Drive for Detroit: Week 7 Preview

October 4, 2018

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half

We’re into October, and the drive continues on as we begin turning our attention toward the playoffs beginning at the end of this month.

But let’s not be in too much of a rush.

Today we preview a number of matchups that could again end in league title celebrations – and mention a number of other neighborly clashes that may have nothing to do with league title and playoff pursuits, but will still be memorable.

That said, It just so happens that most of the nine games we glance at below include a mix of all of the above.

All games below are tonight unless noted. Check out the MHSAA Score Center for the full schedule and results as games are completed. will broadcast eight games including Frankenmuth/Millington mentioned below. Our “Drive for Detroit” previews are powered by MI Student Aid.

Bay & Thumb

Millington (5-1) at Frankenmuth (5-1)

The noticeable difference heading into the latest chapter of this annual showdown is both teams have a loss – Frankenmuth fell in Week 2 to Tri-Valley Conference Central leader Saginaw Swan Valley, and Millington fell in Week 1 by three points to Ohio’s Sylvania Southview. Otherwise, it’s business as usual with this TVC East finale deciding the league title for the seventh time in eight seasons – and with the Eagles on a three-game winning streak against their rival.

Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Warren DeLaSalle (5-1) at Davison (6-0), Richmond (4-2) at Almont (6-0), Fenton (5-1) at Flushing (4-2), SATURDAY Lapeer (6-0) at Flint Carman-Ainsworth (3-3).

Greater Detroit

Dearborn Heights Robichaud (6-0) at Dearborn Heights Crestwood (6-0)

Both have plenty to celebrate. Robichaud was 1-8 just two years ago, rebounded to 6-3 last season but went 2-3 in the league, and now is facing Crestwood for the Western Wayne Athletic Conference title. Crestwood last week clinched its first playoff berth since 2005 and with a seventh win would have its most victories since 2000. After a four-year break, these teams met again last season with Robichaud a 34-26 winner – but Crestwood hasn’t given up more than 20 points in a game this fall.

Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Detroit Mumford (5-1) at Detroit Cass Tech (6-0), Detroit Denby (5-1) at Detroit Martin Luther King (6-0), Waterford Our Lady (4-2) at Clarkston Everest Collegiate (6-0), Macomb Dakota (5-1) at Romeo (5-1).


Breckenridge (6-0) at Carson City-Crystal (6-0)

Breckenridge football was reborn with its move to the Mid-State Activities Conference in 2016, and the Huskies are 18-0 in league games heading into this weekend’s MSAC finale. Two of those wins came against the Eagles, who formerly battled mostly Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart for league superiority. Breckenridge got the win in this matchup by just a point last fall, 27-26, and this season hasn’t given up a point since Week 1. Carson City-Crystal and its tough running game most likely will need to get on the board at least a few times if it’s to secure its first league championship since 2013.

Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Lake Odessa Lakewood (5-1) at Olivet (6-0), Beaverton (5-1) at Clare (5-1), Dansville (5-1) at Pewamo-Westphalia (6-0), Mason (3-3) at Williamston (5-1).

Northern Lower Peninsula

Johannesburg-Lewiston (5-1) at Harbor Springs (6-0)

After losing by just seven points to Manton on opening night, Johannesburg-Lewiston has been biding its time to pounce in the league race. The Cardinals have given up only 35 points over the last five weeks and two weeks ago won big against Gaylord St. Mary, which beat them for the Northern Michigan Football League Legacy title a year ago. Harbor Springs has its most wins since going 6-4 in 2000, including an impressive one against Frankfort in Week 2 – but must avenge last year’s 50-8 loss to Johannesburg-Lewiston to secure that league title tonight.  

Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Muskegon Catholic Central (3-3) at Manistee (6-0), Elk Rapids (4-2) at Frankfort (4-2), Petoskey (3-3) at Gaylord (5-1), Kingsley (5-1) at Maple City Glen Lake (3-3).

