Drive for Detroit: Week 8 in Review

October 21, 2019

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

A season’s worth of highlights are smashing into these final weeks of the regular season.

So this Week 8 “Review” starts with some table-setters before we try to catch up with many more headliners from the weekend.

• River Rouge downed Detroit Catholic Central 16-3 in a meeting of league champions.

• Belleville got past Livonia Franklin and Clinton Township Chippewa Valley defeated Romeo to lock up outright league titles instead of ending up with shared championships.

• Newaygo downed Reed City, giving Central Montcalm an outright league title a year after going 0-9.

• Cedar Springs and Grand Rapids Catholic Central also earned championship shares.

• Posen’s 70-68 win over Au Gres-Sims tied for the fourth highest-scoring 8-player game in state history where the losing team scored at least 40 points.

And don’t forget: In six days, we’ll start this thing over with a fortunate 288 teams setting their sights on the ultimate high school football prize.

"Drive for Detroit" is sponsored by MI Student Aid.

Bay & Thumb

HEADLINER Midland Dow 13, Mount Pleasant 12 THE GAME in this area for Week 6 was Mount Pleasant vs. Midland, and the Chemics’ one-point win put them in first alone in the Saginaw Valley League Red. Now rival Dow (5-3) has put itself in position to claim a share of the league title, after chasing the leaders since losing big to Saginaw Heritage in Week 5. Dow faces Midland this week. The Oilers (6-2), meanwhile, have lost their two games by yes, a combined two points. Click for more from the Midland Daily News.

Watch list Lapeer 34, Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice 10 The Lightning (7-1) will play Davison this week for the outright SVL Blue title. They’ll be riding a boatload of momentum not only with seven straight wins but this one over annual playoff qualifier Brother Rice (5-3) – which must win this week to guarantee a 20th postseason berth over the last 21 seasons.

Remember this one Fenton 42, Goodrich 21 The Flint Metro League split into divisions this season, and the “Upper” champion Tigers (7-1) doubled up the “Lower” champion Martians (6-2) in this first crossover matchup.

More shoutouts Flint Powers Catholic 28, Grand Blanc 24 In the crossover of runners-up in the Flint Metro League, Powers (6-2) clinched a playoff berth for the sixth straight season and put Grand Blanc (5-3) in a position where it must win this week to guarantee advancing for the fourth straight year. Marine City 34, Marysville 3 The Mariners (8-0) finished a perfect run through the Macomb Area Conference Silver and sent the Vikings (5-3) into a must-win-to-get-in playoff scenario as well.

Greater Detroit

HEADLINER North Farmington 13, Farmington 9 The closing of Farmington Hills Harrison this spring certainly changed up football in this community – and heightened this rivalry in the process. The neighbors wasted no time giving this year’s matchup plenty of significance, as North’s first win over Farmington since 2015 gave the Raiders (8-0) their most wins for a season since 1984 and more importantly, the outright Oakland Activities Association Blue championship. Click for more from the Oakland Press and see highlights below from State Champs Sports Network.  

Watch list Dearborn Heights Robichaud 28, Garden City 26 The Bulldogs (7-1) and Redford Thurston ended up co-champions of the Western Wayne Athletic Conference thanks to Robichaud’s close win over Garden City (5-3) and Thurston’s one-pointer over Redford Union. Robichaud also earned a one-point win over Thurston in Week 3 but fell to Union in Week 6.

Remember this one Clarkston Everest Collegiate 27, Royal Oak Shrine 14 The Mountaineers (7-0) locked up their third straight Detroit Catholic League Intersectional II title and this one outright by sending Shrine (6-2) into second place after Shrine (6-2) last season won this matchup to force Everest to share with Madison Heights Bishop Foley.

More shoutouts Clawson 24, Clinton Township Clintondale 6 This matchup was for the outright MAC Bronze title, and Clawson (5-3) won it after finishing runner-up in the league a year ago. Clintondale (5-3) must defeat Hazel Park this week to guarantee a playoff berth. Harrison Township L'Anse Creuse 23, Sterling Heights 20 The Lancers (5-3) guaranteed their best finish since 2012 and shook up the MAC Gold, creating a final three-way shared championship between themselves, Sterling Heights (5-3) and Eastpointe (5-3).


HEADLINER Mason 21, Portland 17 As the regular season worked its way to the end, these two stood alone as undefeated in all of the Capital Area Activities Conference. And Mason (8-0), enjoying perhaps its best season ever and first time at 8-0, owns the claim to the top spot in any of the divisions after handing the Raiders (7-1) their first regular-season loss since Week 2 of 2017. Click for more from the Lansing State Journal.

Watch list Pewamo-Westphalia 41, Fowler 7 The Pirates (8-0) look geared up to make a run at a third MHSAA championship in four seasons as they ran their Central Michigan Athletic Conference title streak to five by handing Fowler (7-1) its lone defeat.

