Drive for Detroit: Week 8 Review

October 15, 2018

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

The first snow has fallen in northern Michigan, leaves are dropping there and everywhere else, and 171 teams have secured spots in this season’s MHSAA Football Playoffs.

All of those things go hand in hand this time of year, and Week 8 played its part in deciding league champions all over the state and setting up other teams to continue into the postseason when this coming weekend is done.

In the Detroit area alone we could’ve highlighted a second five games, with Clinton Township Chippewa Valley and Grosse Ile’s outright league titles, West Bloomfield and Royal Oak Shrine’s upsets and Garden City’s continued bounce-back success. But take a look below at 45 other results that were of special significance as we roll into the final days of the regular season.  

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Bay & Thumb

HEADLINER: Mount Pleasant 14, Midland Dow 10 The Oilers (8-0) locked up a share of the Saginaw Valley Red championship, coming back from a 10-point deficit and holding Dow (5-3) scoreless during the second half. Mount Pleasant can make it an outright title this week against Saginaw Heritage, while the Chargers take on Midland with both teams needing a win to make the playoffs automatically. Click for more from the Mount Pleasant Morning Sun and see below for highlights from WJRT.

Also of note: Port Huron Northern 26, Roseville 14 After finishing Macomb Area Conference Gold runner-up the last two seasons, Northern (7-1) claimed this season’s MAC Blue title in this winner-take-all championship game. Roseville (5-3) takes on Eastpointe this week hoping to qualify for the playoffs.  

Remember this one: Harbor Beach 20, Sandusky 0 The Pirates (7-1) trailed first-place Sandusky (7-1) by a win heading into the Greater Thumb Conference East finale, but emerged with a shared championship to follow up last season’s outright title.

More shoutouts: Fenton 41, Swartz Creek 10 The reigning Flint Metro League champ can’t win an eighth straight title, but the Tigers (6-2) made this race interesting still by dropping former lone leader Swartz Creek (6-2) into a three-way tie for first with a game to play. Cass City 42, Reese 7 The Red Hawks (7-1) completed an outright GTC West title run, their first outright league championship since 1972 (as reported by the Huron Daily Tribune).

Greater Detroit

HEADLINER: Detroit Catholic Central 10, Warren DeLaSalle 7 The Shamrocks (6-2) finished a topsy-turvy two weeks with a share of the Detroit Catholic League Central title. DCC was upset by Orchard Lake St. Mary’s in Week 7 but came back to edge the Pilots (6-2) – who settled for a share of the title as well but can avenge this defeat in this week’s Prep Bowl A/B championship game. Click for more from the Observer & Eccentric.

Also of note: Birmingham Seaholm 21, Farmington 0 The Maples (7-1) clinched the Oakland Activities Association Blue title outright by shutting out the second-place Falcons (6-2), a massive turnaround from last season’s 1-8 finish and four straight sub-.500 seasons.

Remember this one: South Lyon 29, Walled Lake Western 19 The Lions (8-0) are another huge success story after going 1-8 a year ago. They claimed the outright Lakes Valley Conference title with this win over last season’s co-champion Western (5-3).  

More shoutouts: Warren Woods-Tower 26, St. Clair Shores Lake Shore 12 The Titans (8-0) completed a perfect run to an outright MAC Gold title in this winner-take-all matchup with Lake Shore (6-2). Warren Michigan Collegiate 34, Harper Woods Chandler Park 32 (OT) The Cougars (8-0) needed every last point to secure the Charter School Conference title against former co-leader Chandler Park (3-4).


HEADLINER: Ithaca 20, Saginaw Michigan Lutheran Seminary 9 Over the last six seasons, only MLS also in 2016 has given Ithaca this good of a game in Tri-Valley Conference West play. But the Yellowjackets (7-1) hung on for their 63rd straight league win and the outright title, while the Cardinals (6-2) look even more like a dangerous playoff team likely in Division 8. Click for more from the Mount Pleasant Morning Sun.

Also of note: Haslett 35, Goodrich 0 The Vikings (7-1) added an impressive win to their league title share in the Capital Area Activities Conference Red, downing the Genesee Area Conference Red champion Martians (5-3).

Remember this one: Okemos 30, Holt 20 The Chiefs (6-2) have upped their win total three straight seasons and with five straight victories this fall clinched their first playoff berth since 2014.  

