Drive for Detroit: Week 7 in Review

October 14, 2019

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Shared, guaranteed, locked up and clinched outright are frequent and favorite verbs and phrases that begin appearing in "Drive for Detroit" this time of year. Automatic and additional qualifiers are regulars right now as well. 

You'll find all of them used a whole bunch in this week's review as the regular season continued to speed toward its conclusion.

A number of league championships were clinched, and many more teams claimed a first share of a title with the opportunity to win it outright over the next two weeks. And that playoff qualifier list is up to 110 teams in 11-player, with another 86 in with a win this week. 

"Drive for Detroit" is sponsored by MI Student Aid.

Bay & Thumb

HEADLINER Beaverton 20, Clare 0 With their first win over Clare since 1990, the Beavers (7-0) are guaranteed a share of their second-straight league title and sit one more victory from claiming the Jack Pine Conference outright for the first time since 1989. Beaverton actually ended its JPC drought a year ago sharing the league title with Clare and Roscommon, but missed out on the outright championship thanks to a 21-2 loss to the Pioneers. Clare (6-1) hadn’t been shut out since a 2014 District Final. Click for more from the Midland Daily News and see highlights below from MI Sports Now.

Watch list Port Huron Northern 29, Port Huron 26 League title shares were earned in five of six divisions on the Macomb Area Conference, including the Blue where the Huskies (6-1) won their third straight Crosstown Showdown to take a one-game lead on Port Huron (5-2) and St. Clair Shores Lakeview with a league game to play.  

Remember this one Almont 28, Richmond 10 The Raiders locked up a share of the Blue Water Area Conference title by handing a first loss to the rival Blue Devils (6-1). Almont (7-0) can close out a second-straight outright championship this week against Yale. Richmond may await again in the playoffs, however.

More shoutouts Marine City 35, St. Clair 10 The Mariners (7-0) locked up the MAC Silver and sent St. Clair (6-1) into a tie for second place with Marysville, Marine City’s opponent this week. Fenton 20, Flushing 7 After a season finishing third, Fenton clinched its eighth league title in nine seasons, winning outright the first-year Flint Metro League “Upper” division made up of the league’s larger schools.

Greater Detroit

HEADLINER Detroit Catholic Central 20, Orchard Lake St. Mary's 14 A Week 6 loss to Warren De La Salle Collegiate nearly knocked the Shamrocks (4-3) out of Detroit Catholic League Central contention. But they came back to hand Orchard Lake St. Mary’s its lone defeat and earn a share of the title – along with a likely rematch with the Eaglets in two weeks. DCC scored the game’s final 20 points and held St. Mary’s (6-1) scoreless during the second half. Click for more from the Oakland Press.

Watch list Detroit Mumford 18, Detroit Renaissance 14 Three of four teams in the Detroit Public School League Division 1 shared the championship, and Mumford made that happen in this game after previously falling to Cass Tech, which had lost to Renaissance. Mumford and Renaissance could see each other again in two weeks in the PSL 1/2 championship game.

Remember this one Dearborn Fordson 33, Livonia Franklin 21 After losing its claim to first place last week against Belleville, Fordson (6-1) kept its hopes alive for a shared Kensington Lakes Activities Association East title by dealing the Patriots (6-1) their first defeat. Franklin faces Belleville this week with a chance to create a three-way shared championship between those two and the Tractors.

More shoutouts Walled Lake Western 40, South Lyon 10 The Warriors (6-1) faces rivals Northern and Central down the stretch, but moved into first place alone in the Lakes Valley Conference with South Lyon (6-1) hoping for help to get back into the title mix. Detroit U-D Jesuit 26, Detroit Loyola 8 The Cubs (5-2) finished an outright Catholic League AA championship run for their first league title since 1989, while sending Loyola to 3-4 and needing to win out for a chance at making the playoffs as an additional qualifier. Warren De La Salle Collegiate 22, Davison 0 For the second straight season the Pilots (4-3) stunned an undefeated Davison team, this time to also keep their playoff hopes alive. 


HEADLINER Breckenridge 32, Carson City-Crystal 0 Life for Breckenridge football changed drastically when the program moved to the Mid-State Activities Conference in 2016 (after going 0-9 overall in 2015). This win gave the Huskies their fourth straight outright league title and ran their league winning streak to 23. Breckenridge (6-1) outscored its four MSAC opponents this season by a combined 161-8 – and that’s with the Eagles (4-3) and Merrill both still pursuing automatic playoff bids. Click for more from the Mount Pleasant Morning Sun.

Watch list Beal City 14, Roscommon 12 The Aggies (7-0) won’t celebrate too much with surging McBain coming up this week, but they earned a share of the Highland Conference championship by edging Roscommon (1-6) in their closest game to date this fall.

Remember this one Mason 20, Williamston 9 The Bulldogs (7-0) have continued to march, now to their first league title since 2011, and with an opportunity to make another large statement this week against also-unbeaten Portland. Wiliamston (4-3) is another team now facing a must-win situation – but has undefeated Olivet and Pewamo-Westphalia left.

