Drive for Detroit: Week 9 in Review

October 22, 2018

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

This week, 288 Michigan high school football teams are starting anew.

But before we turn our focus entirely toward the playoffs, let’s say a final goodbye to another memorable regular season.

The last of available league championships were clinched Friday and Saturday, and more teams than we can mention won to get into the postseason. Sunday, of course, was highlighted by the announcement of playoff divisions and pairings – and we’ll jump into the most intriguing first-round matchups later this week.

But for now, let’s take an acknowledging glance at the storylines from Week 9, which in many cases set up some of what we’ll be watching the rest of the way.

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Bay & Thumb

HEADLINER: Lapeer 28, Davison 6 The Saginaw Valley League Blue title went outright to the Lightning with this winner-take-all win. Lapeer (9-0) also capped its first perfect regular season since 2015 and third in five years since the former West and East high schools merged heading into fall 2014. Davison (7-2) finished league runner-up for the second straight season after winning it in 2016. Click for more from the Flint Journal and see below for highlights from WJRT.

Also of note: Ortonville Brandon 34, Swartz Creek 27 The Blackhawks (8-1) held off Swartz Creek to cap their best regular season run since 2000 with a share of the Flint Metro League title (with Flushing), while dropping the Dragons (6-3) out of first place and into a tie for third.

Remember this one: Midland 14, Midland Dow 8 Players never forget this kind of rivalry game. Midland (6-3) made it two straight over the Chargers (5-4) and in the process earned an automatic playoff berth. Dow became an additional qualifier, and they could meet again in a Division 2 District Final.

More shoutouts: Millington 34, Warren Michigan Collegiate 26 The Cardinals’ 14-year playoff streak was on the line, but Millington (6-3) earned an automatic bid by handing Michigan Collegiate (8-1) its lone regular-season defeat. Byron 31, Flint Beecher 27 Croswell-Lexington 47, Goodrich 13 Both ended up in the playoffs, but the Pioneers (6-3) made sure this time after missing last year at 5-4; Goodrich (5-4) did qualify with that record this time despite the defeat.

Greater Detroit

HEADLINER: Detroit Cass Tech 42, Detroit Martin Luther King 8 The Technicians (9-0) will carry Detroit Public School League Green and now PSL A playoff titles into the postseason after avenging last year’s 10-point loss to King. The perfect regular season finish was the team’s second in three years and fourth in six. King, the PSL Black champ, fell to 7-2. Click for more from MLive-Detroit and see below for highlights from State Champs Sports Network.

Also of note: Warren DeLaSalle 24, Detroit Catholic Central 6 A week after falling to the Shamrocks 10-7 in what created a shared Detroit Catholic League Central title between the two, DeLaSalle (7-2) came back to down DCC (6-3) in the Prep Bowl A-B championship game at Ford Field.

Remember this one: Farmington Hills Harrison 48, Farmington 7 The final regular-season game in Harrison’s illustrious football history saw the Hawks (6-3) earn an automatic playoff bid with a big win over Farmington (6-3), which also qualified for the first time since 2015.

More shoutouts: Oak Park 21, Clarkston 14 The Oakland Activities Association White champion Knights (8-1) bounced back from a Week 8 loss to gain a boost by beating the OAA Red champ Wolves (7-2). Belleville 32, Brighton 17 They met to open and close the regular season, but this Kensington Lakes Activities Association overall championship win for the Tigers (9-0) wasn’t as nail-biting as that five-point Week 1 victory over the Bulldogs (7-2).


HEADLINER: Pewamo-Westphalia 28, Williamston 27 (OT) The Pirates (9-0) stopped a 2-point conversion try in overtime to win this matchup of league champions and finish their third straight perfect regular season in four years. The two-time reigning Division 7 champion hadn’t had a game closer than 28 points this fall before getting a valuable test from the Division 4 Hornets (7-2). Click for more from the Lansing State Journal and see highlights below from FOX 17.

Also of note: Howard City Tri-County 48, Holton 16 The Vikings (5-4) made the playoffs for the first time since 2004 after giving themselves the opportunity with this win over Holton (5-4), which also was selected. Tri-County also guaranteed its first .500-or-better season since 2005 after going 1-8 a year ago.

Remember this one: East Lansing 20, Okemos 17 These neighbors already had qualified for the playoffs, Okemos (6-3) for the first time since 2014. But this might be another indication this rivalry is on its way back – East Lansing (8-1) has won four straight meetings, but four of the last six have been decided by seven points or fewer.

