Drive for Detroit: Week 5 in Review

September 30, 2013

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

The most significant celebrations of MHSAA football season Week 5 arguably were thrown by Portland and Felch North Dickinson, the first teams this fall to claim spots in the playoffs.

Both won their fifth games and are playing only eight. They'll no doubt be joined in the postseason field by many more expected to win their sixth games (of nine) this weekend. 

But the main focus at this point remains on league title races, and most of our significant scores this week either affected those or broke long streaks among annual foes. 

Greater Detroit

Birmingham Brother Rice 28, Detroit Catholic Central 21

This could be the final time Brother Rice coach Al Fracassa faces DCC – he will retire after this, his 54th season, and the teams aren’t guaranteed to face each other again in the Week 9 Prep Bowl. But what a way to potentially finish off his part in one of Michigan’s best rivalries. A late touchdown pass gave the Warriors (5-0) its third win in its last five games against the Shamrocks (4-1) and the lead in the Detroit Catholic League Central. Click to read more from the Detroit Free Press

Also noted:

Southfield 20, Farmington Hills Harrison 19: The Bluejays (4-1) continued to build after an opening-night loss to Cass Tech, handing Harrison (4-1) its first loss.

Wyandotte Roosevelt 17, Melvindale 10: Roosevelt (5-0) gained an edge over the Cardinals (4-1) thanks to what could decide the Downriver League champion.

Detroit Loyola 36, Pontiac Notre Dame Prep 29: The Catholic League AA also has a couple teams capable of reaching Ford Field, with reigning Division 7 runner-up Loyola (5-0) claiming this league opener over the Fighting Irish (4-1).

Temperance Bedford 33, Saline 17: Beating previously-undefeated Saline (4-1) was its best performance so far as Bedford (5-0) has put together its best start since 2010. 

Bay and Thumb

Mount Pleasant 50, Midland 42

These teams combined for 49 points during the first quarter alone, with Mount Pleasant (4-1) left trailing with three and then two quarters to play. But a big third quarter put the Oilers ahead for good and earned them a half-game advantage atop the Saginaw Valley Association North standings, while dropping reigning champion Midland (4-1) a game back. Click to read more from the Saginaw News.

Also noted:

Reese 34, Vassar 28 (OT): Beating the Vulcans (3-2) makes Reese (4-1) likely to face Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port to decide the Greater Thumb League West championship.

Harbor Beach 49, Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port 6: This nonconference loss didn’t hurt Laker (4-1) in its league race, but it did give reigning Division 8 champion Harbor Beach (4-1) its most impressive win this fall.

Lake Fenton 33, Flint Beecher 14: Beecher (4-1) was beginning to look unbeatable in the Genesee Area Conference Red, but now Lake Fenton (4-1) looks most likely to push Montrose for first place.

Midland Dow 42, Saginaw Arthur Hill 20: At least five SVA North teams look like possible playoff qualifiers, with Dow (4-1) looking much better off after handing Arthur Hill (3-2) its second straight loss. 


Holt 24, East Lansing 21 (OT)

The demise of Holt football surely has been overstated. After opening with tough losses to Hudsonville and Rockford, Holt’s Rams (3-2) have won three straight and beaten Capital Area Activities Conference Blue contenders Lansing Everett and East Lansing (3-2) in successive weeks. Next up: impressive favorite Lansing Sexton, which hasn't lost or given up more than 14 points in a game. Click to read more from the Lansing State Journal.  

Also noted:

Carson City-Crystal 50, Coleman 48: Go back to 1999 to find the last Eagles team to start 5-0. Coleman (4-1) also should still be proud; its four wins are as many as all of last season.  

Charlotte 37, Mason 16: The Orioles (3-2) have been tough to figure out, but there’s no denying this win over the Bulldogs (4-1) was impressive.  

DeWitt 35, Haslett 7: Make that 11 straight for the Panthers (5-0) over the rival Vikings (3-2).

Portland St. Patrick 47, Burr Oak 36: The Shamrocks (5-0) have now won all 14 regular-season games since moving to 8-player football last season; Burr Oak at 3-2 already has equaled last season’s win total and its highest since 2005. 

Upper Peninsula

Menominee 42, Kingsford 13

The Maroons further avenged last season’s one-point loss to Kingsford, and in a big way. Menominee also had beaten Kingsford (4-1) during last fall’s playoffs after falling to the Flivvers during the regular season, and made it two straight Friday after jumping out to a 21-0 lead. Given that one of these teams has at least shared the Great Northern UP Conference title every season going back to 1999, it’s a good expectation the Maroons (5-0) will come away with the championship later this month. Click to read more from the Iron Mountain Daily News.

Also noted:

Munising 26, Manistique 21: After three losses to open, Munising (2-3) has equaled last season’s win total; Manistique (0-5) is continuing to seek its first this fall with three losses by six points or fewer.  

St. Ignace 29, Sault Ste. Marie 21: The Saints (4-1) have stormed back after an opening-night loss to Charlevoix; two of Sault Ste. Marie’s three losses have come by eight points or fewer.

Rapid River 46, Engadine 22: The Rockets (5-0) are firing again, undefeated heading into this week’s matchup with Bridge Alliance rival Cedarville; Engadine fell to 1-4 but with four losses to undefeated teams.  

