Drive for Detroit: Week 6 in Review

October 2, 2017

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

New powers continued to rise all over Michigan during Week 6 of the football regular season. 

A few did so with spectacular upsets, while others broke streaks that had grown to include multiple seasons – or in one case, stretched nearly two decades.

The Drive for Detroit report powered by MI Student Aid details the most intriguing 11-player results from eight regions across our state plus the best from 8-player every week – and this week’s headliners are the most riveting, as a group, so far in 2017. 

Bay & Thumb

Midland 39, Davison 25

Among the state’s elite in the near past, Midland entered this fall with two 4-5 finishes over the last three seasons (surrounding a 7-3 in 2015). But this win made lots of noise as Davison (5-1) hadn’t lost a regular-season game since 2015 and shut out the Chemics 20-0 last fall. Midland (5-1) and Lapeer now sit atop the Saginaw Valley League Blue standings and meet Week 8. Click for more from the Midland Daily News.

Also noted:

Goodrich 41, Corunna 27 – The Martians (5-1) held onto their chance to grab a share of the Genesee Area Conference Red title and will cheer for Corunna (3-3) this week as the Cavaliers take on leader Lake Fenton.

Richmond 17, Almont 7 – The Blue Water Area Conference is down to a two-team race as Richmond (6-0) and Algonac are in first and Almont (4-2) has lost to both; the leaders meet in Week 8.

Flint Carman-Ainsworth 41, Bay City Central 31 – These Cavaliers (4-2) have won three straight to move into first place alone in the SVL Red, with Central (3-3) and Week 8 opponent Midland Dow a win back.

Unionville-Sebewaing 30, Reese 14 – USA (4-2) put itself in position to create a two or even three-way tie for the Greater Thumb Conference West title with leader Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port Laker up next; Reese (3-3) is fighting for a playoff spot. 

Greater Detroit

Belleville 35, Dearborn Fordson 7

Belleville not only clinched a share of the Western Wayne Athletic Conference Red title and earned a playoff berth by downing the co-leading Tractors (5-1), but the Tigers (6-0) make an even louder statement as a contender in Division 1. They are 6-0 for the first time since 2002 after also making the playoffs the last two seasons, and they’ve now given up just 13 points over their last five games. Fordson hadn’t given up more than 14 in a game this season. Click for more from the Detroit News.

Also noted:

Detroit Martin Luther King 27, Detroit Denby 6 – The Crusaders (5-1) earned a share of the Detroit Public School League Black division title while handing Denby (4-1) its first loss in league play and overall.

Rochester Adams 38, Southfield Arts & Technology 14 – The Highlanders (5-1) remain part of a three-team first-place tie in the Oakland Activities Association Red after handing this loss to what has to be one of the best 3-3 teams in the state in the Warriors.

Warren DeLaSalle 52, Dearborn Divine Child 14 – Both could finish first in their respective Detroit Catholic League divisions, and DeLaSalle (5-1) if it wins out would have little argument as the overall best after handing Divine Child (5-1) its only loss so far.

Romulus 31, Redford Thurston 22 – The Eagles (4-2), which finished second in the WWAC Red last year, clinched a share of the WWAC Blue title while sending Thurston (4-2) into a tie for second place


Olivet 34, Lake Odessa Lakewood 6

Lakewood (5-1) had won 15 straight league games and the last two championships after Olivet won the first-ever Greater Lansing Activities Conference title in 2014. The Eagles (6-0) have been on the verge though, with their only league losses the last two seasons to the Vikings. Olivet can clinch the championship outright this week against Stockbridge. Click for more from FOX17.

Also noted:

Alma 21, Freeland 7 – The Panthers (6-0) broke a four-game losing streak to the Falcons (4-2), keeping alive a Tri-Valley Conference Central title showdown possibility against Saginaw Swan Valley in Week 8.

Belding 35, Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian 21 – The Ottawa-Kent Conference Silver race got whittled down this weekend and Belding (5-1) remains one of two co-leaders, while NorthPointe (5-1) is poised to claim a share if both falter over the final three games.

Breckenridge 27, Carson City-Crystal 26 – The Huskies (5-1) remain perfect in the Mid-State Activities Conference since joining the league last season; a win by Carson City-Crystal (3-3) would’ve created a three-way tie for first.

Pewamo-Westphalia 32, Laingsburg 11 – The Pirates (5-1) got one win away from clinching a third straight Central Michigan Athletic Conference title by upending the second-place Wolfpack (4-2).

