Drive for Detroit: Week 8 in Review

October 23, 2013

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

The last week of the MHSAA football regular season is upon us. But Week 8 featured some significant firsts.

At Ypsilanti, visiting Lincoln beat the home team 27-20 to win the Southeastern Conference White for the first time. The league formed in 2000 and the Railsplitters were 0-9 only three seasons ago – and hadn't won a league title in any conference since 1987.

Further east Detroit Allen clinched its first playoff berth with a win over Ecorse. To the south, Adrian Lenawee Christian beat North Adams-Jerome for its sixth win, its most ever. 

And those are just the program milestones. For the many high school players who enjoy just two seasons on varsity, every championship or playoff-qualifying win could be a first.

Here’s a look at some that surely were as we wrap up league title races and prepare for Sunday’s playoff selection.

West Michigan

Lowell 35, Grand Rapids Christian 34 (2 OT)

This season’s O-K White championship likely came down to a pair of overtimes between two teams that played at Ford Field last season. Reigning Division 2 runner-up Lowell (8-0) stopped a two-point conversion try by reigning Division 3 champ Grand Rapids Christian (6-2) after the game’s final score. The Red Arrows had fallen in two straight to the Eagles. Click to read more by the Grand Rapids Press.

Also noted:

Hudsonville 20, East Kentwood 9:  Not only did the Eagles (5-3) give themselves an outside chance at sharing the O-K Red title, but they took a major step toward securing a first playoff berth since 2008. East Kentwood (5-3) can earn a league share too and also qualify for the playoffs by beating first-place Rockford this week.

Muskegon Reeths-Puffer 32, Muskegon Mona Shores 28: Reeths-Puffer (7-1) kept pace with Muskegon atop the O-K Black heading into their league-deciding matchup this week, while Mona Shore (6-2) fell out of contention but can prepare for its first playoff appearance.

Belding 35, Sparta 14: Belding (5-3) kept its playoff hopes alive as it works to secure its first birth since 2007, while Sparta (5-3) is left to beat O-K Blue frontrunner Comstock Park this weekend to qualify.

Byron Center 16, Holland Christian 9: Byron Center (6-2) earned its first playoff berth since 2010 and set itself up to face Zeeland West this week for the O-K Green title. Holland Christian (4-4) fell to third place and hopes to make the playoffs with an at-large bid.

Lower Up North

Traverse City St. Francis 28, Maple City Glen Lake 21

St. Francis (5-3) kept its playoff hopes alive by edging the Northwest Conference champion and avenged a heavy blow dealt last season by Glen Lake (7-1); the Lakers’ 26-20 win over St. Francis in 2012 was among the most painful reasons the Gladiators didn’t make the playoffs for the first time since 1989. Click to read more from the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

Also noted:

Boyne City 28, Elk Rapids 12: Boyne City (7-1) needed this one to set up this week’s Lake Michigan Conference-deciding game against Grayling; Elk Rapids (5-3) is tied for third, this week’s game in a must-win to automatically make the playoffs.

Grayling 33, East Jordan 26: See above for the Lake Michigan Conference race explanation, with Grayling now also 7-1 and East Jordan (4-4) hoping for a strong finish and at-large postseason bid.

Lake City 41, Evart 21: Lake City (7-1) looks good to finish second in the Highland Conference and Evart has locked down at least third, with a chance they’ll see each other again in the playoffs for the second straight year.

Traverse City Central 28, Ogemaw Heights 20: Four Big North Conference teams are 5-3, and these are two of them. Central faces Cadillac and Ogemaw Heights faces Petoskey this week in hopes of earning automatic playoff berths.

Southwest and Border

Portage Central 49, St. Joseph 28

Portage Central took advantage of a bevy of turnovers and got rolling during the second half to win the biggest game of the regular season in the southwest corner of the state. The Mustangs (8-0) clinched a share of the Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference West title with the win and can finish their first perfect regular season since 1993 by beating winless Benton Harbor this weekend. St. Joseph (7-1) remains among the top teams by playoff point average of those projected to make the Division 3 playoffs. Click to read more from the Kalamazoo Gazette.