More shoutouts Howell 38, Canton 31 The Highlanders (4-3) still control their playoffs hopes, with rival Brighton up next, while Canton (3-4) will try to make the postseason for the 12th straight year but this time as an additional qualifier. Olivet 42, Lake Odessa Lakewood 0 The Eagles (7-0) also not only swept their league but dominated from start to finish, outscoring four Greater Lansing Activities Conference opponents by a combined 171-12.  

Northern Lower Peninsula

HEADLINER Johannesburg-Lewiston 37, Harbor Springs 18 The Cardinals (7-0) guaranteed extending their reign in the Northern Michigan Football League Legacy, earning a share of the division title with a chance to win outright in two weeks against winless Indian River Inland Lakes. Johannesburg-Lewiston also finished a game ahead of Harbor Springs (5-2) a year ago after winning their meeting 18-15, but left no doubt this time with running back Logan Finnerty leading the way in a big way. Click for more from the Gaylord Herald Times.

Watch list Kingsley 53, Maple City Glen Lake 14 The Stags (7-0) took a week off from their pursuit of the NMFL Legends title to take on Leaders co-leader Glen Lake (6-1) – and should have even more statewide eyes turning their way after a one-sided result.

Remember this one Traverse City Central 43, Alpena 7 The Trojans (6-1) are back on top in the Big North Conference after back-to-back second-place finishes, earning a share of the title while putting Alpena (3-4) in a must-win situation as it looks to make the playoffs for the first time since 2004.

More shoutouts Charlevoix 22, Mancelona 20 The Rayders (5-2) did their part to set up this week’s Leaders-deciding matchup with Glen Lake, avenging last season’s loss to the Ironmen (4-3). Ogemaw Heights 32, Tawas 8 The Falcons (5-2) pulled another win closer to what would be their first playoff berth since 2013, while no doubt hampering a potential postseason return for Tawas (3-4).

Southeast & Border

HEADLINER Addison 20, Grass Lake 16 Reigning Cascades Conference champion Grass Lake (6-1) rolled through most of its first six games but was brought nearly to a stop by Addison, which grabbed a share of the league title by shutting down a Warriors offense that was averaging 47 points per game. The Panthers (6-1) have bounced back well since losing opening night to Britton Deerfield and can finish an outright championship run this week against Napoleon. Click for more from the Jackson Citizen Patriot and see highlights below from JTV.

Watch list Clinton 44, Ottawa Lake Whiteford 20 Five of seven teams in the Tri-County Conference are still up for automatic playoff bids, and sitting on top is Clinton (7-0) with a share of the league title after beating three-time reigning TCC champion Whiteford (4-3).

Remember this one Reading 50, Jonesville 0 This shouldn’t put a damper on a great comeback season by Jonesville (5-2), but the Rangers (6-1) remain the force of the Big 8 Conference having clinched a share of a third-straight title and increased their overall league scoring margin this fall to 314-32.

More shoutouts Milan 22, New Boston Huron 21 The Big Reds (7-0) earned a share of the Huron League title with their closest win this fall, but face another tough opponent in Carleton Airport this week as they look to lock up the championship outright. Britton Deerfield 30, Royal Oak Shrine Catholic 14 The Patriots (4-3) kept their playoff hopes alive with a bit of a stunner, handing Catholic League Intersectional 2 co-leader Shrine (6-1) its lone defeat.

Southwest Corridor

HEADLINER Battle Creek Lakeview 14, St. Joseph 0 Both of these teams could end the regular season as outright champions of their respective Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference divisions. And that would make this win even sweeter for East leader Lakeview, which posted its first shutout of the fall by shutting down an offense that was averaging 38 points per game. The Spartans (7-0) already own a share of their league title and face Kalamazoo Loy Norrix this week in hopes of wrapping things up outright. St. Joseph (6-1) will try to bounce back against DeWitt this week before meeting Portage Northern for the SMAC West title in Week 9. See below for highlights from FOX 17.

Watch list Kalamazoo United 14, Delton Kellogg 6 The scene might’ve been a little bleak after Kalamazoo United (4-3) opened this season with three defeats after last year’s 11-1 run. But the Titans have set themselves up as well as possible for a memorable finish, downing Delton (4-3) and with Constantine and Schoolcraft to finish as league title and playoff hopes hang in the balance.

Remember this one Coldwater 14, Parma Western 13 (OT) Jackson Lumen Christi has all but locked up their Interstate 8 Athletic Conference title, but these former contenders may have provided a preview of a playoff matchup to come.

More shoutouts Paw Paw 35, Vicksburg 6 Both have one more game to play, but it appears the Wolverine Conference championship is almost sure to be decided between undefeated Paw Paw and Edwardsburg, as both have now gotten past a major obstacle in Vicksburg (5-2). Niles Brandywine 44, Gobles 0 The Bobcats (7-0) are two wins against teams both 2-5 from a first perfect regular season since 1995 and have outscored their first seven opponents by a combined 344-33.

