Drive for Detroit: Week 6 in Review

October 2, 2012

In coachspeak, it's referred to as "sense of urgency."

And the numbers back up why that phrase is thrown around frequently when the calendar turns to October.

After Week 6, there are 57 teams qualified for the MHSAA football playoffs – out of 73 total that had opportunities last weekend to earn automatic berths. And 101 can join that fortunate group with victories Friday or Saturday.

Those totals together would make up more than half of this season's playoff field, and with chances running out for teams sitting on the edge. Here's a look at how some of those teams kept their destinies in their own hands, with only three games to play before the postseason begins.

Greater Detroit

Orchard Lake St. Mary 24, Birmingham Brother Rice 14

Make that wins the last two weeks over the reigning Division 1 (Detroit Cass Tech) and Division 2 (Brother Rice) champions by the reigning MHSAA Division 3 champ Eaglets. Running back Grant Niemiec continues to build on that strong championship performance, and ran for three scores in this Detroit Catholic League Central clash. Click to read more from the Detroit Free Press.

Also noted:

Ann Arbor Pioneer 14, Temperance Bedford 13 – The Pioneers took a solid step toward repeating as Southeastern Conference Red champions with their second one-point win in league play.

Saline 20, Monroe 13 – Saline had lost all three games against Monroe since they both moved into the SEC Red, and looks good for its best season since 2008.

Brownstown Woodhaven 64, Wyandotte Roosevelt 36 – Although not massive, call this an upset nonetheless as the Warriors had lost six straight to their Downriver League foes, who were 5-0.

Romeo 21, Port Huron 20 – Romeo stayed alive for an automatic playoff berth at 3-3 by beating the Macomb Area Conference White co-leader.

Thumb and Bay

Flint Powers 42, Davison 28

The Chargers won a big one in the wake of retired coach Jack Pratt’s recent death; his funeral was Friday morning. These two and Carman-Ainsworth were all undefeated in the Saginaw Valley Association South heading into the night, and Powers’ win set up this week’s game against FCA as the league title decider. Click to read more from the Flint Journal.

Also noted:

Lake Fenton 34, Goodrich 7 – The Blue Devils continue to roll in the Genesee Area Conference Red, outscoring league opponents 190-21.

Bay City Western 28, Midland Dow 20 – The Warriors needed this one to keep pace with that other Midland team, the Chemics, with whom Western is tied atop the SVA North.

Lapeer West 27, Holly 21 (OT) – Lapeer West moved to 4-1, just barely, and remains a game behind Swartz Creek in the Flint Metro League standings.

Hemlock 19, Saginaw Swan Valley 7 – The Huskies have emerged as tops in the Tri-Valley Conference Central, just in time to play second-place Freeland this week to decide the title.


Hartland 35, Brighton 14

The Eagles are quickly becoming one of the best stories in the state this fall, and are off to a 6-0 start for the first time since, well, potentially ever (at least since 1950, the start of the team’s records at They are tied for first in the Kensington Lakes Activities Association West, with co-leader Grand Blanc up next. Click to read more from the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus.

Also noted:

Ithaca 33, Carrollton 21 – Make it 34 straight wins for the Yellowjackets, tied for sixth in MHSAA football history, and with no one else likely to slow them during the regular season.

Lansing Everett 6, East Lansing 0 – The Vikings are one game through a tough three-game string that will determine if they go 9-0 and win the Capital Area Activities Conference Blue.

Lansing Sexton 21, Holt 7 – Sexton’s playoff hopes appeared done and Holt’s revived, but both are now 3-3 although still facing tough must-win games down the stretch.

Beal City 43, Lake City 8 – Both were undefeated coming into the weekend, but it appears the Aggies will cruise to the Highland Conference title.

West Michigan

Lowell 42, Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central 24

Forest Hills Central carried a lead into the fourth quarter, but Lowell intercepted four passes during the final period to remain tied for first atop the O-K White. Circle the Week 9 game against Grand Rapids Christian as the likely decider of this league’s title. Click to read more from the Grand Rapids Press.

Also noted:

Hopkins 34, Grandville Calvin Christian 21 – The Vikings are 6-0 and clinched a share of the O-K Silver by beating the second-place Squires.

Montague 22, Shelby 15 (OT) – Shelby had the highest playoff point average among likely Division 6 teams, and Montague was 13th; this should change that up dramatically.

Fruitport 21, Grant 14 – The Trojans also are 6-0 and now owners of a share of the Lakes Eight Conference title thanks to this win over second-place Grant.

