Drive for Detroit: Week 5 in Review

September 26, 2016

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

This weekend, we’ll be able to start counting how many teams have punched tickets for this season’s MHSAA playoffs. But here are a few numbers of note before we take that next significant step.

The number of undefeated high school varsity teams in Michigan was cut from 100 to 81 during Week 5. A total of 73 pulled to within a win of qualifying for the postseason. And in more of an oddity, three pairs of teams combined to score 119 points: St. Clair and St. Clair Shores South Lake (71-48 for St. Clair), Flint Kearsley and Swartz Creek (67-52 for Kearsley) and Kalamazoo United and Constantine (62-57 for Kalamazoo). On the other side of the spectrum, rivals Grosse Pointe North and South combined for an 8-4 North victory.

Numbers are great, but what mattered more, of course, were a number of results from all over the state. Check out the most significant from every corner below.

Bay & Thumb

Frankenmuth 24, Millington 7

The Eagles (5-0) made it four wins over their last five meetings with their Tri-Valley Conference East rival, this time holding an offense averaging 46 points per game to a single score while getting three touchdown runs from quarterback Jared Davis. Frankenmuth has given up only 27 points over five games this season – although Millington (4-1) did hold the Eagles to a season low on offense as well. Click for more from the Saginaw News.

Also noted:

Algonac 19, Croswell-Lexington 14 – The reigning co-champion Muskrats (5-0) more or less eliminated another Blue Water Area Conference contender in Croswell-Lexington (3-2) to keep pace with the other co-champion, Richmond, atop the standings.

Bay City Central 28, Midland 14 – The Wolves (3-2) equaled their win total from last season with their first over Midland (3-2) since a 2006 District Final.

Lake Fenton 35, Montrose 0 – The Blue Devils (5-0) likely brought the Genesee Area Conference Red race down to two teams, with Corunna, by handing the Rams (3-2) their first league loss. 

Flint Hamady 44, Durand 21 – Hamady (3-2) knocked Durand (4-1) out of a tie for first in the GAC Blue while pulling only a win behind solo leader New Lothrop after losing to the Hornets in Week 4. 

Greater Detroit

Detroit Catholic Central 28, Birmingham Brother Rice 21 (2 OT)

Brother Rice (3-2) may be back from its worst finish in 30 years, but Detroit Catholic Central earned the better track to finishing on top in the Detroit Catholic League Central. The Shamrocks (5-0) watched a 14-0 lead dissolve, but held on for a final stop after scoring the first points of the second overtime. DCC is only 1-0 in the Central, with Orchard Lake St. Mary’s at 2-0 as the other undefeated team in league play. Click for more from the Oakland Press.

Also noted:  

Trenton 31, Brownstown Woodhaven 28 – The Trojans (5-0) scored the final 17 points against previously-undefeated Woodhaven (4-1) to come back and stay atop the Downriver League standings with co-leader Allen Park up next.

Dearborn 22, Romulus 8 – The Pioneers (4-1) took over first place alone in the Western Wayne Athletic Conference Red with two league games to play and Romulus (4-1) needing help now from teams sitting tied for fourth and sixth.

Detroit Cody 18, Detroit Mumford 12 (3 OT) – After an eight-point loss to Grosse Pointe South on opening night, Cody (4-1) has put together its best start since 2010, doubled last season’s win total and now beaten a Mumford team (3-2) coming off three straight victories.

Utica Eisenhower 16, Romeo 14 – The Eagles (5-0) kept pace with Warren Mott atop the Macomb Area Conference Red by handing reigning MHSAA Division 1 champion Romeo (3-2) its first league loss on a last-second field goal by Anthony Tocco. 


Brighton 20, Grand Blanc 19

The Bulldogs (4-1) are alone at 2-0 in the Kensington Lakes Activities Association West after getting a late turnover and then game-winning field goal by Rudy Ramirez against the rival Bobcats (4-1). Brighton has mastered the close win early this season, with three victories by six points or fewer. Click for more from the Livingston Daily Press & Argus.

Also noted:

Corunna 48, Flint Beecher 20 – As noted above, the GAC Red race seems down to Corunna (5-0) and Lake Fenton, with the Cavaliers off to their best start since 2002 and Beecher (2-3) now having to win out to guarantee a 10th straight playoff berth.

