Drive for Detroit: Week 7 in Review

October 9, 2017

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Be forewarned: There were more incredible and meaningful finishes in Michigan High School football this weekend than meet the parameters of our weekly “Drive for Detroit” report.

A pair of incredible winning streaks ended on the west side of the state. Another Grand Rapids area game featured record book individual performances from both teams. The Upper Peninsula saw four undefeated teams fall. And the Detroit area had enough great games to fill half our weekly review – but of course we led with a legendary coach tying another for the career wins record.

Below are five results from each region that stuck out most (and we’ll be sure to catch up with the successes of Detroit Martin Luther King, Madison Heights Madison, Clarkston Everest Collegiate and others in reports to come). Drive for Detroit is powered by MI Student Aid

Bay & Thumb

Frankenmuth 28, Millington 22

Given the similar numbers these rivals had put up this season, another close finish hardly was a surprise. The Eagles (7-0) took a 20-point lead into halftime and held off the Cardinals’ fourth-quarter comeback to clinch a share of the Tri-Valley Conference East title – and extend their winning streak over Millington (6-1) to three straight. Click for more from the Saginaw News.

Also noted:

Carrollton 26, Alma 14 – A week after Alma knocked reigning champion Freeland out of the TVC Central race, Carrollton (6-1) pushed its way in by handing the Panthers (6-1) their first league loss; both now chase Saginaw Swan Valley.

Fenton 52, Flushing 35 – The Tigers (7-0) clinched a share of their seventh straight Flint Metro League title with their fourth win in four seasons over the Raiders (5-2).

Davison 35, Lapeer 17 – The Cardinals (6-1) knocked Lapeer (5-2) out of a tie for first in the Saginaw Valley League Blue, but will now root for the Lightning to beat leader Midland this week so all three can share the championship.

Bay City John Glenn 28, Bay City Central 24 – John Glenn (4-3) kept its playoff hopes alive by winning the first meeting between these teams since 1990, while Central (3-4) may have seen its hopes dashed by a third loss of seven points or fewer.

Greater Detroit

Farmington Hills Harrison 17, Oak Park 14

It was considered inevitable that Harrison coach John Herrington would get his 430th win and tie Al Fracassa for the most football victories in state history. But maybe not against Oak Park (5-2), which was undefeated in the Oakland Activities Association White. Instead, the Hawks (5-2) moved into a three-way tie for first with the Knights and Birmingham Groves, and only last-place Berkley is left on the league schedule as Herrington looks to break the record this week. Click for more from MLive-Detroit.

Also noted:

Livonia Churchill 21, Grand Blanc 9 – The Chargers (6-1) won a matchup of teams previously undefeated in the Kensington Lakes Activities Association Gold to clinch a share of the league title, while Grand Blanc (6-1) suffered the first loss of what already is its best season since 2013.

Rochester Adams 21, Clarkston 14 – The Highlanders (6-1) cleared what looked to be the last major hurdle in at least sharing the OAA Red title; Clarkston (5-2) was tied for first with Adams and West Bloomfield, and Adams finishes the league schedule this week against winless Troy Athens.

Madison Heights Lamphere 28, Clinton Township Clintondale 20 – The Eagles (4-3) handed Clintondale (6-1) its first loss to finish a perfect run through the Macomb Area Conference Bronze and claim the outright title after going 0-9 last season.

Dearborn Divine Child 14, Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard 13 – Only a point separated these 6-1 teams, but that point gave Divine Child a share of the Detroit Catholic League AA championship. 


DeWitt 28, Haslett 0

It’s impossible to argue DeWitt isn’t the best team in the Lansing area this season, with its Week 2 win over Grand Ledge and now another outright Capital Area Activities Conference Red title with this victory over second-place Haslett (5-2). The Panthers (6-1) haven’t lost a league game since 2008 and will move into the CAAC Blue next season with Grand Ledge and the rest of the area’s largest schools. Haslett, meanwhile, can still finish with its best regular season since 2006 by winning out. Click for more from the Lansing State Journal.

Also noted:

Belding 42, Wyoming Godwin Heights 35 – This win for the Knights (6-1) combined with Kelloggsville’s (see “West Michigan” below) makes this week’s matchup for a share of the Ottawa-Kent Conference Silver title; Godwin Heights (5-2) will turn its attention to earning a third straight playoff berth.

Lansing Sexton 18, Holt 16 – The Big Reds (5-2), with another win over one of the state’s largest schools, are looking powerful again as they project to slot into Division 4; Holt (3-4) must win out to have a shot at an at-large bid as it looks to get back to the playoffs for the first time since 2013.

