Drive for Detroit: Week 9 in Review

October 29, 2013

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Three months ago, more than 600 MHSAA football teams began this season with expectations. During the last nine weeks, many were realized. 

So before diving full on into the playoffs, let’s take a few minutes to review the last of those regular-season feats.

Here’s a look at the Week 9 edition of our most significant results from every corner of Michigan:

Greater Detroit and Southeast

Detroit Cass Tech 20, Detroit Martin Luther King 14

Revenge belongs to Cass Tech, which fell to King in last season’s Detroit Public School League semifinals but handed the Crusaders (7-1) their first loss in this fall’s championship game. As expected, this turned into the closest either has played since the early weeks of this season. And it likely served as final preparation as both now pursue MHSAA championships and a PSL first – Cass Tech (9-0) is in Division 1 and King Division 2 for the playoffs, and there have never been multiple PSL MHSAA champs in the same season. Click to read more from the Detroit Free Press.

Also noted:

Clarkston 20, Southfield 10: Clarkston (8-1) won this clash of Oakland Activities Association champions and looks like an MHSAA Division 1 contender; Southfield (7-2) also looks good to make a Division 2 run.

Birmingham Brother Rice 20, Detroit Catholic Central 7: Both losses for DCC (7-2) this fall have come to Brother Rice (9-0) – this one in the Catholic League Central Prep Bowl.  

Detroit U-D Jesuit 20, Birmingham Seaholm 17: The Cubs (5-4) broke a three-game losing streak to finish with a winning regular-season record for the first time since 2002 and earn their first playoff berth since 2001 – and did so by handing the first loss this season to OOA Blue champion Seaholm (8-1).

Northville 38, Walled Lake Western 31 (OT): Northville (8-1) has won 21 of its last 22 Kensington Lakes Activities Association games, but this overall KLAA championship game win caps what could be the team’s most impressive recent run. Western (8-1) could see the Mustangs again if both win their playoff openers.

Thumb and Bay

Lapeer West 14, Fenton 13

The final Lapeer West (7-2) football team claimed a share of the Flint Metro League title thanks to this win that included a blocked extra point. West, which will combine with Lapeer East next summer, ended Fenton’s 19-game league winning streak, although the Tigers (8-1) did also earn a share of the league title. Click to read more from the Flint Journal.

Also noted:

Clare 24, Sanford Meridian 13: Clare (7-2) started slowly with two losses this fall, but that didn’t change much in the Jack Pine Conference as the Pioneers ran their league winning streak to 26 and league title streak to seven straight; Sanford Meridian (7-2) is another of three teams from the conference that made the playoffs.

Montrose 37, Lake Fenton 0: Make that 20 straight Genesee Area Conference Red wins for Montrose (9-0) which claimed the title again by beating second-place Lake Fenton (7-2).

New Lothrop 47, Pewamo-Westphalia 33: The GAC Blue switched up its scheduling format this fall specifically so teams could face some tough nonleague opponents – and New Lothrop (9-0) took advantage of the opportunity and dealt P-W (8-1) its first loss.

Flint Carman-Ainsworth 42, Davison 0: After finishing second in the Saginaw Valley Association South last season, Carman-Ainsworth (8-1) moved up to first this fall thanks to this win over second-place Davison (4-5).

West Michigan

Muskegon 20, Muskegon Reeths-Puffer 7

These teams were tied for first in the O-K Black entering this matchup, and this was the closest game between the two since 2005 – although Muskegon ran its winning streak over Reeths-Puffer to 10 straight and will see the Rockets (7-2) again in this weekend’s Division 2 District opener. The victory clinched for the Big Reds (8-1) their first league title since 2008. Click to read more from the Muskegon Chronicle.

Also noted:

Grand Rapids West Catholic 21, Ada Forest Hills Eastern 20: The reigning MHSAA Division 5 runner-up Falcons (5-4) were able to earn a share of the O-K Bronze title and a playoff berth with this one-point edging of Forest Hills Eastern (4-5).

Grand Rapids Catholic Central 36, Grand Rapids Ottawa Hills 6: Both entered 5-3, with GRCC getting the necessary sixth win to make the playoffs and Ottawa Hills finishing 5-4 and missing out on an at-large bid.

Saugatuck 58, Gobles 13: The Indians (8-1) claimed the Southwestern Athletic Conference North title outright and made the playoffs for the fifth time in six seasons; Gobles (5-4) fell just short of its third straight postseason appearance.

Spring Lake 27, Shelby 0: The Lakers (8-1) followed up winning the Lakes 8 Conference title by handing the lone loss this fall to West Michigan Conference champion Shelby (8-1).

Southwest and Border

Watervliet 54, Lawton 20

The tie-breaker goes to Watervliet after these teams split the SAC South title last season. This is the fifth straight year that one of these two won the league championship. The Panthers are a combined 25-2 over the last three regular seasons, with this their first perfect run since 1999. Click to read more from the Kalamazoo Gazette.

