Drive for Detroit: Week 8 in Review

October 16, 2017

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

We’re chewing on a lot of football numbers this week at the MHSAA office with this season’s playoff selection just days away.

Some of the most important after Week 8 are 176 – as in the number of 11-player teams that have earned spots in that 256-team playoff field – and 78, the number of teams one win away from automatic qualification.

But this second-to-last weekend of the regular season gave us plenty of other numbers to enjoy as well. Like 431, the number of career wins and an MHSAA record for Farmington Hills Harrison coach John Herrington after his team defeated Berkley 39-0. Ionia also set an MHSAA record Friday, coming back from 32 points down at halftime to beat McBain 41-40 in the largest football comeback in MHSAA history.

How about 703, the number of running (238) and passing (465) yards combined for Essexville Garber’s Hunter Bridenbaugh in a 60-47 win over North Branch? That total, as reported by the Bay City Times, will rank third in the national record book once submitted and approved. Then there’s 616, the total passing yards for Grayling’s Justin Nicholas in a 58-46 win over Benzie Central as reported by the Traverse City Record-Eagle – which rank as the second-most passing yards in one game in MHSAA history.

Finally, 27. Congrats to Flat Rock, which clinched its first playoff berth since 1990 – 27 years ago – with a 14-7 win over New Boston Huron.

And if that’s not all … check out below the results that jumped out most from all of the statewide action in this week’s “Drive for Detroit” powered by MI Student Aid

Bay & Thumb

Algonac 34, Richmond 14

One of the best stories statewide over the last few seasons, Algonac (7-1) clinched its first outright league title since 1972 by downing second-place Richmond in the Blue Water Area Conference after splitting the championship with the Blue Devils (7-1) in 2015. It’s key to recall Algonac was 1-8 in 2014 and hadn’t had a winning season since 2005 before rattling off a combined 28-5 record over the last three. Click for more from the Port Huron Times Herald.

Also noted:

Midland Dow 45, Flint Carman-Ainsworth 14 – Thanks to a one-point loss to Bay City Central in Week 2, Dow (7-1) trailed the Cavaliers (5-3) by a win in the Saginaw Valley League Red entering the conference finale before forcing a shared title.

Midland 35, Lapeer 14 – The Chemics (7-1) finished a perfect run through the SVL Blue while putting third-place Lapeer (5-3) into a must-win situation this week to guarantee a playoff spot.

Saginaw Swan Valley 36, Alma 19 – This was the final obstacle Swan Valley (7-1) needed to navigate to clinch the outright Tri-Valley Conference Central title; Alma (6-2) is one of three teams that tied for second.

Harbor Beach 26, Ubly 14 – The Pirates (7-1) came away with the Greater Thumb Conference East title by downing second-place Ubly (6-2) in their final league game of this season. 

Greater Detroit

Detroit Martin Luther King 17, Detroit Cass Tech 7

With these rivals this season in different divisions of the Detroit Public School League, King (7-1) avenged a pair of 2016 losses to the rival Technicians while holding Cass Tech (5-2) to its fewest points since 2013. But while winning this matchup frequently makes the victor the best in the PSL, King still has a tough one ahead – the Crusaders will face undefeated East English on Friday in the PSL A championship game. Click for more from the Detroit News.

Also noted:

Warren DeLaSalle 20, Detroit Catholic Central 6 – The Pilots (6-2) finished a perfect run through the Catholic League Central, earning themselves a rematch this week with DCC (5-3) this time for the Prep Bowl A-B championship.

Warren Michigan Collegiate 46, Harper Woods Chandler Park 20 – The Charter School Conference title came down to this game as both teams entered undefeated in league play; Michigan Collegiate (8-0) remains undefeated overall while Chandler Park (5-3) must win this week to guarantee a playoff spot.

Grosse Pointe North 45, Roseville 28 – The Norsemen (5-2) and Port Huron both trailed Roseville (5-3) by a win in the Macomb Area Conference Blue entering the weekend, and all three will share the league title thanks to North’s win.

Ferndale 20, Hazel Park 17 (2OT) – Ferndale (7-1) also forced a three-way championship in the Oakland Activities Association Blue, giving Hazel Park (5-3) its first league loss to create a first-place tie between these two teams and Auburn Hills Avondale. 


Haslett 20, Williamston 14

Coming off a league title-deciding loss to rival DeWitt, Haslett bounced back to move to 6-2 – two wins better than a year ago and tying their most since 2006. The Vikings’ good fortune was accompanied by more hard luck for Williamston (5-3), which has three defeats by a combined 14 points and must win this week to guarantee a playoff spot against a Lake Fenton team that hasn’t lost since opening night. Click for more from the Lansing State Journal.

Also noted:

Olivet 27, Berrien Springs 17 – The Eagles (8-0) moved to within one more win of their first perfect regular season since 2005 by avenging last season’s 61-7 playoff loss to the Shamrocks (6-2).