Remember this one DeWitt 30, St. Joseph 14 The Panthers (6-2) can lock up a share of the CAAC Blue title this week, and could also end up owning wins against two more league champs if St. Joseph (6-2) gets past Portage Northern on Friday.

More shoutouts Lansing Catholic 56, Fowlerville 7 Since falling to Portland by a point in Week 5, Lansing Catholic (7-1) has won its next three by a combined 136-21 including this week scoring the most Fowlerville (6-2) had given up since 2015. Williamston 35, Olivet 28 The Hornets (5-3) entered Week 7 at 4-2 and with three undefeated teams left on their schedule. They fell to Mason, but this weekend handed Olivet (7-1) its lone loss. Next up: P-W with the playoffs on the line.

Northern Lower Peninsula

HEADLINER Maple City Glen Lake 42, Charlevoix 18 The Lakers (7-1) quickly bounced back from a Week 7 loss to Kingsley to lock up the Northern Michigan Football League Leaders championship, their fourth straight. Glen Lake with a win this week also can finish its best regular season since 2013. Charlevoix (5-3) ended second in the Leaders and must defeat NMFL Legacy contender Harbor Springs this week to guarantee getting back to the playoffs for the first time since 2016. Click for more from the Traverse City Record-Eagle and see highlights below from MI Sports Now.

Watch list McBain 27, Beal City 0 From a 1-3 start, McBain (5-3) has jumped all the way to the verge of a playoff berth. And the Ramblers should be Houghton Lake’s second-favorite team, as this win created a shared Highland Conference championship between the Bobcats and the Aggies (7-1).

Remember this one Traverse City Central 62, Escanaba 7 Since falling to DeWitt on opening night, Central (7-1) has been on a tear winning all but one of its games by at least 32 points. Including a Week 2 nine-point win over Marquette, this gave the Trojans victories against the top two teams in the Great Northern Conference and after Central fell to the Eskymos (6-2) a year ago.

More shoutouts Ogemaw Heights 24, Grayling 14 The Falcons (6-2) clinched their first playoff berth since 2013 and at six wins have as many as the last five seasons combined. East Jordan 21, Mancelona 6 While there will be no playoffs this season for the Red Devils, they’ve improved substantially after two straight one-win seasons – and may have stifled the playoff hopes for Mancelona (4-4), which must win this week and hope to make the field for the first time since 2014 as an additional qualifier.

Southeast & Border

HEADLINER Milan 20, Carleton Airport 6 The Big Reds (8-0) finished a perfect run through a Huron League that could send half its teams to the playoffs if Carleton Airport (5-3) can finish the regular season with a win this week. Milan had finished second both seasons since its last championship in 2016, and this year’s was the Big Reds’ first outright league title since 2013. Click for more from the Ann Arbor News.

Watch list Addison 48, Napoleon 10 The Panthers (7-1) locked up their second Cascades Conference championship in three seasons, and this one outright. A win this week would guarantee Addison its best regular-season record since 2006.

Remember this one Hillsdale 21, Brooklyn Columbia Central 6 The Hornets shared the Lenawee County Athletic Association title last season with Columbia Central (4-4), and this time downed the Golden Eagles to clinch a share. Hillsdale (8-0) can win it outright this week against Dundee.

More shoutouts Grass Lake 25, Manchester 8 The Warriors (7-1) ended up second in the Cascades Conference after winning a year ago, and pushed third-place Manchester (5-3) into a must-win situation this week as the Flying Dutchmen look to get back to the playoffs for the first time since 2016. Jackson Lumen Christi 49, Battle Creek Pennfield 14 The Titans (8-0) have won three Interstate 8 Athletic Conference titles in four seasons and the last two outright. This win extended their overall winning streak to 31.

Southwest Corridor

HEADLINER Lawton 20, Saugatuck 14 The Blue Devils (8-0) avoided a potential three-team championship in the Southwestern Athletic Conference Lakeshore with wins the last two weeks over Fennville and then Saugatuck (3-5), which finished tied for second. The league title is Lawton’s first since 2012 and first outright since 2010, and the Blue Devils also can equal that team’s perfect regular season with a win over Comstock this week. Click below for highlights from FOX17.

Watch list Battle Creek Lakeview 54, Kalamazoo Loy Norrix 14 The Spartans (8-0) locked up their first Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference East title since 2015 and outright league championship since 2014. They also moved to 8-0 for the first time since 2013, with a chance to avenge last year’s loss to Battle Creek Harper Creek up next.  

Remember this one White Pigeon 8, Mendon 6 The Chiefs (7-1) made headlines a year ago when they beat Mendon (6-2) for the first time in two decades, but they then fell to the Hornets five weeks later in a first-round playoff game – and by this same score, 8-6. Both are headed to the postseason again, with another rematch possible.