Also noted:

Edwardsburg 56, Paw Paw 48: In arguably the best matchup in the state this week that didn't decide a league champion, the Eddies (9-0), winners of the Wolverine B West, handed the first loss to Wolverine B East champ Paw Paw (8-1)

Battle Creek St. Philip 54, Lawrence 50: These might be two of the top four 8-player teams in the state, and St. Philip (9-0) would host Lawrence (6-2) next week if both win their playoff openers.

Coldwater 54, Marshall 27: Not only did Coldwater gain toward its first playoff berth ever, but the Cardinals (5-4) also guaranteed their first winning regular season since 1989.

Hillsdale 42, Dundee 7: Hillsdale, Hudson and Ida all split the title in the competitive Lenawee County Activities Association, but this win also earned the Hornets (6-3) a spot in the playoffs while likely keeping the Vikings (5-4) out.

Lower Up North

Grayling 51, Boyne City 13

For the second straight season these Lake Michigan Conference rivals came into their Week 9 matchup undefeated, and for the second straight season Grayling came away a big winner and league champ. In fact, the Vikings are 33-3 over their last four regular seasons. Click to read more from the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

Also noted:

Lincoln Alcona 50, Mio 12: Alcona (9-0) won big in this matchup of champions from the North Star League, although Mio (7-2) also will continue on to the playoffs –
for the 13th straight season.

Cadillac 14, Traverse City Central 7: The Vikings (9-0) clinched the Big North Conference title outright and finished perfect for the regular season for the first time since 2000, while keeping Traverse City Central (5-4) from gaining a playoff berth.

Elk Rapids 13, Kalkaska 12: The Elks (6-3) squeezed back into the playoffs for the first time since 2010, and Kalkaska (6-3) will continue as well for the second straight season.

Ogemaw Heights 13, Petoskey 12: One point got Ogemaw Heights (6-3) into the playoffs and kept Petoskey (5-4) out.

Upper Peninsula

Menominee 51, Marquette 7

Menominee secured its fifth straight season with at least nine wins and first perfect regular season since its last MHSAA title-winning fall in 2007. The Maroons scored 51 straight points on Marquette, which also made the playoffs at 5-3 but had to settle for a tie for second place in the Greater Northern UP Conference behind the Maroons (9-0). Click to read more from the Marquette Mining Journal.

Also noted:

Houghton 26, Hancock 22: The Gremlins (6-3) pushed past their rivals from across the Portage River to earn a playoff bid and win the Copper Bowl; Hancock finished 3-6 for the third straight season.

Kingsford 28, Escanaba 21: Kingsford (7-2) beat its traditional Week 9 opponent Eskymos (3-6) for the 14th straight season.

Munising 17, L'Anse 10: Munising (6-3) got back into the playoffs after missing last season, and impressively with a win over a L’Anse (7-2) team that hadn’t lost since Week 2.

Powers North Central 27, Stephenson 22: The Jets (7-2) ended a four-year losing streak to Stephenson (4-5), and in doing so kept the Eagles out of the playoffs.


Holt 45, Grand Ledge 30

Holt’s playoff hopes took a big hit with a 13-point loss to Jackson in Week 8, but the Rams (5-4) rebounded against the rival Comets (4-5) in a must-win game for both. Holt did get in – after Grand Ledge’s Week 9 win kept the Rams out in 2012 – and also ended up in second place in the Capital Area Activities Conference Blue. Click to read more from the Lansing State Journal.

Also noted: 

Grass Lake 17, Homer 14: Grass Lake (8-1) looks playoff-ready emerging from a strong Cascades Conference and then beating Homer (8-1) in the showcase game of the crossover series with the Big 8.

Eaton Rapids 41, Owosso 21: The Greyhounds (5-3) finished with their first winning regular season since 1993 – and thanks in part to beating Owosso (1-8), earned their first playoff berth as well.

Jackson Lumen Christi 42, Howell 35: After a Week 9 loss to Howell kept Lumen Christi (9-0) from an undefeated regular season in 2012, the Titans held off the Highlanders (5-4) in a game Howell needed to win to make the playoffs. 

Ionia 20, Lake Odessa Lakewood 13: The Bulldogs (7-2) are back in the playoffs for the first time since 2006 and finished off the regular season by edging the rival Vikings (0-9).

Trophy Games

Each week the MHSAA highlights trophy games from around the state. Here are two in addition to the Copper Bowl mentioned above:

Little Brown Jug: Newberry vs. Sault Ste. Marie. This is the longest-running of the Little Brown Jug games in Michigan. Final: Sault Ste. Marie 41, Newberry 6.

Firefighter's Trumpet: Bay City Western vs. Bay City Central. The trophy for this matchup was created in 1990 but disappeared after the 2003 game until this fall. Final: Central 43, Western 20.

PHOTO: Detroit Cass Tech quarterback Jayru Campbell eludes the Detroit Martin Luther King defense during the PSL championship game. (Photo courtesy of the Detroit Public School League.)

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.)