Drive for Detroit: Week 8 in Review

October 15, 2012

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

As the old cliché goes, Week 8 was why they play the games.

Sure, some of the weekend’s results could be anticipated. But others – think Detroit Martin Luther King over Cass Tech, Oxford over Oak Park and Bessemer over Crystal Falls Forest Park to mention a few – no doubt caught some high school football fans by surprise.

Following are the most significant results from all corners of Michigan during the second-to-last weekend of the regular season. The final games finish off this week, with playoff brackets to be announced during the Selection Sunday Show at 6 p.m. on Fox Sports Detroit.

Greater Detroit

Clarkston 21, Lake Orion 14

In a game pitting the two top-ranked teams in Division 1 according to The Associated Press, No. 1 Clarkston scored with 14.3 seconds to play to move to 8-0 and win the Oakland Activities Association Red championship. Lake Orion fell to 7-1. Click to read more from The Oakland Press.

Also noted:

Detroit Catholic Central 35, Orchard Lake St. Mary 13 – DCC’s win created a three-way tie atop the Detroit Catholic League Central standings, and set up these two to meet again in this week’s Prep Bowl. St. Mary (6-2) is in the playoffs for sure, while DCC (5-3) can earn an automatic berth.

Detroit Martin Luther King 44, Detroit Cass Tech 13 – King might be the best 5-3 team in Michigan, but it’s fair to call this an upset with Cass Tech (6-2) considered among the state’s elite all season. King now will face Detroit East English in Friday’s Public School League championship game.

Walled Lake Northern 55, Hartland 52 – Northern (6-2) not only handed Hartland (7-1) its first loss, but most importantly earned its first playoff berth ever.

Oxford 14, Oak Park 12 – Oak Park (7-1) still won the Oakland Activities Association White title, but Oxford (5-3) kept the Knights from doing so perfectly while keeping its automatic playoff berth chances alive.

Bay and Thumb

Midland 42, Bay City Western 15

Midland had fallen just shy of a league title over the last four seasons, with a combined five league losses during that stretch. But the Chemics (8-0) made it seven wins over Western in their last nine meetings, and earned a share of the Saginaw Valley Association North championship with Midland Dow coming up this week. The Warriors (7-1) must hope for a Midland loss and beat rival Bay City Central to also earn a share. Click to read more from the Bay City Times.

Also noted:

Fenton 55, Swartz Creek 28 – By beating Swartz Creek (7-1), Fenton (7-1) created a four-way tie atop the Flint Metro League standings with a league game to play.

Marine City 35, St. Clair 34 – After opening this season with a nonleague loss, Marine City (7-1) has won seven straight and clinched the Macomb Area Conference Gold title with this nail-biter over second-place St. Clair (7-1)

Merrill 35, Saginaw Valley Lutheran 27 – The Vandals (5-3) kept their automatic playoff berth hopes alive, while dealing a blow to Valley Lutheran (5-3) as it goes for its first berth ever.

Burton Bendle 20, Genesee 16 – Bendle (7-1) has earned a third-straight playoff berth, and remains a win behind New Lothrop in the Genesee Area Conference Blue standings. Genesee (5-3) can still earn an automatic berth, but needs to beat New Lothrop to do so.

Southwest and Border

Stevensville Lakeshore 28, Mattawan 16

It’s something that both of these teams were undefeated heading into this game, given the competitiveness of the Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference West this fall. But Mattawan (7-1) couldn’t make it two in a row over Lakeshore (8-0), which earned a share of the league title. Click to read more from the Kalamazoo Gazette.

Also noted:

Dowagiac 28, Edwardsburg 8 – The Wolverine Conference West came down to the final league game of the season, with Dowagiac (8-0) edging runner-up Edwardsburg (6-2).

Watervliet 26, Decatur 19 – Four of six teams in the Southwestern Athletic Conference South have made the playoffs, and a fifth can this week; Watervliet (8-0) leads them all and earned a share of the title, while knocking Decatur (6-2) into a tie for third.

Paw Paw 46, Otsego 23 – Paw Paw (8-0) avoided being part of a three-way championship in the Wolverine Conference East by knocking off formerly second-place Otsego (6-2).

Mendon 33, Buchanan 28 – Mendon (8-0) got its biggest scare with its first win by fewer than 20 points, but also big playoff points because Buchanan (6-2) is a Class B school.

West Michigan

Lowell 14, Caledonia 7

Caledonia (6-2) nearly crashed Lowell’s run at the O-K White title. But the Red Arrows (7-1) – despite five turnovers – held on to earn the right to play Grand Rapids Christian this weekend for the league championship. Click to read more from the Grand Rapids Press.

Also noted:

Grand Rapids West Catholic 25, Cedar Springs 20 – This close call earned West Catholic (7-1) the opportunity to play Grand Rapids Northview this week for the O-K Bronze title, and might’ve dropped Cedar Springs (4-4) out of playoff contention.

Hamilton 42, Zeeland West 38 – The Hawkeyes (5-3) edged a win closer to their first playoff berth since 2009, while knocking Zeeland West (5-3) into a three-way tie atop the O-K Green with a league game to play.