Upper Peninsula

HEADLINER Marquette 28, Menominee 21 The Redmen (3-4) find themselves in a rare situation. They must win out to have a chance to make the playoffs as an additional qualifier. But with this victory over Menominee, they continue to sit alone atop the Great Northern Conference standings having beaten arguably the two other best teams in the league (Kingsford, like Menominee, is 4-3 and faces Marquette in Week 9). Click for more from FOX Sports Marquette and see a highlight below from the Marquette School Broadcast Program.

Watch list Ishpeming 28, West Iron County 0 The Hematites (5-2) moved into first place alone in the Western Peninsula Athletic Conference Iron with not only their third win over West Iron over the last two seasons, but also their third shutout of the Wykons (5-2) during that time.

Remember this one Ishpeming Westwood 30, L'Anse 6 With Week 9 opponent Negaunee also surging, getting past L’Anse was key as Westwood (5-2) works for a third consecutive playoff appearance. The Purple Hornets (4-3) find themselves in the opposite spot, needing to win out against Iron Mountain and Calumet to guarantee returning to the postseason for the first time since 2013.

More shoutouts Iron Mountain 42, Hancock 6 The Mountaineers (7-0) moved to within a win of clinching a share of the West PAC Copper title, all the more impressive considering six of eight teams in the league are still in the hunt for automatic playoff berths – Hancock (4-3) among them. St. Ignace 22, Indian River Inland Lakes 14 The Saints (4-3) are seeking their first playoff appearance since 2016 and look good to qualify automatically with their final two opponents a combined 2-12.

West Michigan

HEADLINER Rockford 17, Hudsonville 7 Just as there’s something impressive in winning every game by a large margin, there can be something impressive in stringing together close victories – and the Rams (7-0) are shining at the latter. This was Rockford’s fourth win by 10 points or fewer while taking on a schedule that could end up including champions from three other leagues in addition to the other contenders in the Ottawa-Kent Conference Red. Rockford can clinch a share of its league’s title this week against Grandville, which is tied with Hudsonville (5-2) for second place. See below for highlights from State Champs Sports Network.

Watch list Byron Center 49, Zeeland East 7 The road doesn’t get easier this week with Hudsonville Unity Christian up next, but Byron Center is a step ahead after taking over the top spot alone in the O-K Green by handing this first league loss to the Chix (5-2).

Remember this one Reed City 34, Central Montcalm 6 The Coyotes got off to a rare start with their first league loss Week 3 since 2014. But they’ve stormed back into a tie for first in the Central State Activities Association Gold, this weekend handing co-leader Central Montcalm (6-1) its only defeat with one league game left for both teams.

More shoutouts Cedar Springs 44, Lowell 20 The Red Hawks (6-1) moved within a win of clinching the O-K White title by sending Lowell (4-3) out of first and into a tie for second place. Grand Rapids Christian 27, Grand Rapids South Christian 20 The Eagles (5-2) will face East Grand Rapids this week with a share of the O-K Gold title on the line after avenging last season’s lone league loss, to South Christian (3-4).


HEADLINER Burr Oak 33, Tekonsha 18 The Bobcats (5-2) gave up their first points of this season in Southern Central Athletic Association B play – but also clinched the league title outright and guaranteed their winningest season since at least 2013. Burr Oak had lost six straight to Tekonsha (3-4), including 42-6 a year ago. Click for more from the Coldwater Daily Reporter.

Watch list Mesick 42, Brethren 12 The Bulldogs (6-1) claimed a share of the West Michigan D League championship with this victory over reigning champion Brethren (4-3), and with only winless Bear Lake left on the conference schedule.

Remember this one Hillman 38, Pellston 14 The Tigers (6-1) moved into first place alone in the Midwest Central Michigan Conference East by icing a Pellston offense that averaged 49 points per game during the team’s 6-0 start this fall.

More shoutouts Colon 55, Camden-Frontier 0 The Magi (7-0) made it 2-for-2 on league title runs since moving to 8-player, clinching the SCAA A with their ninth straight league win over two seasons. Pickford 46, Gaylord St. Mary 23 This game came together after both teams had an original opponent forfeit, and reigning Division 1 runner-up Pickford (6-1) appears revved for another long tournament run after slowing down a St. Mary offense that was averaging 59.9 points per game.

Second Half’s weekly “Drive for Detroit” previews are powered by MI Student Aid, a part of the Office of Postsecondary Financial Planning 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. MI Student Aid administers the state’s 529 college savings programs (MET/MESP), as well as scholarship and grant programs that help make college Accessible, Affordable and Attainable for you. Connect with MI Student Aid at and find more information on Facebook and Twitter @mistudentaid.

PHOTO: A Port Huron Northern defender, right, pursues the ball carrier during a 29-26 win over rival Port Huron on Friday. (Photo by Delta Imaging.)

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.)