Laingsburg 25, Fowler 14 – The Wolfpack (5-0) beat Fowler (3-2) for the first time since 2009 to remain tied for first in the Central Michigan Athletic Conference with co-leader Pewamo-Westphalia up next.

Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart 47, Vestaburg 20 – The Irish (2-3) probably aren’t in the mix in the Mid-State Activities Conference after suffering two league losses during an 0-3 start, but they might have taken Vestaburg (4-1) out as well while keeping playoff hopes alive.

Grand Ledge 30, Jackson 19 – The Comets (4-1) scored the final two touchdowns but were a quarter from seeing their lead in the Capital Area Activities Conference Blue disappear as Jackson (2-3) scored to take the lead at the start of the fourth. 

Northern Lower Peninsula

Traverse City Central 21, Gaylord 20

For the second time in three weeks, Traverse City Central just held on to its perfect record against a Big North Conference rival. After beating West 10-8 two weeks ago, the Trojans returned to league play Friday and drove for the go-ahead score over the final 1:11 to remain in first place in the Big North Conference. Gaylord (2-3) has fallen twice to Central by a combined eight points over their last two meetings. Click for more from the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

Also noted:

Gaylord St. Mary 45, Central Lake 12 – The Snowbirds (5-0) have won all of their games by at least 18 points in amassing more victories this season than in any since 2009.

Boyne City 35, Grayling 14 – Hopefully no one counted out the Ramblers (3-2) after an 0-2 start; they are one of three teams still undefeated in Northern Michigan Football Conference Legends league play after handing Grayling (3-2) its first Legends defeat.

Maple City Glen Lake 49, Charlevoix 7 – The Lakers (4-1) left no doubt which team should be ahead in the NMFC Leaders title hunt, handing Charlevoix (4-1) its first loss with the other league favorite, Frankfort, up next.

Roscommon 36, Houghton Lake 34 – Every Roscommon win lately seems notable as the Bucks (5-0) go after a first league title since 2006, this one because Houghton Lake (3-2) is off to its best start since 2011.

Southeast & Border

Morenci 20, Clinton 17 (OT)

Morenci (3-2) has had a lot to celebrate while watching the football program ascend over the last three seasons. But Friday’s conquest had to be among the top handful of highlights. Clinton (4-1) hadn’t lost a regular-season game since 2011 – a run of 40 straight – and aside from an eight-point win over Adrian Madison two weeks ago hadn’t been slowed much this fall despite some pretty significant graduations this spring. Click for more from the Adrian Daily Telegram.

Also noted:

Homer 28, Springport 26 – The reigning Big 8 Conference champion Trojans (3-2) are hanging on tied for second in the league after knocking Springport (4-1) out of a tie for first.

Sand Creek 26, Adrian Madison 18 – The Aggies (5-0) moved into a Tri-County Conference first-place tie with only Ottawa Lake Whiteford thanks to an impressive win over Madison (3-2) and the Clinton upset discussed above.

Adrian 18, Ypsilanti Community 6 – The Maples (3-2) are working back toward their former status as contenders, this week avenging last season’s 45-point loss to Ypsilanti Community (2-2) to earn a third win – their most in a season since 2012.

Milan 42, New Boston Huron 7 – Huron (3-2) looked like it might give Milan (5-0) some trouble in the Huron League, but the Big Reds instead put together their most impressive win as they  head into this week’s likely title-decider against Grosse Ile. 

Southwest Corridor

Lawton 31, Gobles 21

Lawton won its third straight over the Tigers to set up this week’s matchup with Schoolcraft which could decide the Southwestern Athletic Conference Central championship. Lawton (5-0) ran for more than 400 yards to grind out the win after trailing Gobles (4-1) late in the second quarter. Click for more from the Kalamazoo Gazette.

Also noted:

Comstock 20, Niles Brandywine 14 – First, Comstock (2-3) breaks a 40-game losing streak last week; this week, the Colts won their second game in a row for the first time since 2010 and against a Brandywine team (1-4) that went 5-4 a year ago.

Kalamazoo United 62, Constantine 57 – Aside from the fact these teams combined to score 119 points, this is the first time either school in the United co-op – Hackett or Christian – had beaten Constantine (3-2) since 2008; Kalamazoo also is 3-2.