More shoutouts: Portland 27, Montague 20 The Raiders (9-0) look playoff-ready again after capping their third perfect regular season in four years by beating a Montague team that finished 7-2 with its only other defeat to also-unbeaten Reed City. Vermontville Maple Valley 42, Comstock 18 The Lions (5-4) struggled mightily through a 2-4 start, but finished with three straight wins to line up their second straight playoff appearance.

Northern Lower Peninsula

HEADLINER: Traverse City West 21, Petoskey 6 The Titans (7-2) entered this game with the possibility of falling into a three-way shared Big North Conference title. Instead, West won outright and finished a regular season where its two defeats were by a combined 10 points. Petoskey (5-4), meanwhile, earned its first playoff berth since 2015 after going a combined 5-14 over the last two seasons. Click for more from the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

Also of note: Benzie Central 42, Frankfort 6 The Huskies (6-3) clinched their first playoff berth since 2011 – and after not having a team in 2016. Benzie came back to go 1-8 last season before completing the turnaround. Frankfort finished 5-4 but was an additional qualifier after winning three of their last five games.

Remember this one: Traverse City St. Francis 35, New Lothrop 14 Remember it, because the Hornets (8-1) do not lose often during the regular season. This was just their second regular-season defeat in nine seasons, but came against a Gladiators team that at 9-0 finished its third perfect regular season in four years.

More shoutouts: Maple City Glen Lake 27, Grayling 19 The Lakers (5-4) won the Northern Michigan Football League Leaders championship but were in jeopardy of missing the playoffs; beating Grayling (3-6) made them eligible as an additional qualifier. Gaylord 41, Sault Ste. Marie 0 Gaylord’s Blue Devils (6-3) bounced back from two straight one-point defeats to clinch their first playoff berth since 2015 and leave Sault Ste. Marie (5-4) just short, although those Blue Devils more than doubled their 2-7 records of both last season and 2016.

Southwest Corridor

HEADLINER: Cassopolis 21, Centreville 0 It’s rare to luck out with two undefeated teams meeting for a league championship in their regular-season finale. Cassopolis (9-0) chipped away to claim the Southwest 10 Conference title with its sixth shutout this fall. Centreville (8-1) entered averaging nearly 44 points per game, and still has plenty to celebrate – the Bulldogs have their first playoff berth and winning season both since 2008. Click for more from the Cassopolis Vigilant.

Also of note: Kalamazoo United 21, Schoolcraft 20 The Southwestern Athletic Conference Valley championship was decided by a point as the Titans (9-0) edged Schoolcraft for the second straight season after beating the Eagles (7-2) last year by three.

Remember this one: Portage Northern 16, St. Joseph 7 The Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference West sent five of its six teams to the playoffs, and the league race frequently is close. Portage Northern (7-2) with this win earned a share of the title while dropping the Bears (5-4) out of a possible share and into a tie for third place.  

More shoutouts: Stevensville Lakeshore 18, Mattawan 13 The Lancers’ 20-year playoff streak was on the line, but this win put them at 5-4 and allowed them to be selected as an additional qualifier. Mattawan (5-4) was selected as well. Coloma 52, Watervliet 36 The Comets (5-4) beat Watervliet for the first time since 2009 (they didn’t play 2012-14) to finish 5-4 for the second straight regular season – but this time they were selected for the playoffs for the first time since 2008.

Southeast & Border

HEADLINER: Reading 55, Grass Lake 7 The Rangers (9-0) took their domination outside of the Big 8 Conference with this crossover win over the Cascades Conference champion. Grass Lake (8-1) also entered undefeated and scoring nearly 39 points per game. Click for more from the Hillsdale Daily News.

Also of note: Jackson 36, Lake Fenton 14 The dream season continued for the Vikings (9-0), who ended the regular season unbeaten for the first time perhaps ever (?). Someone surely will be doing some digging to confirm, but it will be well worth it to celebrate a historic accomplishment – and after Jackson went 4-5 a year ago.  

Remember this one: Brooklyn Columbia Central 35, Hudson 16 The Eagles (8-1) broke a two-game losing streak to the Tigers (4-5) to clinch a share of the Lenawee County Athletic Association title with Hillsdale, which it defeated in Week 8.

More shoutouts: Hillsdale 30, Dundee 13 The Hornets (8-1) held on to their share of the LCAA title by avenging two straight defeats to Dundee (5-4), and by doing so kept the Vikings out of the playoffs. Michigan Center 25, Springport 16 The Cardinals finished the regular season 8-1 for the second straight as Springport (7-2) lost for the second straight week but only second time this season.