Northern Lower Peninsula

Maple City Glen Lake 48, Frankfort 34

A five-point loss to Frankfort cost Glen Lake (3-2) the Northern Michigan Football Conference Leaders title in 2016, even as the Lakers went on to play at Ford Field and finish runner-up in Division 6. But they clinched a share of the 2017 league title with this victory, and with only winless Mancelona standing in the way of an outright championship. Frankfort (4-2) had won 11 straight league games dating to the start of the 2014 NMFC schedule. Click for more from the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

Also noted:

Boyne City 34, Kalkaska 13 – The Ramblers (6-0) held on to a share of first place in the NMFC Legends division by handing Kalkaska (3-3) its third straight defeat.

Traverse City St. Francis 49, Grayling 22 – The Gladiators (6-0) kept pace with Boyne City, handing Grayling (4-2) a second straight loss as the leaders continued to point to a possible league decider in Week 9.

AuGres-Sims 54, Whittemore-Prescott 14 – The Wolverines (6-0) clinched a share of the North Star League title after finishing second a year ago, and may also have dealt the blow to end the Cardinals’ 10-year playoff streak; Whittemore-Prescott is 2-4 and must win out for a chance at an at-large bid.

Traverse City West 30, Benton Harbor 13 – The Titans (6-0) equaled their win total from last season and already their most victories since 2004, while also putting Benton Harbor (2-4) in a position where it must win out to have a hope of a third straight playoff berth. 

Southeast & Border

Reading 36, Union City 12

The Rangers, coming off back-to-back 3-6 seasons, are one win from claiming a share of the Big 8 Conference title after downing second-place Union City. Reading (5-1) hasn’t lost this season since opening night, and its final two league opponents are a combined 2-10. Union City also is 5-1 and enjoying a great rebound after going 2-7 last fall and 4-5 in 2015. Click for more from the Hillsdale Daily News.

Also noted:

Ottawa Lake Whiteford 51, Morenci 8 – Whiteford turned away what looked to be its most formidable challenge so far in the Tri-County Conference, sending Morenci to 3-3 overall and second place in the standings.

Clinton 28, Petersburg-Summerfield 24 – Clinton (4-2) is tied for second in the TCC and stayed in line for a Week 8 title-deciding date with Whiteford by jumping above the Bulldogs (4-2), who fell to fourth place.

Pinckney 35, Tecumseh 10 – The Pirates (5-1) held on to a tie for first in the Southeastern Conference White while putting Tecumseh (3-3) in a spot to win out to guarantee a playoff berth for the first time since 2014.

Saline 42, Monroe 14 – The Hornets (5-1) clinched a share of the SEC Red title and face co-second place Ann Arbor Pioneer this week; Monroe (3-3) is aiming to win out to make it back to the playoffs after missing a year ago.  

Southwest Corridor

Stevensville Lakeshore 30, Portage Northern 27

In its closest Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference West game so far this season, Lakeshore clinched a share of the league title and avenged last season’s three-point loss to the Huskies. The Lancers also moved to 6-0 for the first time since 2012 and secured a 20th straight playoff berth. Northern (2-4) continued a heart-breaking string, with three of their losses by a combined nine points. Click for more from the St. Joseph Herald-Palladium.

Also noted:

Climax-Scotts 60, Adrian Lenawee Christian 29 – The Panthers (5-1) remained tied for first in the Southern Central Athletic Association by handing Lenawee Christian (4-2) its second loss in three weeks.

Berrien Springs 59, Parchment 6 – The Shamrocks (5-1) clinched a share of the Berrien-Cass-St. Joseph White title with their third game of 50 or more points; Parchment (4-2) remains two wins from guaranteeing its first playoff berth since 2013.

Schoolcraft 35, Constantine 8 – This rivalry win by the Eagles (5-1), combined with the result below, helped put Schoolcraft into a first-place tie with only Watervliet in the Southwestern Athletic Conference Valley; Constantine (3-3) must win out to guarantee adding to its 18-year playoff streak.

Kalamazoo United 28, Coloma 27 – After falling to Watervliet in Week 5, United (5-1) dealt a disappointing blow to the much-improved Comets (4-2). 