More shoutouts: DeWitt 39, St. Joseph 10 The Panthers (8-0) have dominated again this regular season, with this win over Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference West co-leader St. Joseph (5-3) certainly worth noting. Williamston 34, Lake Fenton 28 Also a CAAC Red co-champ, Williamston (7-1) has shown plenty of grit winning four games by seven points or fewer, including this one over the Blue Devils (4-4) after splitting a pair of meetings with them a year ago.

Northern Lower Peninsula

HEADLINER: Traverse City West 17, Gaylord 16 (OT) How much of a difference can one play make? In this case, it kept reigning Big North Conference champion West in first place with a week to play when a loss in this game would’ve created a three-team jam atop the standings. The Titans (6-2) stopped on a two-point conversion to hand the Blue Devils (5-3) their second straight one-point defeat. Click for more from the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

Also of note: Lake City 14, Kent City 7 The Highland Conference champ Trojans (8-0) aren’t resting on that success, and took on Kent City (7-1) in one of three matchups of undefeated teams across the state last week. Lake City set itself up to play this week for a second straight undefeated regular season.  

Remember this one: Benzie Central 36, Boyne City 34 The Huskies (5-3) have gone from shutting their season down in September two years ago, to winning one game last season to now being on the cusp of making the playoffs for the first time since 2011.

More shoutouts: Elk Rapids 30, Harbor Springs 14 The Elks (6-2) locked up a playoff berth for the second straight season against another of the area’s best in the playoff-bound Rams (6-2). Johannesburg-Lewiston 66, Newberry 18 The Cardinals (7-1) claimed a share of the Northern Michigan Football League Legacy title, their first league championship since 2009. 

Southeast & Border

HEADLINER: Reading 50, Springport 14 Springport put up the most points given up by Reading this season. That the Rangers have given up only 33 total this fall is just one of many indications of how thoroughly they’ve dominated. This win gave Reading (8-0) a second straight Big 8 Conference title, with Springport (7-1) also entering the night tied for first but finishing second. Click for more from the Hillsdale Daily News.

Also of note: Saline 28, Monroe 6 This was another of a series of winner-take-all league title deciders this week, and the Hornets (7-1) did so in the Southeastern Conference Red for the fifth straight season. The second-place Trojans (6-2) will join them in the playoffs for the first time since 2015.

Remember this one: Dexter 48, Ypsilanti Lincoln 42 The Dreadnaughts (6-2) surely will never forget it. They clinched their first playoff berth in program history, the latest highlight from a season that got rolling when they broke a 33-game losing streak in Week 2. Lincoln (4-4) must beat Milan this week to hope for an at-large postseason bid.  

More shoutouts: Brooklyn Columbia Central 30, Hillsdale 27 Much can be decided with both teams facing tough Week 9 matchups, but for now the Golden Eagles and Hornets both stand 7-1 overall and tied for first in the Lenawee County Athletic Association. Ottawa Lake Whiteford 48, Clinton 6 The Bobcats (8-0) clinched a share of the Tri-County Conference championship with their 22nd straight win and 35th in 36 games – this one even more impressive with Clinton (6-2) running second in the league this fall.

Southwest Corridor

HEADLINER: Kalamazoo Central 28, Stevensville Lakeshore 6 The Maroon Giants (5-3) have set themselves up with an opportunity this week to both win the Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference East title and clinch a playoff berth, the latter for the first time since 2004. Central also put Lakeshore (4-4) in a position where it must win this week to hope for an at-large bid and continue a 21-season playoff streak. Click for more from

Also of note: Berrien Springs 40, Olivet 21 The Shamrocks (7-1) earned arguably their most impressive win of the season, or at least the last month, doubling up the Greater Lansing Activities Conference champion Eagles (7-1).

Remember this one: Portage Central 21, Mattawan 14 (OT) This result sets up a lot of narrative for Week 9. The Mustangs (6-2) are in a three-way tie for first in the SMAC West and put themselves in position to share the title with one other team – the other leaders Portage Northern and St. Joseph play each other this week – while Mattawan (5-3) takes on Lakeshore with playoffs on the line for both.

More shoutouts: Kalamazoo United 58, Constantine 44 United (8-0) withstood its second test in two weeks to set up a Southwestern Athletic Conference Valley championship game this week against Schoolcraft. Constantine (6-2) is on pace for its best offensive output since 2013 and could be a threat in the playoffs. White Pigeon 16, Decatur 14 The Chiefs (6-2) locked up their first playoff berth since 2009 and after three straight 4-5 finishes.

