Drive for Detroit: Week 9 in Review

October 27, 2014

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

The biggest news of this weekend undoubtedly came Sunday night, when the field for this season’s MHSAA Football Playoffs was announced.

But before we move on, let’s pay a final homage to another regular season – and some memorable highlights that made their way in before Week 9 came to a close Saturday night.

Consider these appetizers:

  • Hanover-Horton defeated Quincy 50-48 in six overtimes Thursday; it was the sixth game in MHSAA history to go at least six overtimes, with the record nine and six tied for second-longest.

  • Crystal Falls Forest Park beat rival Lake Linden-Hubbell 36-22 to finish second in the Great Western Conference but remain undefeated in Michigan this fall – the Trojans' lone loss was to league champion Hurley, from Wisconsin.

  • Saginaw Arthur Hill beat rival Saginaw High 28-0. Neither of these teams will move on – this was the only win this fall between the two – but this ended a rivalry that began in 1894, as the schools will combine beginning next summer.

Read on for the main course, including some of the details behind the final league championships decided this fall. 

West Michigan

Muskegon Mona Shores 48, Muskegon 27

Muskegon has been able to make the argument the last two seasons for being the best of the always-strong west Michigan football scene – the Big Reds (8-1) were a combined 24-4 in 2012 and 2013, finishing Division 2 runner-up both seasons. That’s part of why Mona Shores’ win Friday sent statewide shockwaves. Although the Sailors (8-1) played Muskegon to within six points last season and later earned their first playoff berth ever, and have risen this fall to the cusp of elite as well, defeating the Big Reds gave Mona Shores its first league title since 1968 and a school record for victories with arguably its best win in program history. It also was Mona Shores’ first over Muskegon since 1982 Click for more from the Muskegon Chronicle.

Also noted:

Grand Rapids Catholic Central 26, Middleville Thornapple Kellogg 13 – The Cougars (6-3) added to a now seven-season playoff streak despite opening 2-3.

Caledonia 38, Grand Rapids Christian 14 – Despite its impressive run over the last five weeks, Caledonia (7-2) still could’ve lost its share of the O-K White title against the dangerous Eagles (5-4) – who did make the playoffs with an at-large bid.

Grandville 22, Hudsonville 7 – Five of six O-K Red teams finished with overall winning records this fall, which makes a good case why both of these earned at-large playoff bids with matching 5-4 records.

Muskegon Catholic Central 45, Ravenna 0 – The Crusaders (9-0) have won 21 straight and are the likely Division 8 favorite again with four shutouts including this latest of solid Ravenna (7-2). 

Bay and Thumb

Midland Dow 35, Midland 17

There’s joy on one side of this Midland rivalry, but both schools should share a sense of pride. Dow has been solid over the years, but had fallen to its neighbor 11 times in their past 12 games – so beating the Chemics was probably the best possible scenario for Dow as it finished its first perfect regular season since its MHSAA championship year of 1976. The Chargers also helped put to an end one of the most incredible runs in MHSAA regular-season history; Midland finished 4-5 and sub-.500 for the first time since 1976. Click for more from the Midland Daily News.

Also noted:

Fenton 35, Linden 29 – The Tigers (9-0) edged another playoff team in Linden (6-3) to finish perfect for the regular season for the first time since 1985.

Saginaw Michigan Lutheran Seminary 27, Birch Run 20 – The Cardinals (8-1) beat another playoff team in the Panthers (7-2) to guarantee their best finish since 1994.  

New Lothrop 35, Montrose 21 – The Hornets (9-0) finished their fifth straight perfect regular season with one of the most impressive wins of the run, over arguably one of the best six-win teams in the state in Montrose (6-3).

Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port Laker 14, Beal City 13 – The Lakers finished their first 9-0 regular season since 2002 against the two-time reigning Division 8 runner-up Aggies (7-2) after both decided to play instead of claiming forfeit wins from their original Week 9 opponents. 