Upper Peninsula

Escanaba 42, Menominee 21

The streak is over; the Eskymos (5-1) downed Menominee for the first time since 1998 in the 122nd meeting between the Great Northern Conference rivals. And the win was impressive – the reigning champion Maroons hadn’t given up 42 points in a league game since 2008. Although it was the GNC opener for Menominee, Escanaba had already played two league games and with this win set up a potential league title matchup with Kingsford in Week 9 – although the Flivvers, 2-0 in GNC play, must first face the Maroons in Week 8. Click for more from the Escanaba Daily Press.

Also noted:

Iron River West Iron County 53, Calumet 20 – The Wykons (5-1) remain the only team undefeated in West Peninsula Athletic Conference play, while reigning champ Calumet (3-3) has lost three of four and needs to win out to extend a three-year playoff streak.

Bessemer Gogebic 26, L'Anse 7 – The first half of this season was tough for the Miners (2-4), but they’ve doubled last season’s win total and still have a playoff shot after stunning the Purple Hornets (4-2).

Negaunee 21, Ishpeming 14 – What a turnaround for these Miners; after opening 0-3, Negaunee is 3-3 and put Ishpeming (2-4) in a position of needing to win out for a chance at an at-large playoff bid.

Lake Linden-Hubbell 24, Bark River-Harris 12 – The Lakes also are riding a comeback wave; they opened 0-3, but after having no game Week 4 have won two straight and this time put Bark River-Harris (3-3) into a must-win playoff situation.  

West Michigan

East Grand Rapids 28, Grand Rapids Christian 7

Reigning champion East Grand Rapids (6-0) took command of the Ottawa-Kent Conference Gold again by beating the Eagles by an identical score as in last year’s game, which also ended up deciding the league title. EGR lowered its points allowed average to 8.2 per game this fall. Still, this may not be over. Christian (5-1) is one of three teams one win behind in the league standings, and the Pioneers still must play the other two. Click for more from the Grand Rapids Press.

Also noted:

Rockford 27, Grandville 0 – The Rams lined up an O-K Red battle for first place this week against Holland West Ottawa by handing Grandville (4-2) its first league loss; depending on how this week goes, all three could end up sharing the title after Rockford and Grandville did so with Hudsonville in 2016.

Cedar Springs 28, Lowell 14 – It’s odd to call this an upset when Cedar Springs is 4-2, but Lowell (also 4-2) hadn’t lost an O-K White game since 2014 and this season has wins over leaders of two other leagues.  

Kent City 28, Morley Stanwood 0 – The Eagles (6-0) not only won a matchup of undefeated teams, but in doing so clinched a share of the Central State Activities Association Silver title against the now second-place Mohawks (5-1); the teams shared the title in 2016.

Wyoming Kelloggsville 21, Wyoming Godwin Heights 20 – This was the other half of the paring down in the O-K Silver; both entered undefeated, but Kelloggsville (6-0) is now tied with Belding atop the standings while Godwin Heights (5-1) fell a game back in a league with four of seven teams at 5-1 or better. 


Morrice 33, Deckerville 32

Deckerville, last season’s 8-player MHSAA runner-up, has been considered a championship favorite all fall and still may be. But the Orioles (6-0) are in position to claim the North Central Thumb 8-Man League Stars division title after scoring a last-minute touchdown and converting a two-point conversion to hand the Eagles (5-1) their first league loss since 2014. Morrice must beat either Kingston this week or Lawrence in Week 8 to clinch a share NCTL Stars championship. Click for more from the Owosso Argus-Press.

Also noted:

Camden-Frontier 30, Bellevue 26 – The Redskins (6-0) have turned away both second-place teams in the Southern Central 8-Man Football League and can clinch a share of the title this week against Burr Oak; Bellevue (5-1) and Battle Creek St. Philip will be back in the mix with an upset.

Flint International Academy 78, Lawrence 74 – This set the MHSAA record for most points in an 8-player game when both teams score at least 40; Flint International (5-1) is tied for second in the NCTL Stars, but Lawrence (3-3) has scored the most points of any league team this season.

Kinde-North Huron 36, New Haven Merritt Academy 18 – The Warriors (5-1) held on to a first-place tie in the NCTL Stripes with Bay City All Saints; the Mustangs (3-3) have lost to both over the last three weeks.

Rudyard 30, Engadine 20 – The Bulldogs (5-1) still trail leaders Cedarville and Pickford in the Bridge Alliance Conference, but put themselves in position to earn a share of the league title if both falter over the next three weeks; Engadine (4-2) fell to fourth place but gets Cedarville next.

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: Davison defenders chase a Midland ball carrier during Friday's Chemics win. (Photo by Terry Lyons.) 

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.)