East Lansing 9, Lansing Sexton 7 – This shouldn’t result in Sexton (5-3) not earning a playoff bid with winless Eastern up next, but it got East Lansing (6-2) into the playoffs with a more precarious game coming up against playoff hopeful Okemos.

DeWitt 33, Linden 3 – The Panthers (7-1) have won six straight recent meetings with Linden (6-2), including the first two of this string in the playoffs.

Portland 29, Pontiac Notre Dame Prep 27 – In a great playoff prep game for both, Portland (7-1) survived its closest since a Week 2 loss while the Fighting Irish (6-2) have suffered their two defeats by a combined seven points. 

Northern Lower Peninsula

Lake City 35, Lincoln Alcona 34

The Highland Conference champion Trojans (8-0) moved to within one more win of their first perfect regular-season since the start of the playoff era in 1975 and after going only 2-7 a year ago. Alcona (6-2) pulled within a score of the lead multiple times and should be a dangerous playoff team – the Tigers’ losses this season are by a combined three points. Click for more from the Cadillac News.

Also noted:

Boyne City 40, Elk Rapids 10 – The Ramblers (8-0) guaranteed the Northern Michigan Football League Leaders championship will come down to this week’s matchup with undefeated Traverse City St. Francis; Elk Rapids (6-2) can still this week get to seven wins for the first time since 2010.

Gaylord St. Mary 30, Harbor Springs 0 – The Snowbirds (8-0) secured a share of the NMFL Legacy title while sending Harbor Springs (4-4) into second place and hoping for both a split title and an at-large playoff bid.

Whittemore-Prescott 42, Hillman 41 – The Cardinals’ string of 10 straight playoff seasons got additional life as the team moved to 4-4, while Hillman’s streak of 11 straight postseason trips also now will hinge on an at-large bid as the Tigers fell to 4-4.

Oscoda 36, Muskegon Heights Academy 23 – The Owls (5-3) put themselves in position to clinch not only their second playoff berth in three seasons, but also their second over the last 17; Muskegon Heights (3-5) fell out of playoff contention but still has its best record since 2014. 

Southeast & Border

Michigan Center 41, Grass Lake 14

The Cascades Conference ended with three teams sharing the championship, and Michigan Center joined Addison and Napoleon among the celebrators by downing reigning league title winner Grass Lake (4-4). The Cardinals also beat Grass Lake in 2016, but the Warriors were able to win the conference last year with that one defeat. The Cardinals (7-1) have their most wins since 2013 and one more than a year ago heading into this week’s crossover with Big 8 Conference champion Reading.

Also noted:

Adrian Lenawee Christian 21, Athens 20 (OT) – This was something of an undercard in the Southern Central Athletic Association, but key for both teams as Lenawee Christian (6-2) secured a playoff berth and forced Athens (5-3) to now beat Climax-Scotts this week if it is to make the postseason for the first time since 2000.

Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard 16, Detroit U-D Jesuit 14 – After falling to Dearborn Divine Child by a point in Week 7, the Fighting Irish (7-1) pulled out the close victory over a U-D Jesuit team that at 3-5 has four losses by 10 points or fewer.

Hillsdale 27, Ida 8 – The Hornets (4-4) kept themselves in the playoff hunt while dealing the Lenawee County Athletic Association race an unexpected shuffle; Ida was tied for first with Hudson and looking good to share the title, but now the Tigers can clinch it outright this week.

Ypsilanti Lincoln 23, Temperance Bedford 19 – After two straight four-win seasons and two losses to start this one, Lincoln (6-2) is headed back to the playoffs while Bedford (6-2) already had secured a second straight berth. 

Southwest Corridor

Mendon 34, Cassopolis 24

Mendon (8-0) never really went away, but is looking more and more like the dominant teams that won at least 10 games eight straight seasons from 2007-14. Beating Cassopolis (7-1) cemented that observation, as both teams were undefeated heading into the weekend and a share of the Southwest 10 Conference title was on the line. Mendon had fallen to Cassopolis the last two seasons. Even after giving up 24 points to the Rangers, the Hornets still have allowed just 45 over eight games this fall. Click for more from

Also noted:

Pittsford 28, Climax-Scotts 14 – The Wildcats (7-1) clinched the Southern Central Athletic Association title outright by breaking an 11-game losing streak, including playoffs, to the rival Panthers (6-2).

Ottawa Lake Whiteford 52, Clinton 21 – The Bobcats (8-0) clinched a share of the Tri-County Conference title while sending Clinton (5-3) from a second-place tie into third and needing a win this week to make the playoffs for the sixth straight season.

Edwardsburg 54, Vicksburg 27 – This took the Wolverine B Conference race from three first-place teams down to two with a game to play and Edwardsburg (7-1) sure to watch closely as Vicksburg (6-2) takes on co-leader Three Rivers this week.

