Drive for Detroit: Week 5 in Review

September 25, 2017

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

If there was a theme that emerged across much of the state during Week 5 in Michigan high school football, it boiled down to this: Not so fast. 

Not so fast, teams appearing to break away from the pack.

Not so fast, new contenders on the block who have won big but still have big opponents to play.

Not so fast, those counting out those old favorites because they’ve fallen early to teams on the rise.

And not so fast, if you’re thinking a slow start is sure to be followed by a disappointing finish.

We’ve passed the midpoint of the regular season, but this week’s Drive for Detroit review – powered by MI Student Aid – saw a number of teams show there’s plenty yet to prove and decide over the next month.  

Bay & Thumb

Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port Laker 20, Cass City 14

This could be the eventual decider in the Greater Thumb Conference West as Laker handed Cass City (4-1) its first loss this season while beating the Red Hawks for the seventh straight year. The Lakers (4-1), perfect since falling to still-undefeated Hudson on opening night, held on as Cass City finished the game four yards from tying the score. Click for more from the Huron Daily Tribune (and check out the video below from Thumb Tailgater Sports).

Also noted:

New Lothrop 56, Flint Hamady 34 – Make that 66 wins in its last 67 regular-season games for New Lothrop (5-0), although Hamady (3-2) scored more than any opponent had on the Hornets in any game since 2014.

Midland 42, Bay City Central 35 – Midland (4-1) earned a solid win in a matchup of teams in first place in their respective Saginaw Valley League divisions; the Chemics are co-leaders in the Blue, and Central (3-2) is one of two atop the Red.

Lake Fenton 24, Byron 6 – The Blue Devils (4-1) held on to a slim lead over Montrose in the Genesee Area Conference Red while sending Byron (3-2) to fourth place in what continues to be a tight league race.

Frankenmuth 47, Bridgeport 42 – The Eagles (5-0) trailed by 21 during the second half before coming back to beat a Bridgeport team that at 3-2 has more wins already than it finished with in any of the last three seasons.

Greater Detroit

West Bloomfield 17, Rochester Adams 16

Over two weeks West Bloomfield broke open the Oakland Activities Association Red title chase, handing Adams its first loss after doing the same to Clarkston in Week 4. Quarterback Bryce Veasley threw two touchdown passes including a 99-yarder to Tre Mosley, and the Lakers (3-2) stopped an Adams two-point conversion attempt after the Highlanders (4-1) scored during the final minutes. Click for more from the Oakland Press (and see highlights from State Champs! Sports Network).

Also noted:

Madison Heights Madison 28, Marine City 24 – A contender in the Macomb Area Conference Silver, Madison (5-0) got a major playoff points boost from handing MAC Gold co-leader Marine City (4-1) its first loss.

Detroit Mumford 13, Detroit Cody 7 – Mumford (4-1) kept just ahead of Cass Tech with one more league win in the Detroit Public School League Green title hunt, and likely will cheer for Cody (3-2) to beat the Technicians this week.

Birmingham Groves 32, Farmington Hills Harrison 31 – The reigning champ Falcons (4-1) kept themselves alive in the OAA White, moving into a second place tie now with Harrison (3-2) and Troy one win behind Oak Park.

Clinton Township Clintondale 30, Hazel Park 14 – MAC Bronze leader Clintondale (5-0) eclipsed last year’s win total with an impressive one over the OAA Blue-leading Vikings (3-2), who are already one win better than last year with their most since 2012. 


Portland 35, Lansing Catholic 6

The Raiders, adding this win to another over Williamston in Week 3, own a commanding lead in the Capital Area Activities Association White as they play for a three-peat. Portland (4-1) scored the first 28 points this time and locked down an offense that was averaging 39 points per game entering the night. Lansing Catholic (4-1) is 29-3 during the regular season since the start of 2014 – with all three losses to the Raiders. Click for more from the Lansing State Journal.

Also noted:

Williamston 35, Ionia 34 – The Hornets (3-2) bounced back from painful losses to Portland and Lansing Catholic by edging the Bulldogs (3-2), who similarly have lost two games by a combined nine points.