Greater Detroit

Birmingham Brother Rice 35, Orchard Lake St. Mary’s 28

What a way to finish the regular season – the final 11-player game before the start of the 2014 playoffs was even better than billed, considering the Warriors had defeated the Eaglets 28-20 only three weeks ago. Brother Rice (9-0) pulled within 28-27 on Grant Perry’s fourth touchdown catch and with only 24 seconds left in the Detroit Catholic League Prep Bowl at Ford Field, then decided to go for two points and the win. Perry caught the conversion pass from quarterback Alex Malzone to take the lead, and the Warriors added their final points off a turnover on the final play of the game. St. Mary’s only losses in going 7-2 are to Brother Rice. Click for more from the Detroit News.

Also noted:

Detroit Cass Tech 39, Detroit Martin Luther King 7 – The Detroit Public School League championship game matched undefeated teams and proved again the strength of Division 1 contender Cass Tech (9-0), with Martin Luther King (8-1) still expected to contend in Division 2 as well.

Clarkston 31, Farmington Hills Harrison 24 – The Wolves (9-0) have won 22 straight with this against Harrison (7-2) only the third game of that streak decided by seven points or fewer.

Dearborn Fordson 17, Monroe 6 – The Tractors (9-0) held strong again against one of their toughest opponents so far, Monroe (6-3), to finish undefeated for the third regular season over the last seven.

Hudson 34, Hillsdale 14 – The Lenawee County Athletic Association title came down to the final week, and this time Hudson (8-1) clinched it outright after sharing last season with both Hillsdale (7-2) and Ida.

Upper Peninsula

Menominee 48, Marquette 28

Menominee (9-0) is Great Northern Upper Peninsula Conference champion for the second straight season, although not without facing one of its toughest challenges in some time. Second-place Marquette (7-2) gave the Maroons arguably their best regular-season game since a 14-13 loss to Kingsford in 2012 and scored the most points given up by the Maroons in the regular season since 2011. Menominee’s offense keeps churning, averaging 48 points per game with its 48 against Marquette the most the Redmen had given up since 2009. Click for more from the Marquette Mining Journal.

Also noted:

Negaunee 27, Ishpeming Westwood 9 – The Miners (5-4) kept their three-year playoff string going, but needed this win over Westwood (6-3) to take full advantage of the Patriots’ best regular-season finish since 2011.

Bark River-Harris 8, Iron River West Iron County 6 – The Broncos (7-2) added another highlight to their best season since 2009 by handing West Iron (8-1) its first regular-season loss since Week 7 in 2012.

Bessemer 51, Ironwood 6 – The Miners (Bessemer’s nickname as part of its football co-op, Gogebic) won their sixth game to advance to the playoffs for the third straight season.

Iron Mountain 21, Norway 20 – The Mountaineers (6-3) are back in the playoffs after a one-year miss, but needed to edge a Norway (4-5) team that was playing for an at-large bid but still finished with its best record since 2010. 

Lower Up North

Cadillac 15, Traverse City Central 14

This is the way a league title should be decided – one-point game between first and second-place teams on the final night of the regular season. Never mind that Cadillac had already earned a share of the Big North Conference title and that Central ended up tied for second with Petoskey; Cadillac’s go-ahead score with 4.6 seconds to play makes this one of the most exciting finishes in Michigan so far this season. The score came after Central had forced Cadillac into a turnover on downs at the Trojans’ 4-yard line a minute and a half prior. A Central win would've made them co-champions. Click for more from the Cadillac News.

Also noted:

Boyne City 55, Grayling 36 – The Ramblers (9-0) celebrated not only their first perfect regular season since 2001, but also the end of a five-game losing streak to the Vikings (4-5).  

Johannesburg-Lewiston 42, Indian River Inland Lakes 6 – The South-winning Cardinals (8-1) can call themselves second-best in the Ski Valley Conference overall, having fallen to North champ St. Ignace in Week 5 before beating North runner-up Inland Lakes (7-2) impressively.

Onekama 40, Frankfort 22 – The Portagers (6-3) are headed to the playoffs for the first time since 2007 with also their first winning record since that season; Frankfort (5-3) had previously qualified.

