Drive for Detroit: Week 8 in Review

October 19, 2015

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

One point can mean one win and change an entire season. More than a few teams are feeling that impact after a nail-biting Week 8. 

Michigan high school teams played nine one-point games last week. And those games resulted in the naming of two league champions, two more teams not winning a share of league titles, two teams earning playoff spots and three more keeping playoff hopes alive, and two more seeing their playoff hopes dashed. 

See more on most of those games in this week's report below. 

Bay & Thumb

Richmond 15, Algonac 14

This still has been a dream season for Algonac (7-1) – but the Muskrats were forced to share some of it with perennial power Richmond (7-1) after the Blue Devils held them scoreless over the second half of their Blue Water Area Conference title-deciding contest. Richmond gets a share of the title – its second in three seasons – with its lone league loss by one to Almont. Algonac’s share was its first league title since 1972 and came after a 1-8 finish only a year ago. Click for more from the Port Huron Times-Herald.

Also noted:

Montrose 7, Flint Beecher 6 – For the first time in a long time, this didn’t have Genesee Area Conference Red title implications for both, but Montrose (5-3) needed a win to stay alive for an automatic playoff berth and in the process kept Beecher (5-2) from claiming a share of the title.

New Lothrop 49, Flint Hamady 0 – Hamady (6-2) had a chance to make the GAC Blue title also a three-team share, but New Lothrop (8-0) held on for the outright championship for the sixth straight season.

Croswell-Lexington 28, Almont 27 – Back to the BWAC, Croswell-Lexington (6-2) earned a playoff berth for the first time since 2012 with its first win over Almont (6-2) since that fall.

Birch Run 21, Essexville Garber 15 – The Panthers (5-3) stayed alive for a second straight playoff berth, while Garber (4-4) will need a win and good fortune to extend a three-year postseason streak. 

Greater Detroit

Macomb Dakota 35, Sterling Heights Stevenson 28 (OT)

A wild Macomb Area Conference Red race finally is sorted out, with Dakota (6-2) – which suffered its only league loss all the way back in Week 3 – emerging as champion for the fourth straight season. Stevenson (6-2), Clinton Township Chippewa Valley and Utica Eisenhower all finished a game back and Warren Mott was two win out – and Eisenhower and Mott can join the other three with automatic playoff berths if they win this week. Click for more from the Macomb Daily.

Also noted:

Harper Woods Chandler Park 28, Warren Michigan Collegiate 18 – Chandler Park (6-2) has put together a pair of streaks that remain under the radar; the Eagles have made the playoffs all seven seasons they’ve played a full schedule, and this win over Michigan Collegiate (5-3) made them 40-0 in Charter School Conference play all-time.  

Madison Heights Madison 56, St. Clair Shores South Lake 42 – Madison (7-1) won its 19th straight MAC Silver game and fourth straight league title while handing South Lake (7-1) its first loss this fall – which is still one to celebrate after South Lake's 2-7 finish in 2014.

Waterford Our Lady 36, Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood 10 – The Detroit Catholic League C-D title came down to two undefeated teams, but Our Lady (8-0) emerged with its third straight championship although the Cranes are still enjoying their best season since at least 2005.

Warren Cousino 35, Grosse Pointe North 34 – Another one-pointer meant a shared MAC Blue title between these two after Cousino (5-3) beat North (4-4) by three last season to claim the championship outright. 


Pewamo-Westphalia 34, Fowler 7

The 50th game between these rivals extended a pattern of the teams trading victories to seven seasons. The Pirates (8-0) also kept a streak alive of giving up no more than seven points, which they've done seven straight weeks after giving up 25 in a win over Madison Heights Madison on opening night. Most importantly, P-W linched an outright Central Michigan Athletic Conference title. Fowler, last season’s champion, finished third but remains playoff-ready at 6-2. Click for more from the Ionia Sentinel-Standard.

Also noted:

Grand Ledge 31, East Lansing 21 – The Trojans (4-4) put a scare into Grand Ledge (8-0) nearly to the end, but the Comets emerged with a share of the Capital Area Activities Conference Blue title and a chance to win it outright this week against second-place Holt.

