Drive for Detroit: Week 8 Preview

October 11, 2018

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Every fall we say it again: We can’t believe how quickly football season flies by.

But here we are in Week 8, midway through another October, heading into the home stretch for many and the most anticipated weeks for the most fortunate.

With two regular-season games to play, 117 of 256 11-player playoff spots are filled, and 83 more teams can clinch postseason berths this weekend. The Detroit Public School League begins its playoffs tonight and Saturday, while many other leagues across the state will either be finishing up their schedules and/or crowning champions over the next 72 hours. 

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 11 games this weekend including five mentioned below. Our “Drive for Detroit” previews are powered by MI Student Aid. 

Bay & Thumb

Roseville (5-2) at Port Huron Northern (6-1)

Both are undefeated in Macomb Area Conference Blue play heading into this winner-take-all league finale. The Huskies are attempting to take the next step after finishing second in the MAC Gold both of the last two seasons, while Roseville was one of three teams to share the Blue title a year ago – and is looking to also avenge last season’s 13-7 first-round playoff loss to Northern.

Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Midland Dow (5-2) at Mount Pleasant (7-0), Sandusky (7-0) at Harbor Beach (6-1), Fenton (5-2) at Swartz Creek (6-1), Haslett (6-1) at Goodrich (5-2).

Greater Detroit 

Warren DeLaSalle (6-1) at Detroit Catholic Central (5-2), Sunday

The Detroit area features league championship-deciding games Friday, Saturday and Sunday, with this a clash of MHSAA title contenders as well. Reigning Division 2 champion DeLaSalle has clinched a share of the Catholic League Central title after winning it outright a year ago by defeating the Shamrocks. The Pilots then beat DCC the following week as well in the Prep Bowl, and this weekend’s game could potentially be the first of two straight between these powers again.

Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Farmington (6-1) at Birmingham Seaholm (6-1), Walled Lake Western (5-2) at South Lyon (7-0), Riverview (6-1) at Grosse Ile (7-0), SATURDAY St. Clair Shores Lake Shore (6-1) at Warren Woods Tower (7-0).


Saginaw Michigan Lutheran Seminary (6-1) at Ithaca (6-1) 

The Cardinals’ loss last week to Hemlock took some of the juice out of this one, but an MLS win would create a three-team share of the Tri-Valley Conference West championship between these two and the Huskies. Ithaca hasn’t lost a league game since 2009, and counting the share it owns already this fall has won 10 straight TVC West titles. The Cardinals’ defense has been especially impressive, giving up just over nine points per game, and it will need to come up big again as Ithaca’s offense remains on a scorching 45-ppg pace.

Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Pewamo-Westphalia (7-0) at Fowler (4-3), Lake Fenton (4-3) at Williamston (6-1), Climax-Scotts (3-3) at Breckenridge (7-0), Brighton (6-1) at Howell (4-3).

Northern Lower Peninsula 

Gaylord (5-2) at Traverse City West (5-2), Saturday

The Blue Devils can’t move into a first-place tie in the Big North Conference with a win in this one, but they can make the league race pretty messy. West is undefeated in league play, but a Gaylord win would give Traverse City Central and Petoskey opportunities to share or win the championship outright. The reigning league champion Titans have beaten Gaylord in 12 straight – but this is a better Blue Devils team than most during that string. A sixth win would tie Gaylord’s most in a season over the last 15.

Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Escanaba (5-2) at Traverse City Central (6-1), Kingsley (6-1) at Cheboygan (4-3), Boyne City (3-4) at Benzie Central (4-3), Elk Rapids (5-2) at Harbor Springs (6-1).

Southeast & Border

Springport (7-0) at Reading (7-0)

The Big 8 Conference title comes down to this, one of three matchups this week between 7-0 teams. Reading has won 16 straight league games, including a sweep of all seven in earning last season’s championship, but these two have split their last eight meetings. The Rangers might have the most statistically impressive defense in the state – they’ve given up just 19 points this season – and it will be key against a Springport offense averaging 45 points (although Reading averages 50).

Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Monroe (6-1) at Saline (6-1), Clinton (6-1) at Ottawa Lake Whiteford (7-0), Hillsdale (7-0) at Brooklyn Columbia Central (6-1), Michigan Center (6-1) at Napoleon (5-2).

Southwest Corridor

Constantine (6-1) at Kalamazoo United (7-0)

Constantine’s loss two weeks ago to Schoolcraft has it sitting third in the Southwestern Athletic Conference Valley behind the Eagles and United. Those co-leaders meet in Week 9 – but Kalamazoo of course won’t look past tonight. The last two games between the Falcons and Titans have been decided by a combined seven points – although both in Kalamazoo’s favor. Constantine’s running attack may need to be the key to slowing down a United offense averaging 60 points per game.

Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Olivet (7-0) at Berrien Springs (6-1), Cassopolis (7-0) at Mendon (4-3), Mattawan (5-2) at Portage Central (5-2), Athens (3-3) at Three Oaks River Valley (4-3).

Upper Peninsula

Gladstone (3-4) at Marquette (3-4)

When it a matchup between two sub-.500 teams the best in a region? When both are fighting for playoff possibilities – and a league title. Thanks to one-point wins over Escanaba and Kingsford, the Redmen have all but wrapped up the Great Northern Conference championship. Gladstone has only the slimmest chance of ending up with a piece of the league title, but the Braves can still shake things up – and like Marquette must finish 5-4 to earn an opportunity for an at-large playoff bid.

Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Iron River West Iron County (5-2) at Gwinn (5-2), Rogers City (6-1) at St. Ignace (4-3), Munising (4-3) at Ishpeming (7-0), Negaunee (4-3) at Houghton (3-4).

West Michigan

Muskegon Mona Shores (7-0) at Muskegon (7-0)

With the reigning Division 3 champion Big Reds down the road, Mona Shores probably isn’t getting as much attention as it might elsewhere. But the Sailors can earn it tonight in this battle for a share of the Ottawa-Kent Conference Black title. Mona Shores gave Muskegon the latter’s closest game a year ago, losing by just 11. The Big Reds have proven themselves again this fall against some of the state’s elite – but the Sailors belong in that conversation too and have the enviable  opportunity to show it.

Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Zeeland East (6-1) at Zeeland West (6-1), East Grand Rapids (5-2) at Grand Rapids Christian (5-2), Lake City (7-0) at Kent City (7-0), Grand Rapids West Catholic (4-3) at Grand Rapids Catholic Central (6-1).


Posen (6-1) at AuGres-Sims (7-0)

AuGres-Sims’ first season of 8-player football couldn’t be going much better, as it clinched a share of the Midwest Central Football Conference East last week and can finish the outright title tonight against second-place Posen (which is tied for that position with Hillman). The Wolverines have four shutouts and have given up a combined 30 points over their other three games. But Posen deserves it’s due too – its six wins are as many as the last two seasons combined, and the only defeat was by four to Hillman two weeks ago. An upset tonight would be one of the most memorable wins of the last decade for one of the state’s first 8-player adopters. 

Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Rapid River (5-2) at Engadine (6-1), Peck (5-2) at Kingston (6-1), Suttons Bay (6-1) at Onekama (6-1), Ontonagon (4-3) at Crystal Falls Forest Park (4-3). 

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: Breckenridge charges ahead against Carson City-Crystal last week on the way to clinching the Mid-State Activities Conference title. (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.)