More shoutouts Constantine 40, Kalamazoo United 15 The Falcons (6-2) knocked United out of a tie for first place in the SAC Valley but now will be the Titans’ biggest fans – United (4-4) plays first-place Schoolcraft this week, and with a win would create a three-team shared title. Mattawan 35, Portage Central 7 The Wildcats (4-4) kept their hopes for a third-straight playoff berth alive while putting Portage Central (4-4) also in additional qualifier territory as it seeks to extend a seven-year postseason streak.

Upper Peninsula

HEADLINER Marquette 37, Gladstone 14 The Redmen (4-4) edged closer to earning an additional qualifier spot in the playoff field, but that obviously was secondary this weekend as they also clinched a share of the Great Northern Conference title for the second-straight year. Marquette will play Kingsford this week for the outright league title, with the hope as well that another win will get them into the postseason for the first time since 2014. Click for more from the Marquette Mining Journal.

Watch list Iron Mountain 51, L’Anse 6 The Mountaineers (8-0) locked up a share of the Western Peninsula Athletic Conference Copper championship, and can both clinch it outright and finish their first perfect regular season since 2011 with a win Friday against winless Gogebic.

Remember this one Menominee 47, Kingsford 8 After missing the playoffs last season for the first time since 1995, Menominee (5-3) kept its hopes alive of returning – while sending Kingsford (4-4) into an additional qualifier situation after the Flivvers also missed last season for the first time since 2014. Next up for the Maroons: undefeated Hopkins.

More shoutouts Ishpeming 54, Munising 6 The Hematites (6-2) clinched a share of the West-PAC Iron title and moved to 12-0 in the league in their two seasons as a member. Lake Linden-Hubbell 42, Bark River-Harris 0 The Lakes (5-3) moved one win closer to returning to the playoffs for the first time since 2016 and earned some key bonus points as Bark River-Harris (5-3) also is working for a postseason berth.

West Michigan

HEADLINER Muskegon 53, Muskegon Mona Shores 0 The score says it all as the Big Reds (8-0) dominated the reigning Division 2 runner-up – and be sure potential playoff opponents are listening. Muskegon clinched a share of the Ottawa-Kent Conference Black for the fourth straight season and has outscored its first five league opponents by a combined 278-10 with four shutouts. Mona Shores (6-2) averaged 37 points per game entering the night. Click for more from the Muskegon Chronicle.

Watch list Muskegon Oakridge 27, Ravenna 20 (OT) The Eagles (8-0) locked up their first West Michigan Conference title since 2016 by scoring the game’s final 20 points. Ravenna (6-2) also entered the night unbeaten in league play and has guaranteed its first playoff berth since 2016.

Remember this one Grandville 30, Rockford 3 The Bulldogs (7-1) were rewarded for persevering after falling to Hudsonville by 23 in Week 6, as Rockford (7-1) went on to defeat Hudsonville the next week and now Grandville and Rockford sit tied for first in the O-K Red with a league game to play for both.

More shoutouts Grand Rapids Christian 38, East Grand Rapids 31 This matchup has determined at least a share of the O-K Gold championship now four straight seasons, as the Eagles (6-2) clinched a share and sent EGR (5-3) into a must-win playoff scenario. Byron Center 33, Hudsonville Unity Christian 20 The Bulldogs (8-0) clinched a share of the O-K Green title for the first time since 2016 and made things tougher for the reigning Division 5 champion Crusaders (5-3), who must face Zeeland East this week with a return to the postseason on the line.


HEADLINER Crystal Falls Forest Park 22, Morrice 14 This matchup came together as a result of Forest Park and Morrice’s original opponents being unable to play – and ended up becoming one of the most notable 8-player games this fall. The Orioles (7-1) had won 20 straight (including 13 during last season’s perfect run to the Division 1 title) and given up only 18 points over their first seven games. The Trojans (6-2) got up 16-0 and scored the final go-ahead points with 3:13 to play. Click for more from the Iron Mountain Daily News.

Watch list Suttons Bay 29, Onekama 18 The first meeting between these two, a 20-14 Suttons Bay win in Week 4, was a late add and nonleague. This one was for the Midwest Central Michigan Conference West title, and Suttons Bay (8-0) held on again to win the championship outright by handing Onekama (5-3) its only league defeat. 

Remember this one Deckerville 42, Kingston 34 The Eagles (8-0) locked up a share of a fourth straight North Central Thumb League Blue championship, but got their first single-digit game of the season from the rival Cardinals (6-2) 

More shoutouts Newberry 20, Brimley 18 The Indians (5-3) would have fallen just outside the playoff field if the regular season had ended a week ago, but defeating Brimley (5-3) could end up the eventual difference. Gaylord St. Mary 65, Mio 28 The Snowbirds (3-5) had to forfeit four wins last week, but a slim chance of making the playoffs remained – and they took a big step toward making it a reality getting past Mio (7-1).

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PHOTO: Clinton Township Chippewa Valley's Myles Harris (4) outraces a Romeo defender for a kickoff return touchdown Friday. (Photo by Chris Mudd 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.)