Drive for Detroit: Week 4 in Review

September 24, 2013

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Just when we thought we'd figured out a few things about how this MHSAA football season might unfold ... we found out we don't know that much yet. 

Upsets ruled Week 4. Of course, the teams that won probably don't see their victories that way. And in two months, some of what we consider surprises now might not be considered stunners any longer.

But check out how the unexpected played a major role as we began the second third of this fall's slate. 

West Michigan

Lowell 31, Muskegon 20

Many were so caught up in Muskegon’s 45-0 win over Rockford two weeks ago that they likely didn’t give Lowell (4-0) a shot at catching the Big Reds (3-1). But Kyler Shurlow is fast becoming the next Red Arrows quarterback star, and he came up big in his team’s biggest game of the regular season. Click to read more from the Grand Rapids Press.

Also noted:

Comstock Park 27, Allendale 25: The Falcons (3-1) have pushed Comstock Park to the brink the last two seasons, but the Panthers (4-0) survived again after a five-point win in their 2012 matchup.

Muskegon Reeths-Puffer 14, East Kentwood 7: Reeths-Puffer (3-1) hasn’t made the playoffs since 2007, but is ascending after avenging last season’s 35-points loss to East Kentwood (2-2) to also equal its number of wins for the entire season.

Zeeland East 27, Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central 25: The undefeated Chix (4-0) had to survive a second straight game against Forest Hills Central (2-2) decided by four points or fewer.

Reed City 22, Newaygo 14: Make that 24 straight regular-season wins for the Coyotes (4-0), who by beating solid Newaygo (3-1) look even better to push it to 29.

Upper Peninsula

Escanaba 35, Marquette 14

This one was not just significant but probably shocking to fans who pay close attention to Upper Peninsula’s biggest schools. Escanaba entered 0-3 and Marquette 3-0, but the Eskymos made it three straight over the Redmen. Click to read more from the Escanaba Daily Press.

Also noted:

L'Anse 21, Hancock 20: The Purple Hornets (3-1) have one of the highest playoff point averages of any team expected to make the Division 8 playoffs, but Hancock (1-3) must win out to gain an automatic bid.

Negaunee 36, Iron Mountain 8: The Miners are 4-0 for the second straight season, but the Mountaineers (1-3) face their toughest start since 1990.

Norway 36, Manistique 34: Norway (2-2) is a win from equaling last season’s total after beating a 2012 playoff qualifier in Manistique (0-4).

Lake Linden-Hubbell 22, Bessemer 20: The Lakes (2-2) earned a shot at staying in the Great Western Conference title hunt, while dealing a blow to repeat hopes of Bessemer (3-1).


Holt 31, Lansing Everett 21

Just when it looked like Holt (2-2) wouldn’t factor in the Capital Area Activities Conference Blue race this season, the Rams beat the reigning champion and presumed favorite by scoring more points in one game than Everett (3-1) had given up in its other three games combined. Click to read more from the Lansing State Journal.

Also noted:

Fowler 42, Bath 22: The Eagles (3-1) have outscored three opponents by a combined 106-50 since falling 40-0 to Mendon on opening night; Fowler also has beaten the Bees (2-2) in 24 straight.

Pinckney 20, Howell 10: Seeking their first winning record and playoff berth since 2001, the Pirates (3-1) are halfway there and off to their best start since that season; Howell remains in good shape at 3-1 as well.

Eaton Rapids 17, Jackson Northwest 7: The Greyhounds (3-1) have tied their most wins for a season since 1997, although Northwest (2-2) can’t be too frustrated with its most victories for a season since 2009.

Springport 18, Reading 13: The Spartans (3-1) lent Big 8 Conference leaders Jonesville and Homer a hand by downing last season’s champ, Reading (2-2).

Lower Up North

Standish-Sterling 27, Whittemore-Prescott 20

Standish-Sterling (4-0) continued its best start since 2008 with a late stand as Whittemore-Prescott (3-1) also played to remain perfect on the season. The Cardinals had won both games since the series was restarted after previously coming to close after the 1985 season. Click to read more from the Bay City Times

Also noted:

Kinglsey 31, Frankfort 20: The Stags (3-1) set up next week’s rematch with reigning Northwest Conference champion Maple City Glen Lake by edging Frankfort (2-2) for the third time in four seasons.

Cheboygan 42, Ludington 14: The Chiefs moved to 3-1 for the second straight season by dealing a first loss this fall to Ludington (3-1), which remains off to its best start since 2004.

Mancelona 22, Central Lake 18: These teams combined to go 17-5 in 2012, and Mancelona (2-2) got back on the right foot by also pushing Central Lake to 2-2 and claiming the M-88 Trophy. 

Traverse City St. Francis 34, Grayling 14: The Gladiators (3-1) ended Grayling’s 12-game regular-season winning streak and made it 10 of 11 over the Vikings (3-1).

