Drogosh & De La Salle Cap 3rd-Straight Finals Trip as Repeat D2 Champs

By Scott DeCamp
Special for MHSAA.com

November 25, 2022

DETROIT – Two years ago, Brady Drogosh started at quarterback for Warren De La Salle Collegiate as a skinny, nervous sophomore in the MHSAA Division 2 championship game against Muskegon Mona Shores.

The University of Cincinnati commit and his Pilots classmates have come a long way since then. They’ve grown by leaps and bounds.

Drogosh & Co. walked out of Ford Field on Friday with a second-straight Division 2 championship after a 52-13 defeat of Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central.

“I know a bunch of us walked off the field saying, ‘We don’t ever want to feel like this again,’” Drogosh said of the 25-19 Finals loss to Mona Shores in 2020, “and now we’ve gone back-to-back years going off as winners. I think mental preparation is a big part of it.”

De La Salle (13-1) captured its fifth Finals championship overall, and also fifth over the last nine years – the Pilots also seized titles in 2014, 2017, 2018 and 2021. In March, De La Salle claimed the Division 1 boys basketball championship to make it three big trophies in two major sports over a 13-month span. Drogosh was among the football players also on the basketball team.

He exhibited major growth from his sophomore to senior seasons on the big stage of Ford Field. 

Two years ago against Mona Shores, Drogosh was 5-of-11 passing for 59 yards with no touchdowns, and he ran five times for 13 yards with one score. Last season, in a 41-14 Finals win over Traverse City Central, Drogosh was 14-of-19 passing for 142 yards with three TDs and no picks, plus he ran 19 times for a game-best 173 yards and one TD.

On Friday against Forest Hills Central, the 6-foot-4, 215-pound dual-threat QB was nearly flawless in the passing game. He completed 21 of 23 passes for 249 yards and two TDs with no interceptions. He was nearly unstoppable on the ground, too, piling up a game-high 152 yards and three scores on 15 carries.

The Pilots’ Triston Nichols (25) hauls in a scoring pass.Forest Hills Central (13-1) was making its first Football Finals appearance since 1994, when the Rangers lost 17-13 to Farmington Hills Harrison in the Class A title game at the Pontiac Silverdome.

“I coach the defense, and we just couldn’t slow down the quarterback,” Rangers coach Tim Rogers said about Drogosh. “Why he’s not recruited by Alabama, I don’t know. He’s a darn good quarterback. He can make all the throws, he runs really well, he obviously checks a lot of things at the line of scrimmage. Man, he’s an excellent football player.”

As Rogers and his team found on film study and then even more so in person, De La Salle’s very large roster boasts several excellent players.

One of them, senior wideout Triston Nichols, played on a torn ACL and scored on a 9-yard pass from Drogosh to give the Pilots a 35-0 lead near the midway point of the second quarter.

De La Salle scored barely two minutes into the game on a Drogosh 3-yard run. The Pilots led 21-0 after one quarter and 38-13 at halftime. They put up two more TDs in the third quarter to go up 52-13 and start the running clock.

The majority of Drogosh’s numbers were accumulated during the first half.

The prolific point total was nothing new to De La Salle, which shattered its program’s single-season scoring record with 614 points. That eclipsed the 562 points amassed by last year’s team. The Pilots threatened the MHSAA Finals record of 56 points, but a drive to the Rangers’ 1 by the reserves was snuffed out by a high shotgun snap.

In five playoff games, De La Salle outscored opponents by a combined 223-42 margin. 

“Coming in with this group three years ago, I asked a lot out of them and they stood up tall and they accepted every challenge we gave them,” said Dan Rohn, who took over as De La Salle’s head coach in 2020 when Drogosh and his fellow seniors were much less experienced. 

“They might walk out of De La Salle, which has had some tremendous football teams and tremendous groups, as maybe the most decorated and successful class of football players. I know I couldn’t be more proud to be part of that.”

Rohn previously guided Grand Rapids West Catholic to four Finals titles between 2010 and 2015.

De La Salle senior defensive end Mason Muragin, who is committed to the University of Illinois, knew what to expect when Rohn took over at De La Salle.

“Three years, three state championship appearances, two wins – I think he’s really building a dynasty here and it’s an honor to play for him,” Muragin said.

De La Salle outgained Forest Hills Central in total offense, 476-151. Junior Rhett Roeser scored two rushing TDs for the Pilots, while senior Jack Yanachik hauled in a scoring pass from Drogosh. Junior Landon Ryska kicked a 25-yard field goal and went 7-for-7 on PATs.

Drogosh steps into a throw with FHC’s Nolan Hartl (21) in pursuit.For Forest Hills Central, senior Justin Osterhouse completed 4 of 14 passes for 84 yards with two TDs and one interception. He connected with juniors Roman Brummel and Ty Hudkins for second-quarter scoring tosses. 

“We got outplayed in all facets of the game. That’s a really good football team. We looked long and hard to find weaknesses on De La Salle’s team – we couldn’t find it on film,” Rogers said.

Forest Hills Central played a number of close games this season, most recently a 20-17 double-overtime victory over Dexter in a snowy Semifinal.

The conditions were much different inside Ford Field, but De La Salle proved too much for the Rangers.  

“A lot of people doubted us and before the year no one really knew what to expect because we graduated a lot of seniors (30 from the 2021 team), but this is the toughest team I’ve ever played on and the most courageous guys and it just means a lot to get here,” said Hudkins, who paced the Rangers defensively with a game-high 12 tackles and a fumble recovery.

De La Salle’s lone loss this season came in Week 4 against Catholic League rival Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice in a wild 43-42 game.

The Pilots learned from that defeat, just like Drogosh and his teammates grew from the disappointing Finals loss two years ago.

“Me and one of the other captains, Dante Pancotto, who’s an offensive lineman, we watched the sophomore state championship game on YouTube and it really just shows the growth of how (far) we’ve come in three years,” Drogosh said. 

“I think it’s all about the mental preparation. I think we were mentally challenged our sophomore year with COVID and everything, and I think we bounced back a lot our junior year and got even better this year.”

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS (Top) De La Salle’s Brady Drogosh (12) attempts to find an opening during his team’s Division 2 championship win Saturday. (Middle) The Pilots’ Triston Nichols (25) hauls in a scoring pass. (Below) Drogosh steps into a throw with FHC’s Nolan Hartl (21) in pursuit. (Click for more from Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)

Constantine Football All-Stater, Wrestling Champ Aiming for Grand Finale

By Scott Hassinger
Special for MHSAA.com

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.)