Hurley, Wis. 30, Bessemer 0: This matchup of 2012 co-Great Western Conference champions likely eliminated Bessemer (3-2) from contention this time.  

Lower UP North

Maple City Glen Lake 42, Kingsley 14

Glen Lake (5-0) looks strong atop the Northwest Conference as it plays for its second straight championship, with only Kingsley and Suttons Bay now a win back and the rival Stags (3-2) out of the way. The Lakers scored on five plays of 52 or more yards to beat them. Click to read more from the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

Also noted:

Boyne City 27, Traverse City St. Francis 14: The Ramblers (4-1) have followed up a 10-game losing streak to St. Francis (3-2) with two straight wins.

Cadillac 53, West Branch Ogemaw Heights 27: Last season’s three-point loss to Ogemaw Heights (3-2) was one of few obstacles that kept Cadillac from Big North Conference contention; the Vikings (5-0) now are the only undefeated team in the league.

Cheboygan 9, Petoskey 6: The Chiefs (4-1) ended a five-game losing streak to Petoskey (2-3) in one of the state’s lowest-scoring games this season.

Lincoln Alcona 28, Whittemore-Prescott 26 (2 OT): The Tigers (5-0) are lined up favorably to at least their equal their most wins (seven) since 1986, and ending a 19-game losing streak against the Cardinals (3-2) has been the highlight so far.  

Southwest and Border

Lawton 25, Decatur 21

Lawton (5-0) remains tied for first in the Southwestern Athletic Conference South thanks to a 42-yard go-ahead touchdown pass with 26 seconds to play against the Raiders (4-1). Four of the formerly six-team league made the playoffs last season, and that looks possible again even as the division now has only five teams. Lawton is only one win away and tied with Watervliet atop the title hunt. Click to read more from the Kalamazoo Gazette.

Also noted:

Watervliet 41, Hartford 17: As mentioned above, Watervliet (5-0) also is in first in the SAC South, with Hartford (3-2) hoping to remain in the mix despite falling in this league opener.

Portage Central 49, Portage Northern 7: The goalposts of these teams’ shared stadium will be painted for Central (5-0) after its second straight win over the rival Huskies (3-2).

Edwardsburg 40, Three Rivers 22: If this season plays out like last, dispatching of Three Rivers (3-2) should allow the Eddies (5-0) to decide the Wolverine Conference West championship in three weeks against Dowagiac.

Battle Creek St. Philip 67, St. Joseph Michigan Lutheran 14: The Tigers (5-0) have one of the most potent offenses in 8-player football, averaging 58 points per game while giving up 29 total; Michigan Lutheran (1-4) scored nearly half of those. 

West Michigan

Muskegon Oakridge 31, Ravenna 27

Oakridge (5-0) has had little to fear over the last two seasons aside from Grand Rapids West Catholic, which eliminated the Eagles in last season’s District Final and fell to them by only six on opening night. But Ravenna (2-3) showed plenty of fight as it works to get back to its previous status as a West Michigan Conference contender. Click to read more from the Muskegon Chronicle.

Also noted: 

Comstock Park 30, Belding 7: Four teams in the O-K Blue are 4-1 or better including both of these, but Comstock Park is the only one at 5-0.

Grand Rapids Christian 28, East Grand Rapids 17: The Eagles (4-1) continue to impress and now own three wins in their last four games against the Pioneers (3-2) and 27 wins in their last 30 games overall.

Rockford 20, Holland West Ottawa 13: At midseason, these looked like the best of the O-K Red, with Rockford (4-1) now holding a slight edge on the Panthers (3-2) and two others in the title hunt.

Muskegon 26, Muskegon Mona Shores 20: Coming off a disappointing loss to Lowell, Muskegon (4-1) got a scare from the much-improved Sailors (4-1). 

Trophy Games

Each week the MHSAA highlights trophy games played around the state. All six of these were contested Friday:

Red, White & Blue Bell: Whitehall vs. Montague. The Wildcats made it seven straight over rival Whitehall. Final: Montague 56, Whitehall 34. 

The Silver Football: Coldwater vs. Sturgis. The Cardinals broke a three-game losing streak to reclaim this prize. Final: Coldwater 34, Sturgis 14. 

Bobcat-Bulldog Award: Ottawa Lake Whiteford vs. Petersburg-Summerfield. This game was made bigger this season in that both entered 3-1. Final: Whiteford 38, Summerfield 13. 

Iosco County News-Herald/Oscoda News-Press Trophy: Tawas vs. Oscoda. Tawas scored its most points in more than two seasons, dating back to its last win over Oscoda in 2011. Final: Tawas 50, Oscoda 14. 

Cipriano Cup: Dearborn vs. Dearborn Fordson: Fordson got some revenge for last season's District opener loss to the Pioneers. Final: Fordson 34, Dearborn 7. 

WBRN Victory Bell: Big Rapids vs. Remus Chippewa Hills: These two have split their last 22 regular-season meetings. Final: Chippewa Hills 42, Big Rapids 7.

PHOTO: Maple City Glen Lake (white jerseys) shut down Kingsley's offense in taking the Northwest Conference lead and moving to 5-0 last week. (Photo courtesy of Glen Lake athletic department).

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.)