Drive for Detroit: Week 5 in Review

September 24, 2012

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Fall officially is upon us. And so is the home stretch of another MHSAA football regular season.

Four weeks remain before the playoffs begin, and that allows us to crunch some numbers all 596 11-player teams surely are following with interest.

So far, one team has qualified for the postseason. Another 73 can do so with a victory this week.

And that's only part of the excitement, as many still have chances at league championships hanging in the balance.

Many are mentioned below in this week's Drive for Detroit report.

Greater Detroit

Livonia Churchill 43, Canton 40

Churchill took a major stride toward its first league title since 1979. Although the teams combined for nearly 1,000 yards in total offense, the Chargers made a last stand to improve to 5-0 and 3-0 in the Kensington Lakes Activities Association South. For Canton, it’s been some tough luck – its two losses are by a combined four points. Click to read more from Mlive Detroit.

Also noted:

Orchard Lake St. Mary 13, Detroit Cass Tech 6 – Cass Tech has appeared invincible, but this victory by the reigning MHSAA Division 3 champion over the reigning champ in Division 1 re-opens the debate over the best in Michigan overall this fall.

Detroit University Prep 28, Warren Michigan Collegiate 26 – After winning one game in the Charter School Conference in 2011, University Prep is one win from clinching at least a share of the title and also equaling its most ever.

Oak Park 20, Farmington 15 – At 5-0, Oak Park has won its most games since 2007 and is off to its best start since 1998.

Milan 35, Monroe St. Mary Catholic 20 – The Big Reds are in the midst of one of the biggest turnarounds in the state this fall, now 5-0 after going 1-8 in 2011 and losing their last four to Monroe St. Mary.

West Michigan

Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central 43, East Grand Rapids 17

This was played in a baseball stadium, Fifth Third Ballpark, but hardly looked like a baseball game on the scoreboard. Forest Hills Central scored all 43 points in the first half and continued on what is shaping up as a special season despite the competition in the ultra strong O-K White. The Rangers improved to 4-1 and had lost seven straight to the Pioneers dating back to 2001. Click to read more from the Grand Rapids Press.

Also noted:

Grand Rapids Christian 38, Caledonia 21 – This is another one that dictates some order in the O-K White, with both of these teams still 4-1 despite the Eagles’ one-game league advantage.

Comstock Park 38, Belding 31 – The Panthers outlasted the Redskins to remain one of only two 2-0 teams atop the O-K Blue.

Montague 9, Whitehall 3 – Make that six straight wins for Montague in the battle for the “Bell” that has raged more than a century.

Muskegon Mona Shores 41, Grand Rapids Union 6 – Every week seems to bring another accomplishment for the Sailors, who are 4-1 for the first time since 1989.

Upper Peninsula

Kingsford 14, Menominee 13

Overlooked accidentally in Friday’s pregame report, this ended up as the best this weekend in the entire peninsula. Both entered 4-0 after the first week of Great Northern Upper Peninsula Conference play and with little to spare. The league again looks like a gauntlet after three of five teams made the playoffs in 2011 and a fourth finished 5-4. Click to read more from the Iron Mountain Daily News.

Also noted:

Marquette 35, Gladstone 14 – Also in the GNUPC, this keeps Marquette just a game back of the co-leaders and two from making the playoffs.                              

Rapid River 60, Engadine 40 – Rapid River was one of three undefeated teams atop the Bridge 8-Man Football Alliance heading into the week; now there are two.

Cedarville 42, Eben Junction Superior Central 12 – These were the other two B8FA teams that came in 4-0; Cedarville continues to look like possibly the best team in all of 8-player this fall.

Iron Mountain North Dickinson 40, Bark River-Harris 0 – The Nordics became the first team to earn an MHSAA playoff berth; they are 5-0 playing only eight regular-season games this fall.

Southwest and Border

Edwardsburg 49, Three Rivers 41

These Wolverine B Conference South foes seem to be tailor-made for the rain that fell all over the Lower Peninsula on Friday. On a night of offensive firepower, Edwardsburg supplied a little bit more by running for 485 yards and seven touchdowns. The win sets up the Eddies as Dowagiac’s biggest competition for the league title. Click to read more from the Kalamazoo Gazette.