Upper Peninsula

HEADLINER: Escanaba 39, Kingsford 27 The Eskymos (7-2) probably didn’t anticipate ending the weekend with a share of the Great Northern Conference championship. But by beating the Flivvers (4-5), Escanaba was able to benefit from Menominee’s upset of first-place Marquette. The win over Kingsford held additional significance too – the Flivvers edged the Eskymos for the GNC title last season with a win in their Week 9 meeting. Click for more from the Escanaba Daily Press.

Also of note: Gwinn 20, Munising 16 The Modeltowners (6-3) flipped last season’s 3-6 record to earn an automatic playoff berth and keep Munising (4-5) from possible selection as an additional qualifier.

Remember this one: Menominee 32, Marquette 14 This ended an uncharacteristic down season for the Maroons (2-7) – they saw their 22-year playoff streak come to an end. But they did finish by adding to a seven-game winning streak over Marquette, denying the Redmen (4-5) an outright league title and possible additional qualifier bid for the playoffs.

More shoutouts: Ishpeming 54, Bark River-Harris 13 The Hematites (9-0) put together their fourth perfect regular season in six years and coming off back-to-back three-win finishes. St. Ignace 44, Gaylord St. Mary 0 The Saints missed the playoffs, but finishing 5-4 was a great jump from 1-8 in 2017.

West Michigan

HEADLINER: East Kentwood 28, Rockford 17 The Falcons (8-1) made their way through an Ottawa-Kent Conference Red that will send four of seven teams to the playoffs – and with Rockford making a bid Friday to grab a share of the league title. The win over the Rams was East Kentwood’s first since 2015 and put Rockford (5-4) in an unfamiliar spot of briefly not knowing if its season was done – although the Rams did make the playoffs as an additional qualifier for a record 24th straight season. Click for more from the Grand Rapids Press and see highlights below from WZZM.

Also of note: Zeeland East 36, Hudsonville Unity Christian 13 The Chix (8-1) completed a repeat O-K Green championship after Unity Christian (7-2) entered with an opportunity to create a three-way tie for the top spot.

Remember this one: Saugatuck 56, Fennville 20 The Indians (8-1) claimed the SAC Lakeshore title in this winner-take-all matchup, avenging the Week 9 loss to the Blackhawks (7-2) a year ago that gave Fennville the championship ahead of Saugatuck.

More shoutouts: Holland Christian 24, Spring Lake 17 Despite playing in an O-K Green with three other playoff teams, the Maroons (6-3) are headed back to the postseason for the first time since 2012 and with a guaranteed final winning record for the first time since 2009. Spring Lake (5-4) also made the playoffs as an additional qualifier after going 0-9 a year ago. Hudsonville 23, Holland West Ottawa 16 Two more of the O-K Red’s best met with playoffs on the line for the Eagles, who earned an automatic berth with the win. These two will settle things one more time with a Division 1 rematch this week.


HEADLINER: Wyoming Tri-unity Christian 22, Colon 14 The Midwest Central Michigan Conference West champion Defenders (9-0) handed the Southern Central Athletic Association A champion Magi their only loss of the regular season, holding Colon (8-1) to almost 33 points under its average. The win also gave Tri-unity its second perfect regular season in three years. These teams could meet again in an 8-Player Division 1 Semifinal. Click for more from the Sturgis Journal.

Also of note: Morrice 32, Webberville 0 The Orioles finished 9-0 for the first time in program history and reached nine wins for the third time in four years. Webberville made the loss pay off getting enough bump to make the playoffs at 4-5 with a higher playoff-point average than other teams that finished 5-4.

Remember this one: Engadine 52, Crystal Falls Forest Park 42 The Eagles (8-1) edged the reigning 8-player Division 2 champ Trojans (5-4), but these teams could see each other again in a Regional Final.

More shoutouts: Pickford 48, Cedarville 8 The Pirates (9-0) completed their second straight perfect regular season and finished an outright title run in the Great Lakes Conference East. Cedarville (5-4) will join three others from the league in the playoffs. Deckerville 20, Peck 8 The Eagles (7-2) eluded a possible shared North Central Thumb League Blue title, holding on to the championship outright by holding off an upset bid by the Pirates (5-4).

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PHOTO: Lapeer pushes through for a touchdown during its league title-clinching win over Davison. (Photo by Terry Lyons.)

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.)