Traverse City West 35, Walled Lake Northern 14 – The Titans earned enough playoff points downing Northern (4-5) to earn an at-large postseason bid and extend its streak to three seasons despite opening this fall 1-3.  

Southwest and Border

Gobles 51, Saugatuck 49

This Southwestern Athletic Conference North finale had all kinds of implications. While Fennville cruised into a share of the league title with a 42-0 win over Bloomingdale (after beating Gobles 22-12 in Week 8 and despite losing the Saugatuck the week before that), a Saugatuck win in this one would have changed things substantially by giving the Indians (5-4) both a share of the league title and a playoff berth. Instead, Gobles (7-2) shared the championship with Fennville, and those two will continue into the postseason while Saugatuck will not despite notching an eighth-straight winning season. Click for more from the Kalamazoo Gazette.

Also noted:

Mendon 28, Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart 7 – The Hornets (8-1) beat six teams that finished the regular season .500 or better, including the Irish (5-4), who earned a playoff at-large bid.

Schoolcraft 28, Reed City 14 – Schoolcraft (6-3) closed the season on a 5-1 run to make the playoffs, but still needed to beat a co-league champion in Reed City (7-2) to guarantee a spot.

Berrien Springs 7, Dowagiac 0 – The Shamrocks (6-3) are back in the playoffs after a two-season hiatus also thanks to a 5-1 run to close the regular season and the first win over Dowagiac (3-6) of their recent three-game series.

Battle Creek Central 18, Kalamazoo Loy Norrix 15 – The Bearcats (5-4) didn’t make the playoffs, but did guarantee their first winning season since 2008 and after winning a combined five games over the last five years. 


Lansing Catholic 27, Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central 21

The talk about rejuvenated Lansing Catholic (9-0) of late has focused on if the Cougars are set to take the step into MHSAA title contender status. This victory seems to indicate yes. St. Mary (8-1) also entered undefeated and led by a strong group of seniors who should make it a player again in Division 6. Lansing Catholic is looking good to make a similar run in Division 5 after surviving its only game closer than 24 points this season. Click for more from the Lansing State Journal.

Also noted:

Okemos 20, East Lansing 13 – The Chieftains (6-3) secured their first playoff berth since 2011 after a 2-3 start, by riding in part their best defensive performance in a decade (16.7 ppg) despite facing five eventual playoff qualifiers.

Grand Ledge 41, Holt 7 – The Comets (6-3) are another bounce-back playoff team, in after a year off and despite a 1-2 start to this fall and having to face their biggest rival in the finale.

Eaton Rapids 35, Charlotte 6 – Despite new leagues for both this fall, they kept the series alive; Eaton Rapids (6-3) also kept alive a playoff streak after making the postseason for the first time a year ago.

Manchester 47, Union City 27 – This matchup of champions from the Cascades and Big 8 conferences saw Cascades winner Manchester (8-1) hand Union City its lone loss. 


Lawrence 40, Battle Creek St. Philip 19

Beating St. Philip (8-1) didn’t bump Lawrence (9-0) up enough to get it a home game if these two meet again in the Regional Final – but did push Lawrence past Portland St. Patrick so it will host the Shamrocks this week. The win also showed Lawrence is the team to beat from this quarter of the bracket, regardless of where the games are played. Click for more from the Battle Creek Enquirer.

Also noted:

Rapid River 42, Bellaire 28 – The Rockets (9-0) tuned up for what they hope will be another playoff run with Bridge Football Alliance runner-up Cedarville to start October and third-place Bellaire (7-2) to finish it.

Webberville 44, Burr Oak 16 – This unofficial playoff game got Webberville (4-5) into the field in the 16th and final spot, while Burr Oak (4-5) ended up 17th in playoff point average and just outside.

PHOTO: Muskegon Mona Shores ran away in the third quarter Friday to defeat rival Muskegon for the first time since 1982 and claim its first league title since 1968. (Photo courtesy of Eric Sturr.)

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.)