for more from the Oakland Press and see highlights below from State Champs Sports Network.

Watch list Plymouth 15, Canton 13 The Wildcats are 3-0 for the first time since 2014, and after defeating the Chiefs (1-2) should carry some serious momentum into this week’s league matchup with reigning Kensington Lakes Activities Association West champion Brighton.

Remember this one Dearborn Heights Robichaud 32, Redford Thurston 31 After four straight losses to end last season, Robichaud (3-0) has bounced back with this win over the annually-strong Eagles (2-1) its best so far.

More shoutouts West Bloomfield 17, Southfield Arts & Technology 8 The Lakers (2-1) rebounded quickly from a Week 2 loss to Groves with a win over another program in Southfield (1-2) that’s rumbled through one of the state’s toughest early schedules. Lake Orion 36, Rochester Adams 31 The Dragons (3-0) added to one of the most impressive starts, edging Adams (2-1) to stay a step ahead in an OAA Red that could be the state’s strongest league this fall.


HEADLINER Clare 42, Harrison 40 The Pioneers scored to go-ahead points with 40 seconds left to keep in step in a league that again has multiple contenders after three shared the title a year ago. Clare is one of three teams in the Jack Pine Conference off to a 3-0 start, and this was a good win to get out of the way especially with co-leaders Beaverton and Sanford Meridian still needing to face the Hornets (2-1) later on. Click to see more from the Mount Pleasant Morning Sun.   

Watch list Beal City 13, Lake City 0 The Aggies (3-0) averaged nearly 10 wins per season from 2010-16, but won a combined six games over the last two seasons. They’ve opened this fall with a combined scoring margin of 90-8 after earning their second shutout by downing 2018 Division 7 semifinalist Lake City (1-2).

Remember this one Fowlerville 20, Williamston 14 The Hornets (2-1) shared last season’s Capital Area Activities Conference Red title, but the Gladiators (3-0) are looking like a team to chase in the league as they chase a first winning season since 2016.

More shoutouts Lansing Everett 21, Lansing Waverly 14 The Vikings (2-1) haven’t won more than two games since 2015 but have another chance to take a big step after also opening 2-1 last season and ending 2-7. Perry 36, Carson City-Crystal 30 There’s always an eye on the Ramblers (2-1) as they play to make the playoffs for the first time, and this fall they are a three-point Week 1 loss from a 3-0 start.

Northern Lower Peninsula

HEADLINER Ludington 45, Manistee 14 The Orioles (3-0) have made the playoffs two of the last three seasons, but this has been their most impressive start in more than a decade. Ludington has outscored its first three opponents by a combined 135-38 and opened Lakes 8 Conference play by handing reigning champion Manistee (2-1) its first regular-season defeat since 2017. See highlights below from MI Sports Now.

Watch list Evart 7, Manton 6 The Wildcats are 3-0 for the first time since 2013 and after winning two games all of 2018, claiming these first three victories by a combined 22 points.

Remember this one Houghton Lake 8, McBain 6 Moving from the Jack Pine Conference to Highland Conference this fall, Houghton Lake (1-2) is another strong bounce-back candidate after going 2-7 in 2018. The first two losses this fall were to still-unbeaten Oscoda and Beal City, and McBain (1-2) won eight games last season.  

More shoutouts Traverse City West 26, Holt 21 The Titans (2-1) opened with a tough nonleague slate but picked up their second straight win with a last-minute score against the Rams (2-1). Kingsley 43, Grayling 16 The Stags (3-0) will bring a 38-ppg average into this week’s matchup with nemesis Traverse City St. Francis.

Southeast & Border

HEADLINER Milan 28, Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central 21 The Big Reds (3-0) couldn’t have put themselves in better position to start the Huron League season as they aim for their first league title since sharing in 2016. Two weeks ago they nearly tripled up reigning champion Grosse Ile, and Friday put up a late score to get past rival St. Mary (2-1) and stay in the league lead with Riverview. Click for more from the Monroe Evening News.

Watch list Hillsdale 46, Erie Mason 36 The Hornets (3-0) needed to score big to stay ahead of an Erie Mason team that fell to 2-1 but has been among the highest-scoring in the state early this fall, and this could end up as one of the key victories as Hillsdale looks to repeat after sharing the Lenawee County Athletic Association title in 2018.

Remember this one Brooklyn Columbia Central 26, Ida 8 The Golden Eagles (3-0) also were LCAA co-champs last season, and Ida (1-2) has been a contender the last six seasons and champion three of those years.

More shoutouts Jackson Lumen Christi 38, Coldwater 21 The Titans (3-0) were able slow a Coldwater offense that had been on a tear during a 2-0 start. Britton Deerfield 34, Petersburg Summerfield 28 The Patriots (2-1) beat Summerfield (1-2) for the first time since 2013 and now have as many wins this season as the last three combined.

Southwest Corridor

HEADLINER Portage Northern 56, Portage Central 26 This meant a lot Friday night and could the rest of this season. The Huskies (3-0) had lost five straight to Central (1-2) and six straight during the regular season, including by just a point a year ago. With a win over Stevensville Lakeshore as well in Week 2, Northern finds itself in nice position in the Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference West, tied for first with St. Joseph and with wins over two of the other annual contenders. Click for more from the Kalamazoo Gazette.

Watch list Battle Creek Lakeview 27, Battle Creek Central 13 The Spartans started 0-3 a year ago, losing to rival Central by 15. This time they’re 3-0 with a 14-point win over the Bearcats (1-2) that gave Lakeview more wins this fall than all of 2018.