Also noted:

Cassopolis 35, Niles Brandywine 12: This turned the Lakeland Athletic Conference championship into a shared title between these two, with Cassopolis (5-3) dealing Brandywine (7-1) its first loss of the fall.

Edwardsburg 36, Dowagiac 0: This deciding game in the Wolverine B West turned into a big win for undefeated Edwardsburg (8-0) over Dowagiac (6-2), last season’s champion.

Battle Creek Lakeview 33, Battle Creek Harper Creek 14: Lakeview (8-0), which began the season with five straight shutouts, has given up just a few points over the last three games on the way to earning a share of the SMAC East title; Harper Creek (6-2), with 14 points, tied for the most success against the Spartans’ defense.

Battle Creek St. Philip 68, Portland St. Patrick 14: St. Philip (8-0) handed St. Patrick (7-1) its first regular-season 8-player loss in winning the Southern Michigan League title outright.

Upper Peninsula

Lake Linden-Hubbell 16, Felch North Dickinson 8

Lake Linden-Hubbell’s quest to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2010 looked in doubt with the Lakes (5-3) needing two wins and North Dickinson and Crystal Falls Forest Park left on the schedule (they were a combined  13-1 entering last week). But the Lakes put the defensive clamps on North Dickinson (6-2), holding the Nordics to its fewest points since the 2010 playoffs. Click to read more from the Houghton Mining Gazette.

Also noted:

Crystal Falls Forest Park 38, Bessemer 20: The Eagles (8-0) avenged last season’s loss to the Miners (5-3) and in the process clinched a share of the Great Western Conference title.

Negaunee 38, Marquette 14: Negaunee (7-1) bounced back nicely after falling to Ishepming in Week 7, claiming the Diamond Jubilee Trophy, while Marquette (5-2) finishes with another tough one this week against Menominee.

Sault Ste. Marie 27, Kingsley 13: Sault Ste. Marie (5-3) has kept its playoff hopes alive over the last two weeks by beating teams with a combined record of 11-5. Kingsley (5-3) also needs a win this week to qualify.

Cedarville 21, Bellaire 16: Bellaire (5-3) looked like one of few that could beat Cedarville (7-1) this season, and the Eagles got close in a defensive battle.

Greater Detroit and Southeast

St. Clair 43, Marine City 33

St. Clair’s first win over Marine City since 2005 – and second in 22 seasons – earned a number of riches. The Saints (8-0) claimed the traveling Bell Trophy and also an outright Macomb Area Conference Gold championship, and guaranteed their best record since at least 1982. Marine City (7-1) still remains only a win away from its 16th straight season with at least eight. Click to read more from the Port Huron Times Herald.

Also noted:

Macomb Dakota 52, Clinton Township Chippewa Valley 7: The battle for the MAC Red title – and traveling Superintendent’s Trophy – ended up more of the same for Dakota (8--0), which has given up only 42 points this fall. With one more win, Chippewa Valley (7-1) still can equal its most since 2006.

Birmingham Seaholm 28, Birmingham Groves 22: Seaholm (8-0) earned its second straight Oakland Activities Association Blue title by defeating second-place Groves (7-1) in the final league game of the season.

Northville 42, Canton 30: This was significant for a few reasons for Northville (7-1), which moved on to the Kensington Lakes Activities Association championship game be beating Canton (7-1) for the first time in its last eight tries.

Waterford Mott 26, Port Huron 20: The Marauders (8-0) flipped last season's finish, when Mott lost to Port Huron by three and finished second in the MAC White; this time Mott is first and the Big Reds (5-3) are runners-up.


Lansing Sexton 27, Lansing Everett 14

Sexton (8-0) won the Capital Area Activities Conference Blue outright and the traveling Oak Chest trophy, and needs to beat its other city rival, Eastern High, to finish the regular season 9-0 for the first time since 1999. The Big Reds, a Class B schools with wins over seven Class A opponents, also has the highest playoff point average of teams projected to fall into Division 4 for the playoffs. Everett (5-3), last season’s CAAC Blue champion, must beat two-win Jackson this week to ensure a playoff spot. Click to read more from the Lansing State Journal.

