Drive for Detroit: Week 4 in Review

September 19, 2016

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

A pair of game-winning field goals. Gutsy calls to go for two. Three significant streaks broken and a pair of MHSAA records set, and on top of it all a scene to draw a tear from even the most macho fan. 

What more could we ask for from one weekend of high school football?

Our Week 4 review touches on a lot of these stories and more. But also check out this Observer & Eccentric piece how two teams came together to make a special night for Novi's "hydration engineer" and his mother, who is fighting cancer for the second time. A piece by WXYZ-TV also is at the bottom of this report. 

Bay & Thumb

Freeland 12, Alma 6

The Falcons (4-0) added to a 16-game regular-season winning streak and kept hold on their lead in the Tri-Valley Conference Central, but just barely thanks to a defense that locked down an Alma offense that averaged 36 points per game over its first three. Freeland had three interceptions to stay ahead of the Panthers, who have given up only 26 points on the year. Click for more from the Midland Daily News.

Also noted:

Croswell-Lexington 48, Almont 28 – The Pioneers (3-1) are a three-point loss to Richmond from perfection, but are keeping themselves in the Blue Water Area Conference conversation thanks to this win over Almont (2-2).

Flint Carman-Ainsworth 41, Flint Powers Catholic 7 – A tough opening schedule made it tough to gauge the Cavaliers (2-2), but downing Powers (2-2) said plenty and kept them undefeated in the Saginaw Valley League Blue.

Midland 31, Mount Pleasant 28 – Gavin Archbold drilled a 40-yard field goal as the final seconds ticked off the clock to give Midland (3-1) the edge over the Oilers (1-3) in a series that has seen the last five games decided by eight points or fewer.

Montrose 29, Flint Beecher 15 – What’s generally a three-team race in the Genesee Area Conference Red now has two favorites with Montrose (3-1) and Lake Fenton both downing Beecher (2-2) over the last two weeks. 

Greater Detroit

Farmington Hills Harrison 28, West Bloomfield 0

Harrison (3-1) avenged last season’s Week 9 loss by dealing West Bloomfield (2-2) its first shutout since 2010. Both could emerge as eventual league champions; Harrison is 2-0 in the Oakland Activities Association White, and the Lakers have two strong opening wins in the OAA Red. Click for more from the Detroit Free Press.

Also noted:

Birmingham Brother Rice 13, Warren DeLaSalle 3 – The Warriors (3-1) are back after their first sub-.500 season in 30 years, with this win over DeLaSalle (2-2) giving them more victories than in all of 2015.

Oak Park 44, Rochester Adams 43 (OT) – The Knights (2-2) went for the two-point conversion in overtime and made it five straight over Adams (3-1) and stay in the mix in the OAA White.

Detroit Catholic Central 28, Cleveland St. Ignatius, Ohio, 21 (OT) – This was the first close game for both teams, with the Shamrocks (4-0) emerging as the still-undefeated by winning overtime.  

Warren Fitzgerald 24, St. Clair Shores South Lake – The Spartans (4-0) are in a slightly more comfortable position in the Macomb Area Conference Silver thanks to this win and an earlier victory by South Lake (3-1) over 2015 champion Madison Heights Madison. 


Portland 36, Lansing Catholic 35

The Lansing area’s most anticipated game was as good as expected, coming down to a made two-point conversion with 25 seconds to play that kept Portland (4-0) atop the Capital Area Activities Conference White. Lansing Catholic (3-1), which beat Portland in a Division 5 District Final last season after losing their regular-season matchup, led the entire game until that go-ahead score. Click for more from the Lansing State Journal.

Also noted:

Stockbridge 70, Leslie 32 – This wasn’t just another 100-point game involving Stockbridge (3-1); Mason Gee-Montgomery threw eight touchdown passes, reportedly breaking the MHSAA career record in the category after entering this season needing 21 to do so.

