Drive for Detroit: Week 9 in Review

October 26, 2015

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Week 9 of the football regular season brings with it a Twitter feed full of gems like these: 

Enjoy perfection? Northville finished 9-0 for the first time since 1961. Portland did so for the first time since 1969. Birmingham Groves posted its first flawless regular-season finish since 1978. For Buchanan, it was the first since 1988. 

How about streaks? Rockford continued a 20-season playoff streak, and Stevensville Lakeshore clinched 18 years in a row heading to the postseason. And of course there was at least one stat line worth a double take – like Pewamo-Westphalia running back Jared Smith finishing the regular season with 2,065 rushing yards and 38 touchdowns for the undefeated Pirates. 

Those are just highlights. As we begin to focus on the first week of the playoffs, let's not forget the rest of the best from the final week of the regular season. 

Bay & Thumb

Fenton 30, Linden 27 (OT)

Fenton upped its Flint Metro League winning streak to 29 straight games and its league title streak to five seasons either sharing the championship or winning it outright thanks to this victory over second-place Linden. The Tigers ended the regular season at 8-1 while Linden is 7-2; Fenton’s lone loss came on opening night to Davison by three points. Click for more from the Flint Journal.

Also noted:

Freeland 42, Frankenmuth 7 – The Falcons (9-0) won the only matchup between undefeated teams in the state this weekend, but could see Frankenmuth (8-1) again in a Division 5 District Final.

Midland Dow 49, Midland 28 – The Chargers (8-1) won this crosstown rivalry game for the second straight season … and earned a rematch with the Chemics (7-2) in a Division 2 opener.

New Lothrop 41, Montrose 0 – The Hornets (9-0) completed their sixth straight undefeated regular season and in the process gave Montrose (5-4) a boost that helped the Rams into the playoffs as an at-large team.

Saginaw Swan Valley 28, Bay City John Glenn 21 – The Vikings (6-3) secured a fourth-straight playoff berth, but John Glenn (5-4) also made the postseason for a second straight season. 

Greater Detroit

Detroit Martin Luther King 27, Detroit Cass Tech 25

It wouldn’t surprise many if both of these teams ended up back at Ford Field in five weeks playing for MHSAA titles in Division 2 and Division 1, respectively. This Detroit Public League Division I Final was their second matchup this season and both were decided by a field goal or less; King won the Sept. 25 meeting 31-28. The Crusaders (9-0) locked down Cass Tech’s passing game in this one, holding the Technicians (7-2) to their season low in points. Click for more from the Detroit Free Press.

Also noted:

Orchard Lake St. Mary's 38, Warren DeLaSalle 0 – The Eaglets (7-1) look like strong favorites in Division 3 after defeating reigning Division 2 champ DeLaSalle (6-3) big in the Prep Bowl to avenge their only loss this season.

Utica Eisenhower 17, Romeo 14 – The Eagles (6-3) are one of the state’s hottest teams, beating opponents the last three weeks that are a combined 21-6 including handing Romeo (8-1) its only loss.

Detroit Collegiate Prep 26, Detroit Central Collegiate 12 – The Colts (9-0) won the PSL Division II title game to register their first perfect regular season in at least 65 years; Central Collegiate (6-3) is headed to the playoffs for the second straight season after going 0-9 in 2013.

West Bloomfield 20, Farmington Hills Harrison 14 – The Lakers (9-0) tied their school record for wins set last season with their first perfect regular season since going 8-0 in 1960; Harrison (7-2) is headed back to the playoffs for the ninth time in 10 seasons.


Lansing Catholic 35, Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central 10

Reigning Division 6 champion Monroe St. Mary (8-1) has looked ready for another run since putting up 62 points on Tecumseh on opening night, but Lansing Catholic (8-1) reminded the rest of Michigan it’s one of the dangerous teams in Division 5 by going on the road and handing the Falcons their first regular-season loss since 2013. The Cougars rattled off 28 unanswered points during the second half. Click for more from MLive-Lansing.

Also noted:

Portland 25, Marshall 16 – The Raiders finished 9-0 for the first time since 1969, which was a lot easier said than done considering Marshall (7-2) was one of five playoff teams on the schedule.