Also noted:

DeWitt 13, Portland 7: DeWitt (8-0) no doubt was up for this one after losing two straight to the Raiders (7-1). Both are champions of their divisions of the CAAC, DeWitt in the Red and Portland in the White.

East Lansing 3, Grand Ledge 0: The Comets (4-4) needed to win out to make the playoffs automatically after an 0-3 start, but instead East Lansing (4-4) kept its slim hope alive after three straight losses.

Olivet 28, Constantine 14: The Eagles (7-1) kept themselves in the three-team mix atop the Kalamazoo Valley Association, with reigning Division 6 runner-up Constantine (5-3) now needing a win this week to qualify automatically for the postseason.

Ovid-Elsie 21, Freeland 15: The Marauders (6-2) quietly have bounced back from a 3-6 finish in 2012 to finish second in the Tri-Valley Conference Central. Third-place Freeland (6-2) also has made the playoffs, and they could meet again.

Bay and Thumb

Harbor Beach 56, Marlette 7

The deciding game for the Greater Thumb Conference East title belonged to Harbor Beach (7-1) early, as it scored the first two touchdowns and after Marlette’s score ran off 44 unanswered points. The Pirates pushed their league winning streak to 16 straight, while Marlette (7-1) still can equal its best finish of at least the last half century, 8-1 in 1975. Click to read more from the Port Huron Times Herald.

Also noted:

Millington 15, North Branch 7: The Cardinals (6-2) were at risk of missing the playoffs for the first time since 2003 before edging already-qualified North Branch (6-2).

Richmond 42, Yale 28: The Blue Devils (7-1) finished a perfect run through the Blue Water Area Conference and forced Yale (5-3) into a must-win situation to qualify for the playoffs automatically.

Flint Powers Catholic 48, Climax-Scotts 13: The Chargers (4-4) are hanging on to a hope of making the playoffs with an at-large bid, and handing Climax-Scotts (7-1) its first loss should help.

Vassar 35, Cass City 8: The Vulcans (5-3) moved one win closer to a fifth straight playoff berth, while dropping Cass City (4-4) into a much less favorable position.

Trophy Games

Each week, the MHSAA highlights trophy games around the state. Here are a few more in addition to those mentioned above:

Little Brown Jug: Warren Lincoln vs. Center Line. Lincoln made it two in a row and five of six over its MAC Bronze rival. Final: Lincoln 26, Center Line 19.

Sugar Bowl: Unionville-Sebewaing vs. Reese. The Rockets have owned this series of late, winning every season dating to 2006. Final: Reese 47, USA 0.

Spirit Bell: St. Louis vs. Ithaca. This one changes hands every time these schools meet in any varsity sport – which means the Sharks’ highly-ranked volleyball team could win it back tonight. Final: Ithaca 76, St. Louis 0.

Battle of the Panthers: Detroit University Prep vs. Detroit Plymouth Educational Center. This one is relatively new, with Detroit PEC playing football only since 2010 and University Prep since 2006. Final: University Prep 37, PEC 6.

The Curb: Berkley vs. Royal Oak. A piece of pavement was first awarded to the winner of this matchup in 2012. Final: Berkley 20, Royal Oak 18.

Ted Heusel Bowl: Ann Arbor Huron vs. Ann Arbor Pioneer. This trophy is named for the late longtime area broadcaster who also served as the district's school board president. Final: Pioneer 9, Huron 6.

Kiwanis Trophy: Madison Heights Madison vs. Madison Heights Lamphere. A quick 2-mile drive down John R Road is nearly all that separates these MAC Silver rivals. Final: Madison 30, Lamphere 0.

Colvin Cup: Grosse Ile vs. Riverview. Not since 1998 and 1999 has either team won this game two seasons in a row. Final: Riverview 45, Grosse Ile 42.

PHOTO: Lowell (in gray) needed two overtimes to edge Grand Rapids Christian 35-34 in Week 8. (Click to see more from High School Sports Scene.)

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.)