Southeast & Border

Grass Lake (6-0) at Napoleon (5-1)

Grass Lake has shared or won outright four Cascades Conference championships this decade, but stepped back a year ago going 3-4 in the league and missing the playoffs for the first time since 2004. That’s almost a distant memory, as the Warriors need only 14 more points to outscore last year’s team and defensively are on pace for their best performance in more than a decade. Grass Lake defeated 2017 co-champions Addison and Michigan Center the last two weeks and now gets the third team that shared last year’s title – Napoleon, which has bounced back from an opening night loss to get back into the hunt and won last year’s meeting with the Warriors 45-8.

Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Grosse Ile (6-0) at Milan (5-1), Hillsdale (6-0) at Ida (5-1), Pittsford (6-0) at Adrian Lenawee Christian (5-1), Ottawa Lake Whiteford (6-0) at Sand Creek (4-2).

Southwest Corridor

Three Rivers (6-0) at Edwardsburg (6-0)

These are the two best teams in Michigan we’ve barely mentioned this season – because in the Wolverine Conference, every team plays nine league games and these two have dominated the league thoroughly. Edwardsburg has scored at least 41 points every week this fall and given up 19 total; Three Rivers has been slightly less dominant offensively but given up only 35 points and only seven over the last four weeks. Three Rivers broke Edwardsburg’s 34-game league winning streak last season, although the Eddies did still go on to claim the conference title and then defeat the Wildcats in a District Final on the way to finishing Division 4 runner-up.

Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Kalamazoo United (6-0) at Delton Kellogg (5-1), Hartford (4-2) at Cassopolis (6-0), Portage Northern (4-2) at Battle Creek Central (4-2), Fennville (5-1) at Lawton (3-3).

Upper Peninsula

Ishpeming (6-0) at Iron River West Iron County (5-1), Saturday

Three Western Peninsula Athletic Conference small-school division games remain for both of these teams, but this one very well could decide the league title. Only once this season have the Hematites had a game closer than 10 points. The Wykons took a tough Week 4 loss to West PAC large-school leader Calumet in Week 4, but minus that game have given up only 13 points over their other five. This is the first meeting of these teams since 2014, when Ishpeming ended West Iron’s season in the playoffs for the third time this decade.

Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Houghton (3-3) at Calumet (6-0), Escanaba (4-2) at Gladstone (3-3), Gwinn (4-2) at Norway (3-3), Ishpeming Westwood (4-2) at L'Anse (3-3).

West Michigan

Montague (5-1) at Muskegon Oakridge (6-0)

This West Michigan Conference rivalry is alive and well, with the teams splitting the last four meetings and Montague winning the most recent 40-0 a year ago on the way to the league title. This likely will decide the championship as well; after losing to still-unbeaten Reed City on opening night, Montague has outscored its first five league opponents on average 58-7. Oakridge has outscored its league opponents only 57-12 on average.

Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Spring Lake (5-1) at Grand Rapids Catholic Central (5-1), Middleville Thornapple Kellogg (5-1) at East Grand Rapids (4-2), Rockford (3-3) at Hudsonville (5-1), Holton (5-1) at Kent City (6-0).


Mesick (3-3) at Brethren (4-2)

These two are relative newcomers to 8-player football, Brethren in its third season and Mesick in its second. But the headway made has been fast and impressive. Brethren can clinch a share of the West Michigan D League championship tonight and also tie its highest win total since 1990. Mesick made the playoffs for the first time last season since 1995, and with a win tonight can create a three-team tie at the top of the league standings with one WMDL game to play (Manistee Catholic Central would join them in first with a win over reigning champion Marion). Mesick won this meeting 30-14 a year ago.

Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Morrice (6-0) at Genesee (4-2), Mayville (4-2) at Deckerville (4-2), New Haven Merritt (3-3) at Caseville (4-2), SATURDAY Bellevue (5-1) at Battle Creek St. Philip (4-2).

Second Half’s weekly “Drive for Detroit” previews and reviews 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: Clare, here against Beal City during a Week 1 win, is among teams chasing first place in their respective leagues this weekend. (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.)