Also noted:

Watervliet 41, Hartford 29 – The separation has begun in the Southwestern Athletic Conference South, and Watervliet moved to 5-0 overall.

Paw Paw 24, Vicksburg 13 – The Redskins also moved to 5-0 overall and are tied with Plainwell now atop the Wolverine B Conference North.

Portage Central 33, St. Joseph 23 – The best of the strong Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference West keep beating up on each other, with the Mustangs now just a game behind the leaders.

Stevensville Lakeshore 37, Niles 21 – Similar story from this SMAC West game, but Lakeshore is sharing first place with Mattawan, a win ahead of Central and Portage Northern.

Lower Up North

Traverse City Central 49, West Branch Ogemaw Heights 21

There’s plenty to tout with the surging Trojans. They’re 4-1, tying last season’s win total. They’re tied with crosstown rival Traverse City West atop the Big North Conference. They’re off to their best start since 1991, when the schools were still combined. And they’ve got the Titans next in arguably the biggest game of this rivalry since they split in 1997. Click to read more from the Traverse City Record Eagle.

Also noted:

Traverse City West 40, Cadillac 11 – The Titans couldn’t afford a trip-up heading into this week’s game with Central that could eventually be the decider in the Big North Conference.

Traverse City Christian 60, Big Rapids Crossroads 48 – These teams have only one win combined between them, but Christian set a school record for points and Crossroads scored its third-most ever.

Kingsley 12, Frankfort 6 – After a four-point loss to Frankfort in 2011, the Stags turned the tables to keep atop the Northwest Conference.

Boyne City 29, Traverse City St. Francis 13 – The Ramblers had lost 10 straight to St. Francis, including 28-0 in 2011.

Thumb and Bay

Lapeer West 13, Linden 10

A 23-yard field goal with five seconds to play earned Lapeer West coach Mike Smith his 100th win and handed Linden its first loss of the season. Both Flint Metro League teams have a loss and are chasing first-place Swartz Creek. Click to read more from the Flint Journal.

Also noted:

Freeland 16, Saginaw Swan Valley 14 – Another week, another Tri-Valley Conference Central re-mix at the top; now it’s Hemlock in first with these two tied for second.

Midland 41, Mount Pleasant 34 – The Chemics keep churning through close ones; they improved to 5-0 with their third win of seven or fewer points this fall.

Reese 23, Vassar 0 – This wasn’t as close as billed, perhaps, but Reese now is the sure frontrunner (again) in the Greater Thumb Conference West.

Richmond 35, Armada 33 – While Croswell-Lexington has a firm hold on first in the Blue Water Area Conference, five more teams (these two included) are either 3-2 or 2-3 overall and working toward that magic number of six wins.  


Charlotte 35, Mason 3

On one hand, it was a little early to put so much pressure on a young Mason team that indeed started 4-0, but against opponents that have combined for only two wins so far. On the other hand, few in mid-Michigan gave Charlotte much of a chance in this one – and the Orioles no doubt took that to heart. Charlotte is 3-2 and looks good to win at least three more and earn its first playoff berth since 2008. Click to read more from the Lansing State Journal.

Also noted:

Holt 21, East Lansing 14 – Despite a couple of tough losses to elite teams, Holt isn’t going away; the Rams are 3-2 and look good to double that win total after handing the Trojans their first loss this fall.

Springport 26, Union City 25 – Three losses by a combined 21 points led to a tough start this fall for the Spartans, but this helps after they lost to Union City 47-8 in 2011.

DeWitt 34, St. Johns 20 – The Panthers look like they’ve found another quarterback in Jacob Heath, and need just one more win in the Capital Area Activities Conference Red for a share of the title.

Portland 40, Williamston 7 – This sets up the CAAC White as a two-team race between the Raiders and Lansing Catholic.

Trophy Games

Each week, the MHSAA highlights trophy games around the state. Here's another to go with the Montague/Whitehall battle for "The Bell" mentioned above.

  • Iosco County News-Herald and Oscoda Press (News-Press) Trophy: Oscoda hosted Tawas in this 58th meeting dating back to 1954, and won its seventh straight of the series. Final: Oscoda 22, Tawas 18.

PHOTO: Orchard Lake St. Mary junior fullback Jeff Robinson rumbles through the Detroit Cass Tech defensive during Friday's win by the Eaglets. (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.)