Drive for Detroit: Week 5 Preview

September 20, 2018

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

As we dive into the midpoint of the 2018 high school football regular season, there’s more than meets the eye to many of our Week 5 matchups.

Sure, we’ve got some of the usual regulars on this week’s preview list – Clinton Township Chippewa Valley vs. Macomb Dakota among them – but it’s fair to say a number of others discussed below are a bit off the usual board, but with plenty of significance upon further view.

Games below are tonight unless noted. Check out the MHSAA Score Center for the full schedule and results as games are completed. will broadcast 15 games this weekend, including our top game from the “Bay & Thumb” area. Our “Drive for Detroit” previews are powered by MI Student Aid.

Bay & Thumb

Davison (4-0) at Grand Blanc (4-0)

The Saginaw Valley League Blue is topped by three undefeated teams – these two and Lapeer – and this one will go a long way toward determining the eventual champion. But it also could have playoff implications down the road – the Bobcats are tied for fourth and Davison is tied for ninth in playoff point average among teams that traditionally fall into Division 1 for the postseason.  

Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Swartz Creek (4-0) at Flint Hamady (4-0), Ubly (3-1) at Harbor Beach (3-1), Harrison (2-2) at Beaverton (3-1), Richmond (3-1) at Yale (2-2).

Greater Detroit 

Clinton Township Chippewa Valley (4-0) at Macomb Dakota (4-0)

Like Davison and Grand Blanc mentioned above, these two rank highly among likely Division 1 playoff teams – Chippewa Valley first in playoff point average and Dakota tied for seventh – and they’ve seen each other in the postseason as well five of the last six seasons. The Big Reds won both meetings in 2017 and this season have handed the only losses to Saline and Roseville. Dakota is averaging 45 points per game during its best start since its 2013 league title season.

Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Detroit Cody (4-0) at Detroit Mumford (3-1), Garden City (3-1) at Dearborn Heights Crestwood (4-0), Auburn Hills Avondale (3-1) at Farmington (4-0), SATURDAY Detroit Catholic Central (3-1) at Birmingham Brother Rice (3-1).


DeWitt (4-0) at East Lansing (4-0)

They have two of the richest traditions in the Lansing area and will meet as members of the same league for the first time. The winner will earn a strong upper hand in an otherwise middling Capital Area Activities Conference Blue, and these two also met in the playoffs as recently as 2016. DeWitt still scores a bunch and East Lansing has offensive firepower too, but the defenses could emerge as the stars of this meeting – DeWitt has given up only 7.8 points per game, and East Lansing a respectable 16 ppg.

Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Lansing Catholic (4-0) at Portland (4-0), Canton (3-1) at Brighton (3-1), Ovid-Elsie (3-1) at New Lothrop (4-0), Haslett (4-0) at Williamston (3-1).

Northern Lower Peninsula

Traverse City Central (3-1) at Gaylord (4-0)

First-year coach and former assistant Shawn Sargent has the Blue Devils off to their first 4-0 start since their last playoff season in 2015. Gaylord has some solid wins, but Central will provide the strongest test to date. The Trojans have to be revved up after a close loss to rival Traverse City West last week. Central shines especially on defense, giving up only 9.5 points per game.

Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Oscoda (3-1) at Rogers City (4-0), Traverse City St. Francis (4-0) at Grayling (2-2), Leroy Pine River (4-0) at McBain (2-2), Traverse City West (2-2) at Alpena (2-2).

Southeast & Border 

Athens (3-0) at Adrian Lenawee Christian (4-0)

The Southern Central Athletic Association has only four 11-player teams but two of the most intriguing matchups in the region this weekend. (Pittsford and Climax-Scotts line up on the other side.) Lenawee Christian is 4-0 for the first time ever; the Cougars are in their 11th season as a varsity program. And Athens? The Indians didn’t have an opponent Week 2, but have outscored their three this season by a combined 107-0.

Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Jackson (4-0) at Chelsea (3-1), Concord (3-1) at Springport (4-0), Union City (2-2) at Reading (4-0), Addison (2-2) at Grass Lake (4-0).

Southwest Corridor

Watervliet (2-2) at Kalamazoo United (4-0)

Watervliet has won outright or shared seven straight league titles, but enters Southwestern Athletic Conference Valley play with a pair of close losses – their first regular-season defeats since Week 6 of 2016. United also was 4-0 coming into this league opener a year ago, and Watervliet won 52-34. But United – giving up only 27 points total over four games this time, might have the defense to slow down a Watervliet offense averaging 43 points per game.

Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Paw Paw (3-1) at Three Rivers (4-0), Muskegon Catholic Central (2-2) at Cassopolis (4-0), Stevensville Lakeshore (2-2) at Portage Central (3-1), Battle Creek Central (3-1) at Benton Harbor (1-2).

Upper Peninsula 

Harbor Springs (4-0) at St. Ignace (2-2)

With their best start since 1999, the Rams have equaled last season’s win total and are lined up to chase their best record since going 6-4 in 2000. But St. Ignace, despite losing to Johannesburg-Lewiston last week, has experienced a turn as well after uncharacteristically winning just a game a year ago. The Saints not only have more wins than last season already, but with 23 more points will eclipse last year’s output.

Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Norway (2-2) at Calumet (4-0), Negaunee (2-2) at Ishpeming (4-0), Maple City Glen Lake (2-2) at Gladstone (2-2), Petoskey (2-2) at Marquette (2-2).

West Michigan

Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian (3-1) at Hopkins (3-1)

The Ottawa-Kent Conference Silver has the smallest schools of the league’s seven divisions and doesn’t get the attention of the other high-profile leagues. But the Silver’s best have had big moments too over the years, and these two teams are hoping to ride fast starts into more over the next two months. NorthPointe started 5-0 a year ago before hitting the tough part of the league schedule – but did make the playoffs. Hopkins is seeking its first playoff berth since 2014 and already has avenged Silver losses from last season to Belding and Wyoming Godwin Heights.

Others that caught my eye FRIDAY Hudsonville (4-0) at Jenison (3-1), Whitehall (3-1) at Montague (3-1), Muskegon Oakridge (4-0) at Ravenna (3-1), Grand Rapids South Christian (3-1) at Hudsonville Unity Christian (4-0).


Onekama (4-0) at Wyoming Tri-unity Christian (4-0), Saturday

The Portagers seemed on the verge of something special last season, when they finished 9-2 losing in the 8-Player Division 2 Regional Finals. So far this fall they’ve outscored opponents by a combined 196-6, with only reigning Division 1 champion Central Lake getting on the board. Tri-unity is coming off its first challenge of the season – a 38-27 win over Suttons Bay – and could next provide Onekama’s best test to date, and with the Midwest Central Michigan West championship perhaps on the line.

Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Morrice (4-0) at Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart (3-1), Battle Creek St. Philip (3-1) at Camden-Frontier (3-1), Cedarville (3-1) at Engadine (3-1), Mayville (3-1) at Kinde-North Huron (3-1).

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: Grand Blanc quarterback Tylor Leedom pitches to a teammate during the Bobcats’ Week 3 win over Flint Southwestern. (Photo by Terry Lyons.)

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.)