Watervliet 36, Schoolcraft 14 – Watervliet (8-0) secured a Southwestern Athletic Conference Valley title even as second-place Schoolcraft (5-3) became the first this season to hold the Panthers to fewer than 50 points. 

Upper Peninsula

Iron River West Iron County 30, Hancock 13

For the second straight season Hancock has been a contender in the Western Peninsula Athletic Conference, but the Wykons (7-1) are again the team to beat. West Iron clinched the league title outright with its sixth straight win over the Bulldogs, who also tied for second in the league last season behind champion Calumet. Hancock (6-2) remains a win better than a year ago with its most victories since 2006, while West Iron can get to eight wins this week for the first time since 2014. Click for more from the Iron Mountain Daily News.

Also noted:

Kingsford 42, Menominee 21 – The Flivvers (6-1) did their part to turn this week’s meeting with Escanaba into a Great Northern Conference championship game as both are undefeated in the league; Kingsford hadn’t beaten Menominee (5-3) since 2012.

Marquette 35, Negaunee 19 – The Redmen (4-4) have a chance at an at-large playoff bid still if they can beat Menominee this weekend, and regardless have as many wins this fall as the last two seasons combined; Negaunee must beat Ishpeming Westwood this weekend to have a chance at extending its five-season playoff streak.

Norway 21, Lake Linden-Hubbell 11 – The Knights (7-1) secured a shared Mid-Eastern Conference title with Newberry; the Lakes (3-4) face winless Manistique this week with a chance still at an at-large playoff bid.

Calumet 30, Bessemer Gogebic – The Miners (3-5) had upset the playoff chances of two hopefuls two weeks in a row, but Calumet (5-3) hung on to earn a chance to clinch a spot this week. 

West Michigan

Grand Rapids Catholic Central 35, Grand Rapids West Catholic 33

Of course it’s rare to have a pair of reigning MHSAA champions meet with a league title on the line. And this time there even was a little revenge to be had. Last year’s Division 4 title winner GRCC (8-0) claimed its second straight game this month by seven points or fewer to clinch a share of the Ottawa-Kent Conference Blue title. The Cougars moved into the Blue last season and finished second to eventual Division 5 champion West Catholic (6-2), which handed GRCC its only loss last season. The Falcons scored late this time to pull within two, but could get no closer. Click for more from the Grand Rapids Press.

Also noted: 

Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central 35, Cedar Springs 20 – The Rangers (8-0) finished a perfect run through the O-K White by handing second-place Cedar Springs (5-3) its first league loss in what also ended up Forest Hills Central’s closest league game. 

Muskegon 35, Muskegon Mona Shores 24 – Ladarius Jefferson ran 34 times for 285 yards and four touchdowns as the Big Reds (8-0) earned a share of the O-K Black title by downing rival Mona Shores (7-1) for the third time in a row.

Rockford 24, East Kentwood 10 – The Rams (5-3) have a chance to make it to the playoffs for the 23rd straight season thanks to this bounce-back win over the Falcons (5-3), who also can earn an automatic berth this week.

Wyoming Kelloggsville 27, Belding 3 – The Rockets (8-0) faced what have ended up the second, third and fourth-best teams in the O-K Silver three weeks in a row and claimed a share of the league title by knocking Belding (6-2) out of their tie for first.


Central Lake 42, Onekama 28

As noted in Friday’s preview, these two both could end up in MHSAA Finals at the Superior Dome, but Central Lake has claimed the first of their possible championships this fall with this win deciding the Midwest Central Michigan Conference title. New to 8-player this season, the Trojans (8-0) were 2-7 last season in 11-player and last won a league title in 2008. Onekama moved to 7-1 after going 6-4 in 11-player last season. Click for more from the Traverse City Record-Eagle

Also noted:

Pickford 47, Cedarville 8 – Pickford (8-0) claimed a share of the Bridge Alliance championship after finishing second last season and while dealing Cedarville (6-2) a second straight defeat.

Mayville 46, Bay City All Saints 34 – Mayville (5-3) can’t win the North Central Thumb League Stars championship, but dealt a loss to the Stripes’ co-leading Cougars (6-2).

Powers North Central 36, Rapid River 0 – Just when it looked like reigning MHSAA champion North Central (5-2) might go quietly into the offseason, the Jets stunned the state’s 8-player scene handing Western Eight Conference leader Rapid River (7-1) its first defeat a week after the Rockets handed a first loss to Stephenson.

Portland St. Patrick 24, Marion 8 – The Shamrocks (7-1) are playing in a two-team league but now also have a win over Marion (6-2), which ran the table in the West Michigan Conference.

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: Farmington Hills Harrison coach John Herrington enjoys the postgame fanfare with his team after setting the MHSAA record with his 431st career victory. (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.)