Clare 42, Harrison 14 – A potential Jack Pine Conference-deciding matchup with Beaverton wouldn’t come until Week 9, but Clare (4-1) took a step toward making it happen by knocking the Hornets (3-2) into a tie for third place.

Laingsburg 33, Fowler 0 – The Wolfpack (4-1) set up this week’s matchup with Pewamo-Westphalia for first place in the Central Michigan Athletic Conference by extending a two-year winning streak over Fowler (2-3) for the first time since 2008-09.

Grand Ledge 28, Okemos 20 – This kept reigning champ Grand Ledge (4-1) tied atop the CAAC Blue with Holt, but also showed that Okemos (4-1) can hang with the league’s best after a fast start against opponents that haven’t had much success this fall.

Northern Lower Peninsula

Boyne City 21, Grayling 6

The Ramblers (5-0) extended their winning streak over Grayling to four straight and in doing so took a sizable step toward making Week 9’s matchup with Traverse City St. Francis a potential decider in the Northern Michigan Football League Legends division. Those two met to decide the title in Week 9 in 2016 and are tied for first place again. Click for more from the Petoskey News-Review.

Also noted:

Cheboygan 22, Kalkaska 15 – Also in the NMFL Legends, Cheboygan (2-3) equaled its most wins in a season since 2013 by avenging last year’s 35-0 loss to the Blazers (3-2).

Frankfort 52, Johannesburg-Lewiston 14 – The Panthers (4-1) took their points-per-game average this season to 47 against the rebounding Cardinals (3-2), who will equal last year’s win total with their next victory.

Lake City 20, Beal City 14 – The Trojans (5-0) have now handed losses to two of three teams tied for second in the Highland Conference, while Beal City (3-2) will face those other two over the next two weeks as it looks to stay in contention.

Harbor Springs 20, St. Ignace 16 – The Rams (3-2) downed the reigning league champion Saints (1-4) to maintain first place in the NMFL Legacy.

Southeast & Border

Michigan Center 36, Addison 24

The Cardinals (4-1) dissolved at least some of the excitement surrounding Addison’s best start in more than a decade by creating a three-way tie for first in the Cascades Conference with the Panthers (4-1) and Napoleon (which had beaten Michigan Center in Week 3). Addison and Napoleon already have met as well. Click for more from the Jackson Citizen Patriot.

Also noted:

Brighton 30, Livonia Stevenson 10 – The Bulldogs (3-2) kept themselves in contention for at least a shared title in the Kensington Lakes Activities Association Black by handing Stevenson (4-1) its first loss.

Blissfield 25, Brooklyn Columbia Central 14 – After leader Hudson, the Lenawee County Athletic Association is a bit of a jumble with Blissfield (3-2) now in the mix a week after Columbia Central (3-2) looked to be joining.

Jackson 35, Lansing Sexton 28 – The Vikings might be the best 1-4 team in Michigan and showed it against the talented Big Reds (3-2) after earlier absorbing one and two-point losses.

Reading 13, Quincy 12 – The Rangers (4-1) kept themselves tied for first in the Big 8 Conference with Union City; Quincy (3-2) faced them both over the last two weeks.

Southwest Corridor

Watervliet 52, Kalamazoo United 34

Watervliet and quarterback Zach Pickens are putting up huge offensive numbers, and the Panthers (5-0) kept their streak going of scoring at least 50 points in every game this season. This was only the opener of the Southwestern Athletic Conference Valley schedule, but Kalamazoo United (4-1) was a strong first test in a league loaded with them. Click for more from the St. Joseph Herald-Palladium.

Also noted:

Coloma 41, Constantine 0 – Staying in the SAC Valley, the Comets (4-1) guaranteed their best finish since 2009 and after losing to Constantine (3-2) by scores of 68-35 and 46-0 over the last two seasons.

Hartford 39, Decatur 38 – The Indians (4-1) have doubled their wins and nearly their points scored as well from 2016 already, with downing Decatur (3-2) their best victory so far.

Three Rivers 14, Paw Paw 0 – The Wildcats (4-1) will get to affect the Wolverine B Conference race as one of four teams in first or second, while Paw Paw (3-2) will need some breaks to get back in the mix.

St. Joseph 42, Mattawan 7 – The Bears (4-1) will need help to win the Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference West, but can claim a win over the SMAC East-leading Wildcats (3-2). 