Greenville 35, Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central 34 – The Yellow Jackets (3-1) now have one more win than all of last season after handing Forest Hills Central (3-1 also after going 2-7 a year ago) its first loss.

Ithaca 45, Pinconning 0 – The Yellowjackets’ third straight shutout also put them at 4-0 and 97-3 over their last 100 games, the best 100-game winning percentage in MHSAA history.

DeWitt 47, Mason 0 – The Panthers (3-1) finish with a couple tough nonleague matchups, but beating Mason (3-1) this well makes it look like they won’t have many more challenges in the CAAC Red. 

Northern Lower Peninsula

Traverse City Central 38, Portage Central 22

Storms pushed the end of this one past midnight Friday, but Traverse City Central left its home field with a big-time statement win against one of the southwest corner's top teams. The Trojans finished on a 21-7 second-half run to remain undefeated at 4-0 and hand the Mustangs (3-1) their first loss while scoring the most points Portage Central has given up since a 2013 Division 2 Semifinal. Click for more from the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

Also noted:

Johannesburg-Lewiston 47, Central Lake 14 – The Cardinals’ five-year playoff streak looked to be in jeopardy, but getting to 2-2 with this win over Central Lake (1-3) will help significantly with a tough slate ahead.

Lincoln Alcona 58, AuGres-Sims 20 – Alcona (3-1) is all alone atop the North Star League standings with the second-place Wolverines (3-1) now needing some help and two others only a win back.

Maple City Glen Lake 42, Onekama 7 – The Lakers (3-1) kept pace in the Northern Michigan Football Conference Leaders division and are the only team to beat the Portagers (3-1) during the last two regular seasons, having done so last year as well.  

Roscommon 20, Beaverton 14 – Another week, another important win for upstart Jack Pine Conference co-leader Roscommon (4-0), which dealt the Beavers (2-2) a second straight loss.

Southeast & Border

Saline 26, Temperance Bedford 24

There’s a chance this season’s Southeastern Conference Red championship will come down to the field goal kicked by Vinnie Patteri with three seconds to play against Bedford (3-1) after he missed an extra point earlier in the game and was injured the week before when Saline (4-0) also won on a late field goal. Click for more from MLive-Detroit.

Also noted:

Sand Creek 38, Morenci 36 – The Aggies are continuing to enjoy their best start since 2006, making themselves a Tri-County Conference contender by beating a Morenci team (2-2) that has been the last two seasons.

Ann Arbor Skyline 35, Monroe 22 – After a tough start, Skyline (1-3) lost to Saline by only three last week and now has its first win over a Monroe team that while 2-2 has made the playoffs four of the last five seasons.

Ida 58, Brooklyn Columbia Central 34 – The matchup of last season’s top two in the Lenawee County Athletic Association went Ida’s way again, with the Bluestreaks (4-0) now tied atop the league with Dundee and Columbia Central (2-2) needing to chase.

New Boston Huron 7, Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central 6 – The Chiefs (3-1) may be a win behind in the Huron League standings but kept themselves in the conversation – with much more to celebrate – by beating the Falcons (2-2) for the first time since 1986. 

Southwest Corridor

Cassopolis 28, Berrien Springs 21

The Rangers secured their first 4-0 start since 2009 in avenging a 7-0 loss from a year ago. Cassopolis mounted the winning the drive with three minutes to play and handed the Shamrocks (1-2) their second defeat by seven or fewer points this fall. Both won nine games a year ago. Click for more from the Niles Daily Star.

Also noted:

Comstock 26, Bronson 16 – The Colts’ 40-game losing streak is history as they won for the first time since 2011 to go to 1-3 this fall.

Vicksburg 24, Plainwell 8 – The Bulldogs (3-1) will need some help in the Wolverine Conference after falling to favorite Edwardsburg two weeks ago, but getting past perennial playoff team Plainwell (1-3) was big for postseason hopes.

Stevensville Lakeshore 31, St. Joseph 12 – A week after a big loss to Portage Central, Lakeshore (3-1) bounced back quickly and well in handing the Bears (3-1) their first defeat.

