Drive for Detroit: Week 4 in Review

September 17, 2012

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Most conferences in Michigan have between six and eight teams, and all start each season with hopes of ending up number one.

In a few weeks, showdowns to determine those top teams will take place all over the state. But in the meantime, the leg work must be done to set up those colossal matchups. And a number of those games were played during Week 4, although the most notable result came in a game that instead matched potential MHSAA championship contenders.

West Michigan

Muskegon 36, Lowell 21

The Big Reds have two running backs on pace to rush for 1,000 yards this season if the team makes any kind of run in the playoffs, and at this point it looks like they might run away from the rest of the Division 2 field. Muskegon added another win to its impressive start, in a game that some suggested matched the two best teams in the division this fall. Click to read more from the Muskegon Chronicle.

Also noted:

Zeeland East 27, Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central 23 – The Chix have to be considered one of the hottest teams in all of Michigan so far, with this win perhaps its most impressive of a 4-0 start.

Caledonia 14, Grandville 7 – After two straight seasons at 4-5, Caledonia is 4-0 heading into a series of tough O-K White games.

Comstock Park 13, Allendale 8 – This was one of the best rivalries of the old O-K Silver, and this first matchup between the two since 2004 was a strong way to start off the O-K Blue schedule.

Muskegon Mona Shores 21, Grand Haven 14 – Mona Shores’ 3-1 start is its best since 1997, and comes after the team won a combined three games over the last two seasons.

Greater Detroit

Oak Park 24, Southfield 18 (OT)

This has become Oak Park's most serious conversation about league contention since at least 2003, when it finished second in the Oakland Activities Association III to Farmington – which just happens to be the other team tied for first this fall in the OAA White, and also this week’s opponent. Oak Park needed overtime in this one to get past Southfield, which fell to 2-2 but is much better than that middling record suggests. Click to read more from the Oakland Press.

Also noted:

Farmington 19, Oxford 13 (OT) – This is the other overtime thriller that helped set up this week’s OAA White matchup; the Falcons haven’t given up more than 14 points this fall.

Birmingham Brother Rice 28, Warren DeLaSalle 0 – This is usually a much closer matchup (see explanation last week), but Brother Rice’s defensive performance was stunning and earns the Warriors top billing going forward in the Detroit Catholic League Central.

Waterford Our Lady 24, Royal Oak Shrine 21 – The Catholic League has other divisions too, and with this win Our Lady earned the status as biggest contender to Loyola in the Intersectional.

Milan 21, Grosse Ile 14 – Milan moved to 4-0 after winning just one game last season; the Big Reds look like Huron League favorites heading into this week’s matchup with Monroe St. Mary Catholic.

Southwest and Border

Stevensville Lakeshore 41, Portage Central 40

This nearly ended with the classic comeback, with Portage Central trailing by 20 at halftime. But Lakeshore hung on through a two-point conversion called back because of a penalty. That one-point swing will surely come to mean more as the Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference West season moves into October. Click to read more from the Kalamazoo Gazette.

Also noted:

Bridgman 27, Niles Brandywine 26 – The Lakeland Conference is down to just three teams after playing with six only three seasons ago, and  Bridgman looks like the favorite already after beating Brandywine for the first time since 2006.

Reading 26, Springport 20 – This was a big one as the Rangers move quietly toward another Big Eight Conference decider in Week 8 against Union City.

Portage Northern 7, St. Joseph 0 – This was the other SMAC West game of most note, with these two now among four that are 1-1 in the league and 3-1 overall, but tied for third in the league.

Sturgis 27, Kalamazoo Loy Norrix 12 – The Trojans were in a bit of a rough spot at 1-2 and coming off their first playoff berth in seven seasons; this victory could kick off a run back into the mix.

Lower Up North

Grayling 28, Traverse City St. Francis 20

The Vikings ended a nine-game losing streak against St. Francis, and after falling by three and one point the last two seasons, respectively. Grayling is considered one of the best teams in Division 5 and the Lake Michigan Conference favorite, and beating the Division 7 power Gladiators will no doubt strengthen both expectations. Click to read more from the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

Also noted:

Maple City Glen Lake 56, Benzie Central 12 – The Lakers are 4-0 for the first time since 2001 and appear to have made the Northwest Conference race a two-team battle with Kingsley. 

Boyne City 14, Harbor Springs 7 – Boyne City improved to 4-0 to equal last season’s win total heading into this week’s matchup with St. Francis.

Traverse City Central 40, Petoskey 0 – The Trojans announced their Big North Conference contention in a big way over a usual favorite, and next week can equal their 2011 win total by moving to 4-1.

Elk Rapids 48, Charlevoix 22 – Two losses by a combined 11 points have put the Elks at 2-2 and against the playoff wall, but this was a big step with two more tough games coming up.

