Drive for Detroit: Week 4 Preview

September 13, 2018

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

There are some magnificent comeback seasons unfolding across Michigan this football season.

Holton is 3-0 for the first time since 1999. Leroy Pine River won one game a year ago and is 3-0 for the first time since 2004. We highlight two more 3-0 teams below in Battle Creek Central and Kingsley with similar stories to celebrate – and also big tests this week as we edge closer to the midpoint of the regular season.

Games below are tonight unless noted. Check out the MHSAA Score Center for the full schedule and results as games are completed. will broadcast 14 games tonight, including four noted below. Our “Drive for Detroit” previews are powered by MI Student Aid.

Bay & Thumb

Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port Laker (3-0) at Cass City (2-1)

Laker’s only single-digit regular-season win in 2017 came against Cass City, a 20-14 victory in Week 5 that eventually earned the Lakers the Greater Thumb Conference West championship. They went on to also defeat Cass City 18-14 in a Division 7 District Final – so the Red Hawks no doubt will be amped even more, if possible, as they look to break a nine-game losing streak against their neighbor from the north.

Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Flint Powers Catholic (2-1) at Davison (3-0), Grand Blanc (3-0) at Flint Carman-Ainsworth (2-1), Croswell-Lexington (3-0) at Richmond (2-1), Carson City-Crystal (3-0) at Merrill (2-1).

Greater Detroit

Marine City (3-0) at Madison Heights Madison (3-0)

Paced by standout quarterback Austin Brown, Madison has outscored its first three opponents by a combined 116-27 in adding to a 15-game regular-season winning streak. The Eagles edged Marine City 28-24 a year ago on the way to winning the Macomb Area Conference Silver title, but the Mariners have been similarly dominant this fall outscoring opponents by a combined 122-37 – including 34-20 over an improved St. Clair Shores South Lake.

Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Eastpointe (2-1) at Warren Woods-Tower (3-0), Walled Lake Western (2-1) at Waterford Mott (3-0), Dearborn Fordson (3-0) at Livonia Churchill (2-1), Birmingham Brother Rice (3-0) at Warren DeLaSalle (2-1).


Lake Odessa Lakewood (2-1) at Perry (2-1)

The Perry playoff watch has been on again the last few seasons as the Ramblers have finished 5-4 in 2016 and 4-5 last fall while in pursuit of their first postseason berth. Both Perry wins this season came against programs that had winning records a year ago – but the Ramblers are 0-4 against Lakewood since the formation of the Greater Lansing Activities Conference in 2014. The Vikings have never finished lower than second in the league and won it twice.

Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Holt (1-2) at DeWitt (2-1), Fowlerville (2-1) at Haslett (3-0), Reed City (3-0) at Howard City Tri-County (2-1), Hemlock (2-1) at St. Louis (3-0).

Northern Lower Peninsula

Kingsley (3-0) at Traverse City St. Francis (3-0), Saturday

Kingsley has rebounded from 1-8 by beating two 2017 playoff teams in three games under former-now-new coach Tim Wooer, who returned this fall after a decade at Traverse City West. But this weekend will provide a different level of barometer for the Stags’ rejuvenation. St. Francis has yet to be tested, winning its three games by an average of 38 points per.

Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Benzie Central (2-1) at Elk Rapids (3-0), Manton (3-0) at Lake City (3-0), Clare (3-0) at Roscommon (2-1), Traverse City West (1-2) vs. Traverse City Central (3-0) at Thirlby Field.

Southeast & Border

Riverview (2-1) at Milan (3-0)

Milan’s work over the last six seasons and beginning of this one is impressive: a 50-17 record with five playoff berths and three Huron League championships. But Riverview took the spotlight last season with the Huron title, 11 wins and a trip to the Division 3 Semifinals. Will Milan take it back this weekend? Senior running back Hunter Aeschbacker ran for 197 yards in a 26-21 Week 2 victory over Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central and has 342 rushing yards total to go with more than 1,200 a year ago. Riverview was tripped up last week by the Falcons, 20-6.

Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Brooklyn Columbia Central (3-0) at Blissfield (2-1), Dundee (3-0) at Ida (2-1), Whitmore Lake (2-1) at Ottawa Lake Whiteford (3-0), Chelsea (3-0) at Ypsilanti Lincoln (2-1).

Southwest Corridor

Portage Central (2-1) at Battle Creek Central (3-0)

Battle Creek Central’s best start since 2003 has drawn statewide attention, but Portage Central might be the biggest test yet. The Mustangs are coming off a one-point win on the road over rival Portage Northern and own a sizable victory over Richland Gull Lake, which the Bearcats beat by just a point. Regardless of what happens tonight, both teams could end up as league champions in the Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference – Battle Creek Central plays in the East and Portage Central in the West.

Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Edwardsburg (3-0) at Dowagiac (2-1), East Lansing (3-0) at Portage Northern (2-1), Saugatuck (3-0) at Schoolcraft (2-1), St. Joseph (2-1) at Stevensville Lakeshore (1-2).

Upper Peninsula

Calumet (3-0) at Iron River West Iron County (3-0)

Calumet earned some valuable close-game experience with last week’s 14-12 win over Ishpeming Westwood, and now will get a look at the Wykons – who just missed making the Division 8 championship game a year ago. Having opened against three opponents with a combined 1-8 record, West Iron will be facing its toughest challenge since that three-point Semifinal loss to Saginaw Nouvel last fall – but did down Calumet 53-20 a year ago.

Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Gwinn (3-0) at Hancock (2-1), Ishpeming (3-0) at Ishpeming Westwood (2-1), Johannesburg-Lewiston (2-1) at St. Ignace (2-1), Iron Mountain (2-1) at Norway (2-1).

West Michigan

Whitehall (3-0) at Muskegon Oakridge (3-0)

Whitehall’s 28-14 win over Oakridge a year ago was a headline grabber – the Vikings hadn’t come out on top in this matchup since 1999. They fell short in their West Michigan Conference title pursuit thanks to a two-point loss to Montague the next week – but this is lining up as a similar opportunity except this time Whitehall is undefeated heading in. After scoring 50 or more points three times last season, Oakridge has done so in every game so far – but numbers are relative as tonight’s game will be the toughest challenge for both teams to date.

Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern (2-1) at Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central (1-2), Grand Rapids Christian (2-1) at Grand Rapids West Catholic (1-2), East Kentwood (2-1) at Holland West Ottawa (3-0), Muskegon Mona Shores (3-0) at Rockford (1-2).


AuGres-Sims (3-0) at Hillman (3-0)

The longtime North Star League foes made the jump together this fall into 8-player football. So far, so good – but Hillman surely hopes the move also includes the end of a two-game losing skid against the Wolverines, who are carrying an 11-game regular-season winning streak. They also haven’t given up a point since opening night – or faced an opponent with a win this season. Hillman’s early competition has been stronger, and things will get tougher after this for both as Onaway (2-1) and Posen (3-0) are among opponents left on both teams’ league schedules.

Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Bellevue (2-1) at Camden-Frontier (3-0), Onekama (3-0) at Fife Lake Forest Area (2-1), Suttons Bay (3-0) at Wyoming Tri-unity Christian (3-0), Rapid River (2-1) at Pickford (3-0).

Second Half’s weekly “Drive for Detroit” previews and reviews are powered by MI Student Aid, a part of the Student Financial Services Bureau 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, including various student financial assistance programs to help make college more affordable for Michigan students. MI Student Aid administers the state’s 529 savings programs (MET/MESP) and eight additional aid programs within its Student Scholarships and Grants division. Click for more information and connect with MI Student Aid on Facebook and Twitter @mistudentaid. 

PHOTO: Howard City Tri-County picks up yardage during last week’s win against Remus Chippewa Hills; Tri-County has a key matchup this week with Reed City. (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.)