Upper Peninsula

HEADLINER: Marquette 21, Gladstone 14 The Redmen (4-4) locked up a share of the Great Northern Conference championship, their first since 2011, and earned a chance to play for more. Marquette must beat Menominee this week to hope for an at-large playoff bid; Gladstone (3-5) is going to fall outside of the postseason with three losses by eight or fewer points. Click for more from the Marquette Mining Journal.

Also of note: Escanaba 38, Traverse City Central 21 The Eskymos (6-2) will only claim a share of the GNC title this week with a win over Kingsford and a Marquette loss, but Escanaba has the Upper Peninsula’s most impressive resume against downstate competition. Add this win over the Trojans (6-2) to notable victories over Petoskey and Detroit Loyola.

Remember this one: Iron River West Iron County 12, Gwinn 6 The Wykons (6-2), who just missed a trip to Ford Field last season, locked up another opportunity to make a run while putting Gwinn (5-3) in a must-win spot this week.

More shoutouts: Negaunee 36, Houghton 16 The Miners  (5-3) have rebounded for an 0-2 start to put themselves in position to clinch a playoff spot this week after missing the postseason a year ago. Iron Mountain 31, L’Anse 7 The Mountaineers (6-2) are headed back to the playoffs after finishing 1-8 last season.

West Michigan

HEADLINER: Muskegon 55, Muskegon Mona Shores 35 The Big Reds (9-0) led by only six heading into the fourth quarter, but scored 14 unanswered points in the fourth to clinch a share of the Ottawa-Kent Conference Black title. Senior quarterback Cameron Martinez ran for 352 yards and six touchdowns, including a 44-yarder for the final score of the night as the Big Reds ran their winning streak over Shores (7-1) to three. Click for more from the Muskegon Chronicle and see highlights below from State Champs Sports Network.

Also of note: Grand Rapids Christian 24, East Grand Rapids 21 The Eagles (6-2) broke a two-game losing streak against the Pioneers (5-3) and in the process forced a tie between the two for first in the O-K Gold with a game to play.

Remember this one: Grand Rapids Catholic Central 24, Grand Rapids West Catholic 14 This matchup of reigning MHSAA champions (GRCC in Division 4, West Catholic Division 5) again determined at least a share of the O-K Blue title, with the Cougars (7-1) repeating and putting West Catholic (4-4) in a must-win scenario to add to a 15-year playoff streak.

More shoutouts: Reed City 50, Newaygo 7 The Coyotes (8-0) locked up the outright Central State Activities Association Gold title, their eighth straight league championship, after Newaygo (5-3) entered the game with an opportunity to force a share. Zeeland East 48, Zeeland West 34 The Chix (7-1) secured a share of the O-K Green title for the second straight season, and after West (6-2) entered the night with a chance to create a three-team tie atop the league standings.


HEADLINER: AuGres-Sims 68, Posen 12 The Wolverines (8-0) locked up the Midwest Central Michigan Conference East title outright by sending Posen (6-2) to third place, and with a win this week will own a second straight unbeaten regular season – last season’s in 11-player and this one in 8. See highlights below from WBKB.

Also of note: Engadine 30, Rapid River 12 Four of seven teams in the Great Lakes Conference East are at least 5-3, and Engadine (7-1) held onto a chance of sharing the league title while Rapid River (5-3) remains in the playoff hunt.

Remember this one: Kingston 37, Peck 8 These longtime rivals didn’t play last season, but this win did break Kingston’s five-game losing streak to the Pirates that began when both moved to 8-player in 2011.

More shoutouts: Portland St. Patrick 28, Tekonsha 26 The reigning 8-Player Division 2 runner-up Shamrocks (4-4) needed a boost after three straight losses, and got it with this win over Southern Central Athletic Association B champion Tekonsha (5-3). Suttons Bay 13, Onekama 8 The Norsemen (7-1) reached seven wins for the second straight season, while Onekama (6-2) has taken two painful defeats this fall by a combined seven points.

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PHOTO: Ithaca clinched an outright Tri-Valley Conference West championship with a 20-9 win over Saginaw Michigan Lutheran Seminary. (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.)