Upper Peninsula

Escanaba 31, Marquette 22

This was a little unexpected, perhaps more than a little, with Marquette coming in undefeated and the Eskymos having been outscored 99-37 during their 1-2 start. But Escanaba’s defense shut down the Redmen during the second half to win the Great Northern Upper Peninsula Conference opener. Click to read more from the Marquette Mining Journal.

Also noted:

Bessemer 39, Lake Linden-Hubbell 12 – Bessemer not only broke an eight-game losing streak to Lake Linden-Hubbell, but this victory also helped the Speedboys move to 3-1 and equal last season’s three wins.

Negaunee 28, Iron Mountain 6 – The Miners’ broke a two-game losing streak to Iron Mountain and have started 4-0 for the first time since 2006.

Ishpeming 38, Ishpeming Westwood 8 – Ishpeming pushed it to 16 straight over Westwood and hs now won 11 straight regular-season games.

Iron Mountain North Dickinson 55, Stephenson 30 – The Nordics’ point totals this season, in chronological order, have been 41, 42, 48 and 55.


DeWitt 28, Haslett 27

The Panthers have won this rivalry game 10 straight times, which might make it seem like it shouldn’t be a rivalry anymore. Don’t buy it. This game still matters a ton to both communities, and this brought back memories of the classics from the beginning of the 2000s. It also kept DeWitt tied for first in the Capital Area Activities Conference Red and has Haslett needing to win out to guarantee a playoff berth.

Also noted:

Perry 14, Flint Beecher 13 – The Ramblers should celebrate some small victories, like their best start since 2006;  two wins already equals their most since that same season.

Lansing Everett 21, Holt 3 – This was the first of four tough CAAC Blue foes the Vikings must survive; Grand Ledge, East Lansing and Lansing Sexton still loom after a 4-0 start.

St. Johns 14, Owosso 13 – The CAAC Red has been tough to read so far, but this combined with the DeWitt win means the Panthers and Redwings likely will play for the title again.

Morrice 44, Burton Atherton 14 – Before opening night, the last time Morrice (4-0) had won was 2009; the last time Morrice won four games in a season was 2006, and the last time the Orioles started 4-0 was 1997.

Thumb and Bay

Flint Powers Catholic 34, Saginaw Nouvel Catholic 12

This game may not have turned out as close as might have been expected. But the reigning Division 5 champion Chargers had plenty to celebrate after falling to Nouvel 55-14 in 2011, when Nouvel finished as Division 7 champion. Click to read more from The Saginaw News.

Also noted:

Saginaw Swan Valley 31, Alma 26 – The Vikings handed Alma its first Tri-Valley Conference Central loss, meaning Swan Valley and Hemlock are the only two still perfect in league play. 

Montrose 13, Goodrich 12 – This leaves Montrose and Lake Fenton as the teams to beat in the Genesee Area Conference Red.

Almont 17, Richmond 13 – By way of a series of three and four-point games, including this one, Almont is again among those chasing Croswell-Lexington at the top of the Blue Water Conference standings.

Beaverton 26, Houghton Lake 21 – The Beavers might not contend in the Jack Pine Conference after losing big to Gladwin in Week 3, but this win put them at 3-1 to equal their most wins since 2007 and has them halfway to their first playoff berth since 2000.

Trophy Games

Each week, the MHSAA highlights trophy games around the state. A number were played during Week 4.

  • Little Brown Jug: Union City hosted Athens in a Big Eight Conference matchup and kept the trophy for the 12th straight season. Final: Union City 33, Athens 18.
  • Little Brown Jug: The Kingsley/Suttons Bay matchup has been much more even, with the teams splitting their last 10 games although Kingsley won for the second straight: Final: Kingsley 62, Suttons Bay 7.
  • Little Brown Jug: Concord won its ninth of the last 10 against Homer (including a forfeit in 2006), but this was the closest of the recent renditions. Final: Concord 28, Homer 27.
  • The Axe: Newberry kept its strong start going by breaking a seven-game losing streak to rival Munising. Final: Newberry 29, Munising 12.
  • Rocket-Rebel Trophy: Wyoming Kelloggsville has won all six since it began playing Wyoming Lee annually again in 2007. Final: Kelloggsville 21, Lee 6.
  • Pioneer-Thunderbird Spirit Bowl: Dearborn has won three straight over its Western Wayne Athletic Conference rival Edsel Ford. Final: Dearborn 35, Edsel Ford 14.

PHOTO: Southfield (blue) and Oak Park battled into overtime of a key Oakland Activities Association game that in the end went Oak Park's way, 24-18. (Click to see more at Terry McNamara Photography.) 

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.)