Climax-Scotts 20, Bark River-Harris 8 – The Panthers (5-0) got their closest competition this season from the unfamiliar Broncos (2-3) but still managed to continue a defensive effort that’s given up 31 points over five games.

Portage Central 10, Battle Creek Lakeview 7 – The Mustangs (4-1) needed and got a nice bounce-back from last week’s loss to Traverse City Central by handing Lakeview (3-1) its first loss.

Upper Peninsula

Norway 14, Ishpeming 0

Norway is enjoying one the best turnaround seasons in all of Michigan, and beating Ishpeming for the first time since 2009 is the topper so far. The Hematites had defeated the Knights by a combined 86-0 over the last two seasons, but Norway (5-0) now has more wins than in any season since 2010 – and will play Negaunee this week in what could be the deciding game in the Mid-Peninsula Athletic Conference race. Ishpeming (2-2) has two losses in a season for the first time since 2011, but with an eight-game schedule needs only five wins to qualify automatically for the playoffs. Click for more from the Iron Mountain Daily News.

Also noted:

Gladstone 46, Marquette 45 – The Braves (2-3) squeaked out their first win over Marquette since 2009 and after falling to the Redmen (1-4) by 30 a year ago.

Calumet 52, Hancock 17 – The Copper Kings’ big win over third-place Hancock (3-2) puts Calumet (4-1) firmly atop the West-Peninsula Athletic Conference standings.

Negaunee 19, Gwinn 12 – Add Gwinn (3-2) to an impressive list of challengers Negaunee (5-0) has taken down this season; next up are undefeated Norway and rival Ishpeming.

Lake Linden-Hubbell 44, Newberry 29 – The Lakes (5-0) still have three league games to play and Newberry (4-1) only one, but Lake Linden-Hubbell is in a semi-comfortable position in the Mid-Eastern Conference thanks to this key win. 

West Michigan

Montague 41, Whitehall 20

This one wasn’t as close as Montague’s one-point win over Whitehall (4-1) a year ago, but could turn out just as significant for the Wildcats (5-0) as they look to repeat as West Michigan Conference champions. Montague’s next two games are against teams that are a combined 2-8 before they face rival Muskegon Oakridge in the final league game and a rematch of the title-decider in 2015. Click for more from the Muskegon Chronicle.

Also noted:

Hamilton 42, Holland 26 – The Hawkeyes’ resurgence continues; Hamilton is 5-0 after going 4-23 over the last three seasons combined.

Byron Center 24, Zeeland West 14 – Another nice run by the Bulldogs (4-1) just got a bonus as they handed reigning Division 4 champion Zeeland West (3-2) its second straight loss.

Grand Rapids Christian 41, Cedar Springs 16 – The Eagles (5-0) got a solid win over Cedar Springs (3-2) during a one-week break in the Ottawa-Kent Conference Gold schedule and heading into this week’s tilt with co-leader East Grand Rapids.

Wyoming Kelloggsville 36, Grandville Calvin Christian 28 – The Rockets (4-1) broke a five-game losing streak to Calvin Christian (2-3) to remain tied for first in the O-K Silver after winning three games last season.  


Camden-Frontier 22, Battle Creek St. Philip 0

Camden-Frontier (4-0) is enjoying a successful move to 8-player, breaking a 19-game losing streak on opening night. But this had to be a surprise; St. Philip is the reigning MHSAA runner-up and hadn’t lost a regular-season game since Week 9 of 2014 – or been shut out since making the move to 8-player in 2012. Click for more from the Hillsdale Daily News.

Also noted:

New Haven Merritt 68, Burton Madison 48 – Merritt (5-0) has enjoyed a nice run over the last three seasons, but this easily has been the Mustangs’ most dominating start – and also-undefeated Owendale-Gagetown is up next.  

Morrice 26, Mayville 20 (OT) – The Orioles (3-2) hung on for what likely will be a key win as they build their playoff case; Mayville was 5-4 in 11-player only a season ago.  

PHOTO: Morrice earned a key 8-player win in overtime over Mayville last week. (Click to see more from Varsity Monthly.)

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.)