Upper Peninsula

Gladstone 20, Ishpeming 8

The Braves (5-0), new to the Mid-Peninsula Conference this season, clinched a share of the league title with this victory; they will face winless Iron Mountain in Week 8 with an opportunity to win the championship outright. Ishpeming scored first, but Gladstone scored the final three touchdowns of the game. Click for more from the Escanaba Daily Press.

Also noted:

L'Anse 20, Hurley (Wis.) 18 – The Purple Hornets (4-1) held on to a share of the lead in the Western Peninsula Athletic Conference by downing another contender in Hurley (4-2).

Hancock 42, Calumet 24 – Staying in the West PAC, the Bulldogs (4-1) could still find their way into the title conversation after moving to 3-1 in the league by downing the Copper Kings (3-2).

Norway 28, Bark River-Harris 14 – Norway (5-0) controlled its destiny to remain in first in Mid-Eastern Conference by handing Bark River-Harris (3-2) a second league loss, then got some help (see below).

Lake Linden-Hubbell 34, Newberry 20 – Lake Linden-Hubbell (1-3) is in playoff mode already as it seeks a fifth straight postseason berth, and the Lakes started to bounce back from a slow start by handing Newberry (3-2) its first M-EC defeat. 

West Michigan

Montague 46, Whitehall 44

The West Michigan Conference has been one of the state’s most exciting the last two weeks, with Whitehall handing reigning champion Muskegon Oakridge a loss in Week 4 only to be edged Friday by Montague (5-0) – which faces Oakridge in Week 7. Whitehall (3-2) came back from 20 points down to make the 111th meeting between the teams a close finish; Montague owns a 61-48-2 edge in the series. Click for more from the Muskegon Chronicle (and see below for a highlight from FOX 17.)

Also noted:

Hudsonville Unity Christian 35, Comstock Park 32 – The Crusades (3-2) had opened Ottawa-Kent Conference Green play with two defeats, but may have turned things around by downing the O-K Blue co-leading Panthers (4-1).

Grandville 28, East Kentwood 14 – East Kentwood (4-1) arguably had been the most impressive O-K Red team heading into Week 5, but the Falcons will need help to get back in the title hunt as Grandville (4-1) held onto a first-place tie with Holland West Ottawa (Rockford also is without a league loss, but with one fewer game so far).

Grand Rapids Christian 48, Cedar Springs 44 – The Eagles (5-0) scored on a 46-yard touchdown pass from Isaac Dykema to Anthony Ladd with six seconds to play to down the Red Hawks (3-2).

Muskegon Heights Academy 36, Ludington 27 – The Tigers (3-2) hadn’t won more than two games the last two seasons and haven’t won more than three since 2011; they’ll face Muskegon Catholic Central this week with first place in the Lakes 8 Conference on the line after handing the Orioles (2-3) their third league defeat. 


Morrice 40, Flint International Academy 28

Morrice (5-0) set itself up for a matchup with undefeated Deckerville this week for first place in the North Central Thumb League Stars division. The Orioles have won all of their games by at least 12 points, but third-place International Academy (4-1) gave them their closest game and gets its chance against Deckerville in Week 7. Click for more from the Owosso Argus-Press. 

Also noted:

Onekama 54, Suttons Bay 18 – The Portagers (5-0) have won all of their games since switching to 8-player this season by at least 24 points and are tied for first in the Midwest Central Michigan Conference, while Suttons Bay (3-2) is among four teams tied for third.

Central Lake 58, Wyoming Tri-unity Christian 31 – Central Lake also is a first-year 8-player team and is tied with Onekama for first in the MCMC; Tri-unity fell to 2-3 after facing the co-leaders in back-to-back weeks.

Kingston 64, Lawrence 42 – The Cardinals (3-2) tied their wins total from last season while also sending Lawrence to 3-2.

Stephenson 54, Eben Junction Superior Central 30 – The Eagles (5-0) also have won all of their games this season by 24 points, this time despite giving up a season-high 30 to the Cougars (1-4).

Second Half’s weekly “Drive for Detroit” previews 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: Portland's running game found success in its 35-6 win over Lansing Catholic on Friday. (Click for 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.)