Portage Northern 24, Niles 21 – Portage Northern (2-2) got a needed victory as it hopes to get back to the playoffs after missing last fall; it’s worth noting that the Vikings (3-1) do have one more win already than all of last season. 

Upper Peninsula

Negaunee 35, Iron Mountain 13

The Mid-Peninsula Athletic Conference title is hardly wrapped up, but Negaunee (4-0) has now handed the only losses this season to two teams – Iron Mountain and Calumet – and has to feel pretty confident with nemesis Ishpeming coming up in three weeks. Iron Mountain (3-1) handed the Hematites their lone loss this fall and now will be rooting for them. Click for more from the Iron Mountain Daily News.

Also noted:

St. Ignace 46, East Jordan 8 – This meeting of early contenders in the NMFC Legacy didn’t stay close for long, as St. Ignace (3-1) kept its spot among favorites by handing East Jordan (3-1) a first defeat.

Newberry 22, Felch North Dickinson (20) – The Indians (4-0) stood up to their first challenge of the season to remain atop the Mid-Eastern Conference with North Dickinson (2-2) falling into a tie for third.  

Gwinn 28, Bark River-Harris 14 – Save for a Week 2 loss to Iron Mountain, Gwinn (3-1) already has had a memorable fall with as many wins as in any season since going 4-5 in 2001 – and now a victory over last season’s Mid-Eastern Conference co-champion Broncos (2-2).

Kingsford 36, Sault Ste. Marie 14 – The Flivvers (3-1) lined themselves up nicely for this week’s matchup against Great Northern Conference power Menominee, while dropping first-year league member Sault Ste. Marie to 1-3 overall.

West Michigan

Hudsonville Unity Christian 24, Zeeland West 22 (OT)

Unity Christian (4-0) has strung together a pair of nice finishes over the last two seasons, but both included big regular-season losses to West including 52-6 in Week 9 last season. However, the Crusaders looked like they might have figured out the Dux (3-1) a bit, falling only 28-21 in a Division 4 Regional Final a few weeks later – and this time handed the reigning Division 4 champion its first regular season loss since Week 2 of 2013. Click for more from the Grand Rapids Press.

Also noted:

Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern 24, East Kentwood 23 – The Huskies (2-2) squeaked past what’s been considered one of the contenders in the Ottawa-Kent Conference Red; East Kentwood’s two losses the last two weeks were by a combined eight points.  

Grandville Calvin Christian 36, Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian 33 – The Squires (2-2) have come back from opening losses to bigger teams with a pair of wins against O-K Silver opponents, this one over a NorthPointe team (3-1) that played in MHSAA Semifinals the last two years.

Grandville 36, Hudsonville 6 – The Bulldogs (4-0) now look like the clear favorites in the O-K Red with a combined 185-28 score on their four opponents including an Eagles team (3-1) that looked like the other likely contender.  

Muskegon Reeths-Puffer 39, Muskegon Mona Shores 34 – Reeths-Puffer (3-1) had lost to Mona Shores by a combined score of 97-18 over the last two seasons, but this time dealt the Sailors (1-3) their third straight defeat of the fall. 


Deckerville 38, Peck 0

These were two of the top three in the North Central Thumb 8-Man League, but Deckerville stands alone and impressively – the Eagles have given up 20 points this season and no more than eight in any game. Click for more from the Port Huron Times Herald.

Also noted:

Rapid River 48, Ontonagon 36 – One of the closer games statewide in 8-player saw Rapid River win its third straight to move to 3-1, with Ontonagon 2-2 after two straight losses to top Western Eight Conference teams.

New Haven Merritt 36, Hale 32 – The Mustangs are off to their first 4-0 start in their five-year program's history but only after just surviving an Eagles team that at 3-1 has as many wins this season as the last three combined.

PHOTO: Ithaca improved to 97-3 over its last 100 games with a win over Pinconning. (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.)