Fowlerville 24, Lake Odessa Lakewood 21 – Not only did the Gladiators (4-4) hand Lakewood (7-1) its first loss this fall, they stayed in the running for an at-large playoff bid that would return them to the postseason for the first time since 2010. 

Lansing Everett 33, Lansing Sexton 32 – With nothing to play for but city pride, these two enjoyed another nail-biting classic, with Everett (3-5) breaking a two-season winning streak by the Big Reds (1-7) – who lost their fifth game by a touchdown or less and third by a point.

Haslett 28, Williamston 7 – The Vikings (5-3) remain alive for an automatic playoff berth after missing last season, and Williamston (4-4) might have a shot at an at-large bid with a win this week over Lake Fenton. 

Northern Lower Peninsula

Frankfort 20, Charlevoix 0

Frankfort clinched its first league title since 2008 and avenged Charlevoix’s win in this matchup a year ago. By moving to 7-1, the Panthers also guaranteed their best finish since at least 2011 and like Fowler, kept alive a streak of giving up no more than seven points in a game since opening night. In fact, the Panthers have given up only 42 all fall. Charlevoix (5-3) still can clinch a playoff spot this week against Harbor Springs. Click for more from the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

Also noted:

Traverse City West 35, Gaylord 14 – After an 0-4 start, the Titans (4-4) have stormed back and have a chance at an at-large bid with their best win yet over solid Gaylord (5-3).

Lake City 41, Lincoln Alcona 34 – The Trojans (4-4) got a giant boost to their at-large hopes by downing a Tigers team that is 5-3 and could clinch an automatic berth this week.

Kingsley 27, Maple City Glen Lake 6 – The Stags (5-3) still face undefeated Traverse City St. Francis, but put themselves in position to earn an automatic bid or make a play for an at-large invitation by downing Glen Lake (4-4).

Whittemore-Prescott 38, Hillman 14 – The North Star Big Dipper champion Cardinals (5-3) won this battle of league title winners by downing Little Dipper champ Hillman (6-2). 

Southeast & Border

Manchester 29, Vandercook Lake 7

The Dutchmen (7-1) claimed the Cascades Conference championship outright by slowing a team that had scored at least 27 points in every game and averaged 41 points per heading into the contest. The title was Manchester’s fourth straight. Vandercook Lake (7-1) is still enjoying its best season since 1996. Click for more from the Jackson Citizen-Patriot.

Also noted:

Jackson 63, Holt 41 – The Vikings (6-2), 1-8 a year ago, clinched their first playoff berth of the coach Scott Farley era and first at all since 2009 by downing similar playoff hopeful Holt (5-3).

Chelsea 9, Ann Arbor Pioneer 7 – The Bulldogs (7-1) showed again they’ll be dangerous in the playoffs by dealing a close loss to much larger Ann Arbor Pioneer (6-2).

Ida 20, Hillsdale 17 (OT) – The Bluestreaks (8-0) made sure they were at least partial Lenawee County Athletic Association champions, earning a share of the league title with Hillsdale (5-3) attempting to create a three-way tie at the top.

Homer 40, Union City 34 – The Trojans (7-1) already had claimed a share of the Big 8 Conference title, but reigning champ Union City (4-4) didn’t let the outright championship come easily. 

Southwest Corridor

Buchanan 21, Berrien Springs 19

The renewing of this rivalry played out as competitively as one would expect from a pair of undefeated teams contending for a league title. After a three-season break, the pair met for the Berrien-Cass-St. Joseph Conference White championship – and Buchanan (8-0) earned it in part by blocking an extra-point try and stopping a two-point conversion attempt. The Bucks this week will play for their first perfect regular season since 1988, while Berrien Springs (7-1) still is headed for its best regular-season finish since 2005. Click for more from the Niles Daily Star.

Also noted:

Kalamazoo Central 33, Benton Harbor 18 – The Maroon Giants (3-5) made playoff hopes much dimmer for Benton Harbor (4-4), but also gave themselves a chance at their best record since 2011.

Bridgman 34, Niles Brandywine 26 – The Bees (7-1) clinched the BCS Blue title for the second straight season and after two straight losses to Brandywine (5-3).

Dowagiac 36, Otsego 34 – The Chiefs (5-3) moved a win closer to returning to the playoffs after missing last season at 3-6.