Harrison 40, Clare 20 – The Hornets (7-2) locked down second place in the Jack Pine Conference with their first win over Clare since 2010, and in the process kept the Pioneers (5-4) out of the playoffs for the first time since 2005.

Grand Ledge 42, Holt 0 – The Comets (9-0) completed their outright Capital Area Activities Conference Blue title, finished their third perfect regular season over the last eight and in the process kept rival Holt (5-4) from making the playoffs (although the Rams did improve from 3-6 a year ago).

Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart 13, Mendon 7 – The Irish (6-3) ran off six straight wins after opening 0-3 against teams that finished a combined 25-2 to return to the playoffs for the eighth straight season; Mendon (5-4) also earned its ninth straight postseason bid despite the loss and after starting 1-3. 

Northern Lower Peninsula

Harbor Springs 22, Charlevoix 20

The winner was guaranteed a playoff spot. And Harbor Springs had plenty to celebrate with its move to 6-3 earning both the first playoff berth since 2000 but also its first winning record in 16 years. Senior Mitch Hoffman drilled a last-second field goal to put his team over the top – and keep the Red Rayders out of the playoffs as they did not end up with enough playoff points to qualify as an at-large team despite finishing 5-4. Click for more from the Petoskey News.

Also noted:

Boyne City 35, Grayling 20 – Boyne City may have finished behind Traverse City St. Francis in the Northern Michigan Football Conference Leaders standings, but beating third-place Grayling (6-3) helped the Vikings (8-1) secure up to two home playoff games – with St. Francis likely awaiting in the Regional Final.

Lake City 28, Newberry 21 – The Trojans made quite a bounce-back from last season’s 2-7 finish and beat two straight playoffs teams in Lincoln Alcona and Newberry (6-3) the last two weeks to get back to the playoffs at 5-4.

Oscoda 48, AuGres-Sims 22 – The Owls (6-3) also are back in the playoffs for the first time since 2000 after finishing the regular season with two straight wins.

Onekama 21, Frankfort 8 – Before last season, Onekama hadn’t beaten Frankfort since 1994; now, the Portagers (8-1) have won two straight over the Panthers (7-2) and could see them again in a Division 8 District Final.

Southeast & Border

Jackson 35, Jackson Lumen Christi 34 (OT)

This season just keeps getting better for Jackson. By moving to 7-2, the Vikings equaled their wins from 2010-2014 combined. And although they didn’t play most seasons in between, it’s worth noting this was Jackson’s first win over Lumen Christi since 1988 – and after 27, 29 and 34-point defeats to the Titans (6-3) the last three years. Click for more from the Jackson Citizen-Patriot.

Also noted:

Grass Lake 19, Union City 16 – The Warriors (5-4) survived a three-game losing streak midseason to earn an at-large playoff bid, and with this win knocked Union City (4-5) out of the running.

Clinton 36, Ottawa Lake Whiteford 18 – The Redskins (9-0) finished their fourth straight perfect regular season and fourth straight Tri-County Conference title by beating Whiteford (7-2), one of three other playoff teams from the league.

Manchester 45, Homer 38 – The Flying Dutchmen (8-1) claimed this meeting of first-place teams in the Cascades and Big 8 conferences for the second straight season, putting up a season high points total while also giving up their most this season to Homer (7-2).

Parma Western 28, Dexter 0 – After missing by a win twice over the last six seasons, Western (6-3) finally has its first MHSAA playoff berth thanks to two straight victories to close the regular season. 

Southwest Corridor 

Benton Harbor 29, Portage Northern 23 (OT)

Benton Harbor is one of the best stories of this season. The Tigers (5-4) didn’t win a game in 2013 or 2014 and went a combined 4-68 over the last eight seasons, but with a new coach and new athletic director posted their first winning season since 1989 – and earned their first playoff berth ever. It took this overtime win over Portage Northern (4-5), which hadn’t lost to Benton Harbor since 1996. Click for more from the St. Joseph Herald-Palladium.

Also noted:

Dowagiac 49, Paw Paw 46 – The Chieftains (6-3) reversed their record of a year ago but needed a second straight win by three points or fewer to return to the playoffs.