Vermontville Maple Valley 38, Perry 13 – The Lions (4-3) have a tough road to win out with undefeated Kent City next, but control their ability to earn a first playoff berth since 2005; Perry (3-4) is hanging on to an at-large possibility as it looks to qualify for the first time ever.

Ithaca 51, Ovid-Elsie 16 – We don’t talk about Ithaca much during the regular season because its margins of victory usually are substantial and expected, but this time the Yellowjackets (7-0) clinched a share of another Tri-Valley Conference West title by beating the second-place Marauders (5-2) and while extending their regular-season win streak to 71 going back to 2009. 

Northern Lower Peninsula

Gaylord St. Mary 34, Johannesburg-Lewiston 18

St. Mary improved to 7-0 to set up a matchup with Harbor Springs this week for a share of the Northern Michigan Football League Legacy title – and those seven wins also represent the Snowbirds’ most in a season since 2009. Johannesburg-Lewiston (4-3) still can figure into the league picture as it works to return to the playoffs after missing a year ago; the Cardinals face Harbor Springs in Week 9. Click for more from 9&10 News.

Also noted:

Elk Rapids 23, Grayling 8 – The Elks (6-1) tied their highest win total since 2010 by avenging last season’s 34-0 loss to the Vikings (4-3).

Lake City 26, Evart 14 – The Trojans (7-0) finished a perfect run through the Highland Conference after going 2-7 overall last season and 1-4 in league play; Evart (3-4) remains alive for an at-large playoff bid.

Hillman 35, Oscoda 21 – The Tigers (4-3) have bounced back from an 0-3 start as they try to extend their playoff streak to 12 seasons, but Oscoda (4-3) must bounce back from two straight losses to guarantee qualifying for the second straight.

Gaylord 24, Petoskey 7 – The Blue Devils (4-3) earned themselves a shot at a share of the Big North Conference title this week against first-place Traverse City West by downing a Petoskey team much better than its 2-5 record with a win over Escanaba and close losses to Marquette and Traverse City Central this fall. 

Southeast & Border

Ida 16, Hudson 0

With two league games to play, these two are tied for first in the Lenawee County Athletic Association after sharing the championship a year ago. Ida (6-1) with this win avenged last year’s one-point loss to the Tigers (6-1) and also ran a shutout streak to two straight games; Hudson hadn’t been shut out since 2015. Both teams face Onsted (5-2) over the next two weeks, while Hudson also faces Blissfield (4-3) and Ida has Hillsdale (3-4). Click for more from the Adrian Daily Telegram.

Also noted:

Pinckney 42, Adrian 14 – In its first season in the Southeastern Conference White, Pinckney (6-1) won a share of its first league title since 1995 while sending Adrian (3-4) into at-large playoff territory.

Chelsea 14, Ypsilanti Community 7 – Chelsea (6-1) clinched the other share of the SEC White, getting by Ypsilanti Community (5-2) with a late score.

Pittsford 24, Athens 0 – Four of five teams in the Southern Central Athletic Association are poised to make the playoffs, but Pittsford (6-1) and Climax-Scotts are the leaders in league play although Athens (5-2) still has a shot at a shared title.

Addison 42, Grass Lake 12 – The Panthers (6-1) pulled within one more win of claiming at least a shared Cascades Conference title after going 3-4 in the league a year ago; reigning champ Grass Lake (4-3) needs to win out to guarantee a 13th straight playoff berth. 

Southwest Corridor

Three Rivers 21, Edwardsburg 18

All streaks come to an end, of course, and Edwardsburg’s run of 34 straight Wolverine B Conference victories won’t soon be forgotten. Neither will Three Rivers’ persistence in breaking it. Three times the Wildcats trailed Friday, including late in the fourth quarter before prevailing and putting the league title up for grabs for the first time in a while. Edwardsburg, Three Rivers and Vicksburg all are 6-1 in the league (and overall) with two games to play. Click for more from the Kalamazoo Gazette.

Also noted:

Coloma 32, Schoolcraft 7 – The Comets (5-2) handed Schoolcraft its first league loss since 2014 and after falling to the Eagles (5-2) last season 48-7 and 41-7 in 2015.

Battle Creek Harper Creek 17, Coldwater 7 – The Beavers (7-0) claimed a share of the Interstate 8 Athletic Conference championship for the second year in a row by avenging last season’s only league loss, to Coldwater (4-3).

Cassopolis 45, Hartford 0 – The Rangers (7-0) set themselves up to face undefeated Mendon this week for a share of the Southwest 10 Conference title, while Hartford (5-2) has two chances left to pick up an automatic playoff bid after going 2-7 a year ago.

