Drive for Detroit: Week 7 in Review

October 9, 2012

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Two Michigan communities are celebrating football success like never before. 

Swartz Creek two weeks ago and Grand Rapids Northview on Friday became two of three teams this season to earn MHSAA playoff berths for the first time. Both also are in first place in their respective conferences.

The third to earn a first-time berth is Detroit East English, although that comes with a bit of an asterisk. The school is made up mostly of students from the now-closed Detroit Crockett and Finney, and the former in particular was a frequent playoff qualifier of late. Still, it's an incredible way to begin a new legacy, as East English won its division of the Detroit Public School League and is one of four teams playing in a PSL Semifinal on Friday.

Following are a number of other significant results from Week 7 as the regular season stares down its final two weeks.

Thumb and Bay

Flint Powers Catholic 32, Flint Carman-Ainsworth 7

This might be the most impressive of victories so far for the reigning MHSAA Division 5 champion, which moved to 7-0 and a win away from claiming a share of the Saginaw Valley Association South title. Carman-Ainsworth (6-1) was riding two straight shutouts and hadn't give up more than 12 points in a game this fall, but a combination of five turnovers and Powers quarterback Garrett Pougnet made for a tough night. Click to read more from the Flint Journal.

Also noted:

Akron-Fairgrove 22, Owendale-Gagetown 20 – Owendale-Gagetown (5-2) won the first game beteween these two, but the second matchup counts toward the league title; Akron-Fairgrove (5-2) now owns the edge in the Mid-Michigan 8-Man League.

Hemlock 21, Freeland 7 – The Huskies (6-1) claimed the Tri-Valley Conference Central title, their first league championship since 1977; Freeland fell to 5-2.

Marine City 34, Marysville 13 – Marine City moved to 6-1 and remained tied for first in the Macomb Area Conference Gold, while Marysville fell to 5-2.

Bay City Western 34, Mount Pleasant 26 – Western improved to 7-0 to remain tied for first with Midland in the SVA North, and might’ve knocked Mount Pleasant (3-4) out of playoff contention.


Lansing Everett 22, Grand Ledge 21 (OT)

It took overtime and a gutsy call by Everett coach Marcelle Carruthers to follow his players’ request and run instead of pass for a two-point conversion to win. But the Vikings (7-0) need just one more victory to claim a share of the Capital Area Activities Conference Blue championship, which would be their first league title since 1986. The second-place Comets (5-2) are now faced with beating East Lansing or Holt, playoff contenders both, to earn that sixth win. Click to read more from the Lansing State Journal.

Also noted:

Fowler 14, Pewamo-Westphalia 0 – Both rivals made MHSAA Finals last season; Fowler (6-1) earned a share of the Central Michigan Athletic Conference title by beating the second-place Pirates (5-2).

Lansing Catholic 41, Portland 32 – Locally, Portland (6-1) seemed like the favorite, but Lansing Catholic (6-1) made it two CAAC White titles in a row.

Hartland 34, Grand Blanc 22 – The Eagles (7-0) continued their best season in at least two decades by beating second-place Grand Blanc (4-2) to win the Kensington Lakes Activities Association West title.

Haslett 35, St. Johns 32 – Both finished tied for second in the CAAC Red. But this had greater meaning for Haslett (4-3), which found itself in a must-win against the Redwings (5-2) as both pursue playoff berths.

Greater Detroit

Oak Park 26, Farmington Hills Harrison 21

Oak Park (7-0) won a share of the Oakland Activities Association White championship, its first league title since 1998, and did so coming off four straight losing seasons. The Knights can clinch outright this week against Oxford. Harrison, meanwhile, fell to 4-3 and finds itself needing to win out to guarantee a playoff berth. Click to read more from the Oakland Press.

Also noted:

Dearborn Heights Robichaud 34, Garden City 7 – Robichaud (7-0) avoided a three-way Western Wayne Athletic Conference Red title by winning it outright; Garden City (4-3) tied for second.

Detroit Loyola 28, Waterford Our Lady 18 – Loyola (7-0) claimed a share of the title in the Detroit Catholic League Intersectional, which still has five teams including Our Lady (5-2) up for automatic playoff berths.

Grosse Pointe South 17, Grosse Pointe North 15 – South (6-1) claimed a share of the Macomb Area Conference Blue title by edging the rival Norsemen (4-3).

Birmingham Seaholm 35, Bloomfield Hills Lahser 33 – Seaholm (6-1) edged a win closer to a league title by winning this battle of formerly first-place teams in the OAA Blue; Lahser remains in second place and is 5-2 overall.

Upper Peninsula

Negaunee 20, Ishpeming 8

These were two of the six undefeated teams left in the Upper Peninsula; Negaunee remains now at 7-0 and owns a share of the Mid-Peninsula Conference title. The victory also improved on a recent run of six losses in seven meetings against Ishpeming (6-1). Click to read more from the Marquette Mining Journal.

Also noted:

Calumet 26, L'Anse 6 – The Purple Hornets (6-1) still own their destiny, and with a win over Northland Pines this week can earn a share  of the Western Peninsula Athletic Conference title. Now, however, Calumet (4-3) also can earn a share too.