Rockford 24, Holland West Ottawa 14 – The Rams have seemingly laid low after a 1-2 start, but of course you shouldn't forget about them; Rockford is 4-2 and tied for first in the O-K Red.

Lower Up North

Traverse City Central 42, Traverse City West 28

Central took one more giant step toward winning its first league title since these schools were still one, in 1996. The Trojans now sit atop the Big North Conference, needing only a victory over winless Gaylord in Week 8 to clinch a share of the title. This win also earned Central the Nowak-Olson Memorial Trophy. Click to read more from the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

Also noted:

Grayling 41, Elk Rapids 22 – This helped sort out the top of the Lake Michigan Conference, with Grayling moving to 6-0 to stay tied for first with Boyne City.

Mancelona 36, Pickford 8 – These teams were both 5-0 entering this nonconference matchup, but Mancelona’s defense kept to its eight-points-given-up per-game average.  

Maple City Glen Lake 29, Kingsley 7 – Glen Lake is in line for its first league title since 2001 after knocking off the proposed favorite in 4-2 Kingsley.

West Branch Ogemaw Heights 24, Cadillac 21 – Ogemaw Heights needed a win to get to 3-3 and stay alive for an automatic playoff bid, and for all intents and purposes knocked Cadillac (4-2) out of contention for a possible share of the Big North Conference title.  

Southwest and Border

Schoolcraft 19, Battle Creek Pennfield 16

Schoolcraft’s first win over Pennfield since 2009 possibly lines it up for a first 9-0 regular season since 2001, and nearly assures the Eagles will win the Kalamazoo Valley Association title as they’ve now beaten all three teams tied for second place. Schoolcraft didn’t take the lead in this one until 1:34 remained in the fourth quarter. Click to read more in the Kalamazoo Gazette.

Also noted:

Buchanan 28, Niles Brandywine 22 – The Bucks look good to finish first in the Lakeland Conference with one league game to play.

Hartford 27, Lawton 24 – Not much has cleared up in the Southwestern Athletic Conference South, where these two are among four tied for second in a league that has five teams 5-1 or better overall.

Climax-Scotts 7, Pittsford 6 – These two are the best in the Southern Central Athletic Association, with Climax-Scotts just one point better in this game that should eventually decide the champion.

Mattawan 49, St. Joseph 14 – The Wildcats moved to 6-0 and kept pace with Stevensville Lakeshore atop the Southwest Michigan Athletic Conference West; circle Oct. 12, the night they meet.

Upper Peninsula

Cedarville 72, Rapid River 12

For the second straight week, Cedarville downed in a big way another contender in the Bridge Alliance 8-Man Conference, this time reigning MHSAA 8-Player runner-up Rapid River. Todd Hecht scored on two runs, two catches and a fumble return. Click to read more from the Escanaba Daily Press.

Also noted:

Iron Mountain North Dickinson 55, Crystal Falls Forest Park 27 – No league standing was at stake as they play in difference conferences, but North Dickinson did end an eight-game losing streak against the Trojans.

L’Anse 36, Ironwood 28 (OT) – Only 2-7 a year ago, the Purple Hornets are 6-0 and contending for the Western Peninsula Athletic Conference title with Eagle River Northland Pines (Wis.).

Iron Mountain 12, Manistique 7 – Both are still alive for the playoffs, but this was key; Iron Mountain moved to 4-2 while Manistique fell to 3-3.

Kingsford 21, Marquette 14 – The Flivvers have won both of their first two Great Northern Upper Peninsula Conference games by seven or fewer points, but look like the favorites with two to go.

Trophy Games

Every week, the MHSAA highlights Trophy Games from around the state. Here are a few more to join the Traverse City West/Central matchup above:

Friendship Trophy: This replaced the Oil Can, which originated in 1930, as the award played for annually by Sparta and Coopersville. Final: Coopersville 35, Sparta 14.

Bobcat-Bulldog Award: Petersburg-Summerfield had claimed this the last four seasons against rival Ottawa Lake Whiteford. Final: Whiteford 40, Petersburg-Summerfield 26.

Hinker Bell: Menominee has now held onto this trophy against Escanaba for 14 straight seasons. Final: Menominee 42, Escanaba 17.

PHOTO: Orchard Lake St. Mary running back Parker McInnis pulls away from Brother Rice defenders Jason Alessi (4) and Lucas Cherocci (46) during this weekend's 24-14 Eaglets win. (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.)