Grand Rapids Catholic Central 28, Hastings 14 – The Cougars (8-0) clinched a share of the O-K Gold championship, although Hastings (6-2) can still earn another share in the unlikely scenario that GRCC falls this week to winless Wayland.

Fruitport 24, Muskegon Catholic Central 21 (OT) – The Trojans (8-0) hadn’t faced MCC (5-3) since 1976, but are now one win away from a 9-0 season for the first time since 2006.


Lansing Waverly 38, Mason 16

The Warriors (5-3) need another win Friday over Fowlerville to earn an automatic playoff berth. But it’s fair to say this was their best win since 2002, the last time Waverly made the postseason. Mason (5-3) has beaten the Warriors by an average of 21 points per game over the last four seasons. Click to read more from Mlive Lansing.

Also noted:

Clare 27, Sanford Meridian 7 – After opening 0-2, Clare (6-2) has stormed back to win a share of the Jack Pine Conference title while putting Sanford Meridian (5-3) in a must-win situation to earn an automatic playoff berth.

Grand Ledge 40, East Lansing 0 – This was expected to be much closer with both 5-2 coming in; the Comets (6-2) are no doubt relieved to have a playoff berth in hand with a tough game against Holt coming up, while the Trojans (5-3) should still get in with two-win Okemos next on the schedule.

Williamston 25, Haslett 22 – A late score kept playoff hopes alive for Williamston (5-3), while potentially derailing those of Haslett (4-4).

Portland 37, DeWitt 7 – When these teams were in the same league a decade ago, few would have believed Portland (7-1) could beat DeWitt (6-2) twice in row; this made it so.

Lower Up North

Maple City Glen Lake 26, Traverse City St. Francis 20

Glen Lake (8-0) hadn’t won more than five games in a season since 2001, but lined itself up for its first perfect regular season since that season with a late score to claim this nonleague game. In doing so, the Lakers also might’ve finished St. Francis’ MHSAA-best 22-season playoff streak – the Gladiators fell to 4-4. Click to read more from the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

Also noted:

Boyne City 44, Elk Rapids 30 – Boyne City (8-0) remained tied for first in the Lake Michigan Conference with a league game to play, while dropping Elk Rapids (4-4) into a tough spot for playoff qualification.

Grayling 63, East Jordan 29 – Grayling (8-0) didn’t have as much to stress with East Jordan (0-8), but will face Boyne City this week for the Lake Michigan Conference title.

West Branch Ogemaw Heights 56, Traverse City West 39 – Ogemaw Heights kept automatic playoff berth hopes alive by moving to 5-3, and made life a little less comfortable for Traverse City West, also 5-3.

Lake City 49, Manton 12 – Lake City (7-1) can only hope for a Beal City loss this week that would split the Highland Conference title. Manton (4-4) hopes to get into the playoffs if it can finish with a victory.

Upper Peninsula

Bessemer 46, Crystal Falls Forest Park 15

Bessemer (5-2) hadn’t celebrated a winning season since 2006. Now the Speedboys also can celebrate a league title, with this win giving it a shared championship in the Great Western Conference with Hurley (Wis.). Bessmer (also referred to as Gogebic because it is a co-op with Wakefield) also qualified for the playoffs, something Forest Park (6-2) had already secured. Click to read more from the Iron Mountain Daily News.

Also noted:

Kingsford 49, Gladstone 28 – Kingsford (7-1) finished a perfect 4-0 in the Great Northern UP Conference by knocking off fifth-place Gladstone (2-6)

Eagle River Northland Pines (Wis.) 68, L'Anse 24 – Northland Pines (8-0) avoided a three-way tie in the Western Peninsula Athletic Conference, while dropping L’Anse (6-2) to third in the final league standings.

Marquette 34, Negaunee 26 – Marquette (4-4), playing eight games this regular season, kept a slim hope of playoffs alive by beating Mid-Peninsula Athletic Conference champion Negaunee (7-1, with a share of the title so far). Marquette also claimed the Diamond Jubilee Trophy, which originated in 1969.

Menominee 48, Marinette (Wis.) 26 – This was the 106th meeting between the two, dating back to 1894.

Trophy Games

Every week, the MHSAA highlights trophy games played throughout the state. Here are a few more from Week 8:

  • Brown Jug – This trophy contended by Center Line and Warren Lincoln dates back to 1947. Final: Warren Lincoln 52, Center Line 13.
  • Oak Chest – Lansing Everett beat the Big Reds for the first time since 2008, and after losing by 32 to Sexton in 2011. Final: Everett 32, Sexton 0.
  • Sugar Bowl – Reese made it seven straight wins in this series against Unionville-Sebewaing for a trophy that originated in 1994. Final: Reese 55, USA 42. 
  • Spirit Bell – Ithaca at St. Louis - Originated in 1972, this is an all-sports traveling trophy. The Bell goes on the line again next week when the two schools meet in volleyball. Final: Ithaca 70, St. Louis 0.

PHOTO: Clarkston junior running back Ian Eriksen (25) searches for an opening during Friday's win against Lake Orion. (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.)