Remember this one Cassopolis 15, Centreville 0 The reigning Southwest 10 Conference champion Rangers (3-0) have yet to give up a point this season, even more impressive considering Centreville (2-1) had scored more than 50 in each of its first two games.

More shoutouts Niles Brandywine 45, Saugatuck 10 The Bobcats are independent this season, but the going has been good so far with their first 3-0 start since 2014, a 151-18 combined scoring margin and this avenging of last year’s 48-12 loss to Saugatuck (1-2). Schoolcraft 54, Ottawa Lake Whiteford 24 The Bobcats (1-2) may be off to their toughest start since 2011, but Schoolcraft (3-0) also has put up a combined 170 points over three games in picking up where they left off last fall.

Upper Peninsula

HEADLINER Calumet 14, Ishpeming Westwood 8 This was the key matchup as Calumet won the Western Peninsula Athletic Conference Copper title a year ago, and it surely will have an impact on this season’s race as well. The Copper Kings (3-0) kept Westwood (1-2) off the board until the final minute to keep pace with Iron Mountain atop the league and heading into two weeks of nonleague play before Calumet meets the Mountaineers in Week 6. Click for more from the Houghton Daily Mining Gazette.

Watch list Menominee 42, Gladstone 6 The Maroons (2-1) fell back last season to 2-7, their first sub-.500 finish since 1995, and in addition to equaling last season’s success this win also was a good sign because the Braves (2-1) had opened with two wins.

Remember this one St. Ignace 26, Charlevoix 21 Although this was the Saints’ second win in two years over the Rayders (2-1), Charlevoix also was off to its best start this fall since its last playoff run in 2016 – and St. Ignace also is looking to get back to the playoffs for the first time since that season.

More shoutouts Negaunee 28, Hancock 19 After opening with a pair of losses to Iron Mountain and Calumet, the Miners (1-2) got on the board by handing Hancock (2-1) its first loss. Marquette 31, Sault Ste. Marie 0 The Redmen (1-2) did the same, coming off two losses to strong opponents by handing the Blue Devils (2-1) their first defeat.

West Michigan

HEADLINER Holland Christian 27, Hudsonville Unity Christian 13 For the first time in three years, these teams didn’t combine to score 80 points. And for the first time since 2012, Holland Christian came out on top. The Maroons (2-1) bounced back from a Week 2 loss by holding on against the reigning Division 5 champion Crusaders (2-1), earning an early edge in what’s stacking up as an even more loaded than usual Ottawa-Kent Conference Green. Click for more from the Holland Sentinel and see highlights below from FOX 17.

Watch list Muskegon 28, East Grand Rapids 23 We already knew Muskegon (3-0) was arguably the state’s best team after its wins over Warren De La Salle Collegiate and Detroit Martin Luther King. But this close loss spoke volumes for East Grand Rapids (1-2) despite its deceptive W-L record.

Remember this one Grandville 32, Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central 29 The Bulldogs (3-0) head into the O-K Red schedule looking good to best last season’s 4-5 finish and with this win coming over one of the likely contenders in the O-K White.

More shoutouts Byron Center 42, Hamilton 27 These are two more reasons the O-K Green looks so tough; Byron Center (3-0) has equaled last season’s win total, and Hamilton (2-1) needs only one more victory to do the same. Grant 8, Reed City 6 The Tigers (2-1) scored just one more point this season than in big losses to Reed City in 2016, 2017 and 2018. But eight points with tough defense is all they needed for their first win over the Coyotes (1-2) in the six seasons they’ve been together as part of the Central State Activities Association Gold.


HEADLINER Powers North Central 20, Pickford 14 As noted in last week’s preview, these two could both find themselves playing for 8-player championships at the Superior Dome, in separate divisions. So this was everything expected of a meeting between arguably the two best 8-player teams in the Upper Peninsula, with the Jets (3-0) handing Pickford its first regular-season loss since Week 3 of 2016 and Pickford holding North Central to its fewest points since a 2017 playoff defeat. Click for more from the Escanaba Daily Press.

Watch list Pellston 32, Au Gres-Sims 30 Coming back from an 18-point halftime deficit, Pellston moved to 3-0 and reversed last season’s 0-3 start against the same opponents. After last season’s big jump to 4-5, the Hornets find themselves two wins from a first winning record since 1995, while Au Gres-Sims (1-2) will try to bounce back quickly after suffering its first two regular-season defeats since 2016.

Remember this one Climax-Scotts 34, Bellevue 22 The Southern Central Athletic Association A is loaded – three of five teams are 3-0 including Climax-Scotts – and the Panthers face the next two (Camden-Frontier, then Colon) over the next two weeks after downing last season’s league runner-up, Bellevue (1-2).

More shoutouts Bay City All Saints 20, International Academy of Flint 12 The Cougars were outscored 98-0 over their first two games but turned things upside-down defeating a Flames team that opened by beating its first two opponents by a combined 120-0. Deckerville 40, Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart 6 The Eagles (3-0) avenged last season’s 10-point loss in a big way, locking down an Irish offense that had put up 78 points the week before.

Second Half’s weekly “Drive for Detroit” previews are powered by MI Student Aid, a part of the Office of Postsecondary Financial Planning located within the Michigan Department of Treasury. MI Student Aid encourages students to pursue postsecondary education by providing access to student financial resources and information. MI Student Aid administers the state’s 529 college savings programs (MET/MESP), as well as scholarship and grant programs that help make college Accessible, Affordable and Attainable for you. Connect with MI Student Aid at and find more information on Facebook and Twitter @mistudentaid.

PHOTO: West Bloomfield's JaQuan Wiggins follows his blocks during Friday's win over Southfield Arts & Technology. (Photo courtesy of C&G Newspapers.)

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.)