St. Ignace 39, Pickford 6 – The Saints (6-1) earned a share of the Ski Valley Conference North title, while Pickford (5-2) fell a game back.

Rapid River 30, Eben Junction Superior Central 27 – Cedarville likely won’t slip up in the Bridge Alliance 8-Man Conference, but if so Rapid River (6-1) can earn a share of the title. Superior Central fell to 4-2.

Kingsford 10, Iron Mountain 0 – The Flivvers (6-1) earned a playoff berth and remain in first  place in the Great Northern U.P. Conference; Iron Mountain, at 4-3, must win out.

West Michigan

Grand Rapids Northview 34, Cedar Springs 14

Northview (6-1) became one of three teams so far this fall to earn a playoff berth for the first time, and remains tied for first in the O-K Bronze thanks to this win. With another this week, the Wildcats could face Grand Rapids West Catholic in Week 9 for the league title – unless Cedar Springs (4-3) gives some help by beating West Catholic this week. Click to read more from the Grand Rapids Press.

Also noted:

Grand Rapids Catholic Central 37, Grand Rapids South Christian 17 – The Cougars (7-0) set up an O-K Gold-deciding game against Hastings this week by defeating the third-place Sailors (4-3).

Caledonia 28, Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central 6 – The Fighting Scots (6-1) earned a playoff berth, while Forest Hills Central (4-3) lost its third game in four weeks and needs to win out.

Grand Rapids Kenowa Hills 35, Muskegon Mona Shores 26 – Kenowa Hills (4-3) kept its playoff hopes alive while dealing a blow to Mona Shores (4-3) as it plays for a first berth ever.

Muskegon Oakridge 20, Shelby 9 – Oakridge (7-0) earned a share of the West Michigan Conference title; Shelby (5-2) needs to win one of its next two to earn a playoff berth.

Lower Up North

Traverse City St. Francis 13, Saginaw Nouvel 7

St. Francis’ state-best playoff berth streak of 22 straight seasons isn’t sure to continue yet, but the Gladiators (4-3) stayed alive with a big win over the reigning Division 7 champion Panthers (5-2). St. Francis must win out against Kingsley and Muskegon Catholic Central to earn an automatic berth, while Nouvel must beat either Detroit Edison or Freeland to do so. Click to read more from the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

Also noted:

Maple City Glen Lake 15, Frankfort 12 – Glen Lake (7-0) edged Frankfort (3-4) to finish perfect in the Northwest Conference and continue its best season since 2001.

Traverse City Central 9, Detroit U-D Jesuit 7 – The Trojans (6-1) earned their first playoff berth since 2008 and their first automatic berth since 2005; Jesuit is 2-5 after a 2-1 start.

Cheboygan 28, Sault Ste. Marie 27 (OT) – Cheboygan (5-2) moved a win closer to its first playoff berth in three seasons, and Sault Ste. Marie (4-3) remains alive as well.

Grayling 33, Kalkaska 6 – The Ramblers (7-0) kept pace with Boyne City atop the Lake Michigan Conference, while pushing Kalkaska (5-2) into fourth place.

Southwest and Border

Mattawan 35, Portage Central 34

Mattawan (7-0) has won 13 straight games in the Southwest Michigan Athletic Conference East, going back more than two seasons, but nearly lost the opportunity to face Stevensville Lakeshore this week to win another league championship. Portage Central (5-2) took advantage of two late on-side kick recoveries to put a scare into the Wildcats. Click to read more from the Kalamazoo Gazette.

Also noted:

Stevensville Lakeshore 28, St. Joseph 24 – Lakeshore (7-0) also had to escape rival St. Joseph (3-4) to keep next week’s SMAC West decider alive.

Climax-Scotts 34, Bellevue 18 – The Panthers improved to 7-0 and Bellevue fell to 3-4, but this got headlines because C-S earned its 100th win over the last 10 seasons.

Dowagiac 31, Three Rivers 28 – Dowagiac (7-0) will face Edwardsburg this week to decide the Wolverine B South title, but nearly tripped up against Three Rivers (4-3) on the way.

Edwardsburg 26, Berrien Springs 20 – The Eddies (6-1) also caught a scare before this week’s big matchup, needing to outlast the Shamrocks (1-6).

Trophy Games

Every week, the MHSAA highlights trophy games played throughout the state. Here are three from Week 7:

  • Baseline Jug – This trophy contested by Northville and Novi dates back to 1988, and this season Northville surivived a close call to claim it again, plus a share of the Kensington Lakes Activities Association Central title. Final: Northville 21, Novi 14 (OT).
  • The Bell – The Bell was first awarded to the winner of Reading/Quincy in 1975, and the Rangers made it six straight over their rival. Final: Reading 34, Quincy 6.
  • Skipper's Oar – Not only did Waterford Kettering celebrate getting this trophy back after a year in Mott's hands, but also the Captains earned their first win this fall. Final: Kettering 42, Mott 14.

PHOTO: Flint Powers senior Nick Sullivan blocks a punt by Carman-Ainsworth junior Connor Storms during the Chargers' 32-7 win Friday. (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.)