Constantine 21, Hartford 6 – The Falcons kept their playoff streak alive for a 17th straight season by bouncing back from a Week 8 loss to finish 5-4; Hartford also made the playoffs at 5-4.

St. Joseph 22, Portage Central 6 – The Bears (8-1) gained a share of the Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference East title by breaking a three-year losing streak against the Mustangs (8-1).

Schoolcraft 41, Delton Kellogg 15 – The Eagles (9-0) finished a perfect regular season for the second time in four and won all but one of their games by at least 18 points; Delton (5-4) still made the playoffs for the first time since 2001 with its first winning record since 2009. 

Upper Peninsula

Escanaba 18, Kingsford 14

Escanaba was riding high this fall after opening with two wins under a new coach. Then came four straight losses against a string of opponents that ended up including three playoff teams. But the Eskymos (5-4) didn’t fold, instead finishing with three wins including two over playoff teams to earn their first postseason berth since 2011. Kingsford (6-3) ended up with a home game this week despite the loss. Click for more from the Iron Mountain Daily News.

Also noted:

St. Ignace 14, Fowler 7 – The Saints (8-1) deserve a lot of credit for stacking their nonleague schedule with undefeated Ishpeming last week and annual Division 8 power Fowler (6-3).

Negaunee 35, Ishepming Westwood 0 – Westwood (5-4) claimed a playoff spot for a second straight season despite the loss, but Negaunee (7-2) hopes it regained some momentum after two straight defeats by a combined seven points.

Munising 41, L'Anse 8 – The reigning Division 8 runner-up Mustangs (7-2) bounced back from a Week 8 loss by ending the playoff hopes for L’Anse (5-4).

Lake Linden-Hubbell 34, Crystal Falls Forest Park 28 – The Lakes (9-0) broke a five-game losing streak against Forest Park (5-3) to finish perfect for the regular season for the first time since 2009 … and earn a rematch with Forest Park this week.

West Michigan

Rockford 28, Hudsonville 27

At stake Friday was a share of the Ottawa-Kent Conference Red title – four teams were tied for first place, guaranteeing multiple champions. But also at stake was Rockford’s 20-season playoff streak, the longest-running in Michigan and third-longest in MHSAA history. A blocked extra point by a back-up quarterback and a pair of field goals by the back-up kicker were among contributions that paid off nicely for the Rams (6-3), who could see Hudsonville (6-3) again in a Division 1 District Final. Click for more from the Grand Rapids Press.

Also noted:

Grandville 18, East Kentwood 8 – This decided the other half of the O-K Red title, with the Bulldogs (6-3) not only earning a share but posting a sixth win for the first time since 2006; East Kentwood also is 6-3 and gets also third-place Hudsonville in the playoffs.

Lowell 28, Grand Rapids Christian 14 – The Red Arrows (8-1) finished a perfect run in the O-K White for the second time in three seasons and won their fourth straight against the Eagles (5-4).

Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern 26, Ada Forest Hills Eastern 24 – The Huskies (7-2) fell shy in the O-K Bronze after a 5-0 start, but forcing rival Forest Hills Eastern (8-1) to share the title probably lessened any lingering disappointment.

Big Rapids 20, Morley-Stanwood 10 – After seasons of three and one win over the last two, Big Rapids is back in the playoffs thanks to two straight wins, this one over a Mohawks team also 6-3.


Battle Creek St. Philip 47, Lawrence 44

St. Philip (9-0) got the better of Lawrence for the first time in their last four meetings, handing those Tigers (7-2) their first in-state loss since 2013 and cementing the top spot overall in the 8-player tournament with the highest final playoff-point average. The two could meet again in a Regional Final next week. Click for more from the Battle Creek Enquirer.

Also noted:

Pickford 62, Onaway 28 – It was this simple: Pickford (6-3) won and got into the playoffs, and Onaway (5-4) fell out of the top 16 with the loss.

Morrice 58, Portland St. Patrick 42 – The Orioles (8-1) still aren't getting much mention as a contender, but they haven’t lost since falling to St. Philip on opening night and clinched the Central Michigan 8-Man League title with this win over the Shamrocks (6-3). 

PHOTO: A Detroit Martin Luther King ball-carrier follows his blocker during the Crusaders' Detroit Public School League Division I championship win. (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.)