A Game for Every Fan: Week 2

September 5, 2013

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Most will agree that the first week of high school football season generally is a little sloppy, with players excitedly shaking off the rust in a game that matters for the first time in nearly nine months.

This week they'll operate a little more smoothly – and the tune up is over for many facing make-of-break league games already in this young season. 

Below is a look at some of the most significant to be played this weekend in every corner of the state. Make sure to tune in to MHSAA Score Center after the final horn for all the scores as soon as they are reported. 

Bay and Thumb

Flint Carman-Ainsworth (1-0) at Saginaw Heritage (1-0)

The North and South divisions of the Saginaw Valley League cross over this week, and this game could feature contenders from each. Heritage, from the North, opened with a 19-10 win over Walled Lake Central and is trying to avenge a 45-7 loss to Carman-Ainsworth a year ago. The Cavaliers opened with a shutout of Grand Blanc, 13-0.  

Others that caught my eye: Richmond (0-1) at Croswell-Lexington (1-0), Linden (0-1) at Holly (1-0), Lansing Everett (1-0) at Saginaw (1-0), Ithaca (1-0) at St. Charles (1-0).

West Michigan

Muskegon (1-0) at Grand Rapids Christian (1-0)

For the second week to start this season, Grand Rapids Christian faces a team that made it to Ford Field in 2012. Last week the defending Division 3 champion Eagles came away with a 41-13 win over reigning Division 4 champion South Christian. Now they get Muskegon, last season’s Division 2 runner-up and a 41-7 winner last week over Grand Haven. The Big Reds and the Eagles haven’t met since 1993.

Others that caught my eye: Muskegon Oakridge (1-0) at Montague (1-0), Zeeland East (1-0) at Zeeland West (1-0), Grand Rapids West Catholic (0-1) at Comstock Park (1-0), East Kentwood (1-0) at East Grand Rapids (1-0).

Southwest and Border

Constantine (1-0) at Schoolcraft (1-0)

Constantine made it all the way back to Ford Field and the Division 6 Final for the second straight season in 2012. But the Falcons didn’t win the Kalamazoo Valley Association title either time – thanks last season mostly to an undefeated run by Schoolcraft. With 10 teams in the KVA, all games are league games, and Constantine opened last weekend with a 64-20 win over Delton Kellogg. The Eagles have a lot of new faces, and Constantine is the league title favorite.

Others that caught my eye: St. Joseph (1-0) at Battle Creek Harper Creek (1-0), Kalamazoo Central (1-0) at Battle Creek Central (1-0), Saugatuck (1-0) at Marcellus (1-0), Fennville (0-1) at Decatur (0-1).

Greater Detroit

Rochester Adams (1-0) at Farmington Hills Harrison (1-0)

Even the best are prone to a down year, and Adams’ came last season when it missed the playoffs for the first time since 1996. But the Highlanders got back on the right foot last week with a 12-7 win over similarly-stellar Clarkston. Now comes an old nemesis in Harrison, which has beaten Adams in three straight and is coming off a 43-0 win over Detroit Renaissance.

Others that caught my eye: Canton (1-0) at Brighton (1-0), Detroit Martin Luther King (1-0) at Detroit East English (0-1), Plymouth (1-0) at Milford (1-0), Detroit Country Day (0-1) at Detroit U-D Jesuit (1-0).

Lower Up North

Maple City Glen Lake (1-0) at Charlevoix (1-0)

Glen Lake is getting plenty of attention in the greater Traverse City area after last season’s 9-2 finish and Northwest Conference title and last week’s opening 27-13 win over another 2012 playoff team, Boyne City. In steps Charlevoix, defeated by Glen Lake 32-0 last season but winner last week 20-0 over usually-strong St. Ignace. The Red Rayders haven’t had much success since their last playoff season of 2009, but a win tonight would be even bigger than beating the Saints last week.

Others that caught my eye: Sault Ste. Marie (0-1) at Alpena (1-0), Kingsley (1-0) at Elk Rapids (1-0), Frankfort (1-0) at Harbor Springs (1-0), St. Ignace (0-1) at Mancelona (0-1).

Upper Peninsula

Felch North Dickinson (1-0) at Newberry (1-0)

The Nordics appear to be off and running again; after scoring more than 40 points in all of their 2012 games but their Regional Final loss to St. Ignace, North Dickinson put 60 on Florence (Wis.) last week. But Newberry has a little something to prove. The Indians started 3-1 last season – their only loss 42-6 to North Dickinson – before losing their final five. They bounced back with a 32-0 win over Rudyard in last week’s opener, and can really make an impact by moving to 2-0.

Others that caught my eye: Posen (0-1) at Rapid River (1-0), Iron Mountain (0-1) at Gwinn (1-0), Ishpeming (1-0) at Manistique (0-1), Cheboygan (1-0) at Marquette (1-0).


Beal City (1-0) at Clare (0-1)

Clare shouldn’t be overly worried about last week’s opening loss to Freeland; the Pioneers also lost to Freeland in openers in 2011 and 2012 and ended up a combined 18-5 over those two seasons. In fact, Clare also fell to Beal City in Week 2 last season before rattling off nine straight wins. Of course, no team wants to start 0-2 – but the task will be tall if last week’s 61-0 Aggies win over rival Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart is an indication of that team’s prowess.

Others that caught my eye: Jackson (0-1) at Jackson Lumen Christi (1-0), Fowlerville (1-0) at Williamston (0-1), Monroe (1-0) at Lansing Sexton (1-0), Mason (1-0) at Eaton Rapids (1-0).

PHOTO: Saginaw Swan Valley (purple) opened its season with a win over Saginaw Nouvel in one of the most intriguing matchups of opening night. (Click to see more from High School Sports Scene.) 

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.)