Southwest and Border

Parchment 44, Constantine 26

Parchment has had only one playoff season over the last decade and not a lot of wins to be this excited about. The Panthers (2-2) hadn’t beaten Constantine (2-2) since the latter joined the Kalamazoo Valley Association in 2008, but Clay Wilkey averaged more than 20 yards per carry in leading Parchment to the big upset. Read more from the Kalamazoo Gazette.

Also noted:

Portage Central 38, Stevensville Lakeshore 28: This makes Portage Central (4-0) one the favorites in the Southwestern Michigan Activities Conference West, while leaving Lakeshore (2-2) to battle back from its worst start since 2004.

St. Joseph 17, Portage Northern 10: St. Joseph (4-0) is that other favorite in the SMAC West, thanks to a defense that is giving up 12 points per game and held the Huskies (3-1) to a season low.

Niles Brandywine 26, Bridgman 18: The Bobcats (4-0) made the playoffs last season for the first time since 2002 and haven’t slowed down, although Bridgman (2-2) gave them their toughest game to date.

Plainwell 44, Otsego 17: The Trojans (4-0) just keep rolling despite playing three 2012 playoff teams over their first four games; Otsego has little room for error at 2-2 and with tough opponents waiting in Weeks 8 and 9.

Greater Detroit and Southeast

Southfield 20, Oak Park 12

The Bluejays have arrived among the elite in the Detroit area. That seemed a pretty good bet after a four-point loss to Detroit Cass Tech during Week 1, but Southfield (3-1) took another big step by handing Oak Park (3-1) its first loss and shutting down a Knights offense averaging nearly 32 points per game entering the weekend. Click to read more from the Detroit Free Press.

Also noted:

Rochester Hills Stoney Creek 36, Lake Orion 7: Last season was the only other time during its 12-year history that Stoney Creek (4-0) had played powerful Lake Orion (3-1), and this one looked a lot different than that 35-point loss.

Birmingham Brother Rice 26, Warren DeLaSalle 24: Of a number of key Catholic League games, this one is the most telling; Brother Rice (4-0) might be the favorite again, but DeLaSalle (2-2) should push the other contenders as well.

Pontiac Notre Dame Prep 28, Flint Powers Catholic 2: Few statewide are surging early like the Fighting Irish (4-0), who have outscored opponents by a combined 172-10. Powers (2-2) hadn’t scored fewer than 14 points before this game.

Saline 35, Ann Arbor Pioneer 3: Saline tied for the Southeastern Conference Red title last season and missed winning outright by a one-point loss to Pioneer (2-2); this time, the Hornets (4-0) might not be slowed.

Bay and Thumb

Midland 51, Saginaw Arthur Hill 21

Much has been discussed, and rightly so, about Arthur Hill’s resurgence this season. But it appears the Saginaw Valley Association North still belongs to Midland (4-0), which showed it in a big way. The reigning league champ put up its season high points total against a Lumberjacks team that had started 3-0 and not given up more than 18 points in a game. Click to read more from the Saginaw News.

Also noted:

Mount Pleasant 35, Midland Dow 28: The Oilers’ two-win season of 2012 is fast becoming a distant memory, with this win over Dow (3-1) putting Mount Pleasant (3-1) in a tie for first in the SVA North.

Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port 27, Unionville-Sebewaing 0: Hard to believe the Lakers (4-0) haven’t made the playoffs since 2009, but they’ve now won as many games as in all of 2012. Beating USA (3-1) also sets Laker up for a Greater Thumb Conference West showdown with Reese that could decide the title.

Peck 61, Lawrence 38: These are two of the top 8-player teams in the state, with Peck (4-0) now owning the highest playoff point average and Lawrence (2-1) looking like a playoff lock as well in its first season after making the move.

Richmond 42, Almont 35 (2 OT): Make Richmond (3-1) the favorite now in the Blue Water Area Conference after beating both Almont (3-1) and Croswell-Lexington.

Trophy Games

Each week the MHSAA highlights trophy games around the state. Here are a few in addition to the one mentioned above:

Little Brown Jug: Union City vs. Athens. These two play for a trophy that originated in 1947. Final: Union City 33, Athens 14.

Little Brown Jug: Homer vs. Concord. Like their Big Eight Conference colleagues mentioned just above, these two play for a similar prize. Final: Homer 44, Concord 6.

The Axe: Munising vs. Newberry. This newer traveling award originated in 2004. Final: Munising 28, Newberry 27.

Rocket-Rebel Trophy: Wyoming Kelloggsville vs. Wyoming Lee. These crosstown rivals both also play in the O-K Silver. Final: Kelloggsville 47, Lee 6.

Battle for Butch: Beaverton vs. Gladwin. These Jack Pine Conference rivals play for a stuffed dog stitched together in 1937. Final: Gladwin 48, Beaverton 14.

Holton-Hesperia Trophy: Holton vs. Hesperia. These two have been foes in various leagues going back half a century. Final: Hesperia 40, Holton 19.

PHOTO: Lowell ran past Muskegon 31-20 in a face-off of two of the most highly-regarded teams in the state. (Click to see more from High School Sports Scene.)

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.)