Watervliet 68, Constantine 24 – The Panthers’ output on offense is simply incredible; Watervliet (7-0) still hasn’t scored fewer than 50 this season, and Constantine (3-4) hadn’t given up more than 41 since facing the Panthers last season. 

Upper Peninsula

Newberry 28, Norway 14

This will be remembered as one of the stunning wins north of the bridge this season. Norway (6-1) had been cruising along with all but one win this fall by at least two touchdowns (and the seven-pointer was against a team from Wisconsin). But Newberry didn’t have a game Week 6, and clearly was ready for a Knights team that could’ve clinched a share of the Mid-Eastern Conference title in its first season in the league. Newberry (4-2) instead has a share for sure, and the winner of this week’s Norway/Lake Linden-Hubbell game will claim one as well. Click for more from the Iron Mountain Daily News.

Also noted:

Escanaba 35, Gladstone 14 – While nonleague, winning this game gave the Eskymos (6-1) the unofficial “Best in the U.P.” title and rightfully so as its only loss was Week 2 to Petoskey and Gladstone (6-1) hadn’t been beaten.

Calumet 22, L’Anse 14 – The Copper Kings (4-3) had to win this one to keep a few playoff options open with two tough games left, and L’Anse (4-3) finds itself in must-win mode as well.

Bessemer Gogebic 14, Bark River-Harris 0 – The Miners (3-4) have put themselves back in the hunt with two straight wins over teams with playoff hopes; Bark River-Harris (3-4) now also must hope for an at-large bid.

Lake Linden-Hubbell 12, Houghton 8 – The Lakes (3-3) keep chipping away after their 0-3 start, with the greatest challenge yet coming this week against Norway. 

West Michigan

Holland West Ottawa 35, Rockford 30

Holland West Ottawa earned a share of the O-K Red championship, an accomplishment with statewide impact regardless of how and against whom. But beating Rockford (4-3) for the first time since 2002 to do so – breaking a 16-game losing streak to the Rams – made this incredibly sweet as well. The Panthers (6-1) have lost this season only to undefeated Forest Hills Central, not bad after two straight 2-7 finishes. Click for more from the Holland Sentinel.

Also noted:

Grand Rapids Catholic Central 57, Comstock Park 50 – Nolan Fugate’s 477 rushing yards for GRCC (7-0) were the fourth-most in MHSAA history and needed to combat an MHSAA record-tying 18 receptions by Hunter Spence to lead Comstock Park (4-3).

Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central 35, Lowell 6 – The Rangers (7-0) earned the opportunity to face Cedar Springs this week with the O-K White title on the line by handing Lowell (4-3) its second straight loss; the Red Arrows must win out to guarantee adding to their 18-year playoff streak.

Wyoming Kelloggsville 36, Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian 21 – See the Belding entry under “Mid-Michigan” for more explanation, but this win gave Kelloggsville (7-0) a spot in an unofficial O-K Silver championship game while NorthPointe (5-2) will try to make the playoffs against Godwin Heights this week.

Montague 40, Muskegon Oakridge 0 – The Wildcats (7-0) clinched a share of the West Michigan Conference title by handing rival Oakridge (5-2) its first shutout since opening night 2014 and after losing to the Eagles by three a year ago.


Rapid River 16, Stephenson 14

These two have ruled the Western Eight Conference this season and were considered by some the best in all of the Upper Peninsula in 8-player. Those reputations were based in part on high-scoring offenses – so of course defense dominated, especially as Rapid River (7-0) held down a Stephenson attack averaging 55 points a game heading into the night (Rapid River had been averaging only 45 per). The Eagles (6-1) had beaten the Rockets 52-8 last season, and now must root for Powers North Central this week and beat the Jets in Week 9 in hopes of gaining a share of the league title. Click for more from the Escanaba Daily Press.

Also noted:

Engadine 30, Cedarville 26 – The Eagles (5-2) are among the few who have had Cedarville’s number lately, with this win their third in two years over the Trojans (6-1).

Kingston 30, Morrice 26 – A week after knocking Deckerville out of their first-place tie in the North Central Thumb League Stars division, Morrice (6-1) fell back into a tie with this upset by the Cardinals (5-2).

Deckerville 56, Flint International Academy 36 – The Eagles (6-1) took full advantage of Morrice’s loss to climb into an NCTL Stars tie for first while sending the Flames (5-2) into third place.

Tekonsha 14, Battle Creek St. Philip 12 – Tekonsha (4-3) had never beaten St. Philip (4-3) in 8-player and had scored 20 total points over five games against the Tigers.

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PHOTO: Newberry defenders swarm a Norway ball carrier in handing the Knights their first loss of the season Friday. (Photo by Jeff Rochefort.)

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.)