St. Joseph 45, Battle Creek Lakeview 21 – The Bears (7-1) have secured a playoff berth after missing last season, but Lakeview (5-3) must win this week to do the same despite claiming a share of its league title. 

Upper Peninsula

Ishpeming 20, St. Ignace 14

This meeting of league champions was another that met expectations, with Mid-Peninsula Athletic Conference champion Ishpeming (7-0) winning its 26th straight regular-season game and handing Ski Valley champ St. Ignace (7-1) its first regular season loss after 16 straight wins. Ishpeming held the Saints to their season-low points but scored their second fewest of the fall. Click for more from the Sault Ste. Marie Evening News.

Also noted:

Crystal Falls Forest Park 34, Munising 8 – The Trojans (5-2) are making what might be their final season of 11-player football count, this time downing reigning Division 8 runner-up Munising (6-2) to qualify for the playoffs and clinch a share of the Mid-Eastern Football Conference title.

Escanaba 34, Sault Ste. Marie 8 – An upset of the Blue Devils (5-3) gave the Eskymos (4-4) their most wins since 2012 and the chance to play for an at-large playoff bid.

Iron Mountain 28, Hurley, Wis. 13 – The Mountaineers (5-3) look much better to earn a playoff spot this week against two-win Norway after doubling up always-tough Hurley (7-2).

Menominee 40, DeWitt 35 – The Maroons’ 30-game regular-season winning streak has included its share of impressive victories, but moving to 8-0 against an undefeated DeWitt team (7-1) loaded with speed should put additional fear into potential playoff opponents.

West Michigan

Muskegon Mona Shores 21, Muskegon 18

Statewide eyes turned toward this matchup of Muskegon rivals, and roughly 10,000 fans saw Mona Shores jump out to a 21-3 lead before withstanding a late Big Reds charge. Mona Shores moved to 8-0 for the first time in program history with its second straight win over Muskegon (6-2), which suffered its second three-point loss of the season. Click for more from the Muskegon Chronicle.

Also noted:

Ada Forest Hills Eastern 49, Cedar Springs 12 – The Hawks (8-0) guaranteed themselves a share of the O-K Bronze title and also set a program record for wins while forcing Cedar Springs (5-3) into a must-win position this week.

Grandville 38, Hudsonville 13 – The Bulldogs (5-3) turned the O-K Red into the best league race left by handing Hudsonville (6-2) its first league loss and creating a four-way tie at the top with one game to play and a guarantee of two champions.

Lowell 35, East Grand Rapids 13 – The Red Arrows (7-1) earned a share of a third straight league title in one of the state’s most competitive, while putting East Grand Rapids (5-3) in a must-win spot as well.

Montague 36, Muskegon Oakridge 29 (OT) – The West Michigan Conference title came down to overtime before Montague (8-0) prevailed over the reigning champion Eagles (6-2).

Reed City 26, Remus Chippewa Hills 7 – The Coyotes (8-0) claimed their fifth straight league title by downing second-place Chippewa Hills (6-2) to win the Central State Activities Association Gold. 


Onaway 62, Bellaire 14

Onaway pushed into the 16th spot with a week to play as it pursues its first playoff berth since 2012 in its first season of 8-player football. The Cardinals (5-3) must play another 5-3 team, Pickford, this week to try to hold on to the final spot in the field. Bellaire (4-4) has fallen in two straight as its pursued making the playoffs for the sixth straight season.

Also noted:

Deckerville 50, Peck 6 – The battle for the North Central Thumb 8-Man title didn’t turn into much of one, with Deckerville (7-1) breaking a three-game losing streak to the Pirates (6-2).

Powers North Central 82, Rapid River 20 – The Jets (8-0) gave up their most points this season, but also tied their highest output on offense while downing the Rockets (5-3).

Engadine 58, Stephenson 42 – This might have been the best game of the week in 8-player, featuring two teams that have taken great strides but with Engadine (6-2) striding just a little bit farther than Stephenson (5-3) at this point. 

PHOTO: Muskegon Mona Shores welcomed a reported 10,000 fans for Friday's 21-18 victory over rival Muskegon. 

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.)