A Game for Every Fan: Week 2

September 2, 2015

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Most of this week’s MHSAA varsity football games will again be played over both Thursday and Friday, similar to last week and this time in anticipation of travelers leaving town for an extended Labor Day break. In fact, nearly 80 percent of games will be played tonight. 

But unlike last week, there aren’t a ton of matchups that jump out and announce, “You can’t miss this.” And that’s where we come into the mix.

See below for some of the possible jewels from this weekend’s schedule, all to be played tonight unless noted. And remember to follow all of the results as they come in at the MHSAA Score Center.

Bay & Thumb

Freeland (1-0) at Chesaning (1-0)

It’s tough to believe once-powerful Chesaning hasn’t made the playoffs since 2007. But the Indians finished with a winning record last fall for the first time since that season, and debuted a snazzy synthetic turf field last week. Anticipation is high, and they now host Freeland, which is coming off a 10-2 finish in 2014 and beat Chesaning 42-0 a year ago.

Others that caught my eye: Frankenmuth (1-0) at Birch Run (0-1), Bad Axe (1-0) at Marlette (1-0), Richmond (1-0) at Yale (0-1), St. Clair (0-1) at Marine City (0-1).

Greater Detroit

Clinton Township Chippewa Valley (1-0) at Macomb Dakota (1-0)

This continues to be the most exciting rivalry in Macomb County after a third straight season of multiple matchups a year ago – the teams split, with Dakota winning in Week 2 by 21 points and the Big Reds claiming the District Final 28-27. The Cougars are coming off arguably the most notable victory of Week 1, a 35-10 defeat of reigning MHSAA Division 1 champion Clarkston. But Chippewa Valley downed generally-strong Lake Orion top open for the second season in a row and is plenty capable of making this the state’s best matchup of the week.

Others that caught my eye: Detroit Country Day (1-0) at Detroit U-D Jesuit (1-0), Grosse Pointe South (1-0) at Romeo (1-0), Sterling Heights Stevenson (1-0) at Utica Eisenhower (1-0), Allen Park (1-0) at Wyandotte Roosevelt (1-0).


Mason (1-0) at Eaton Rapids (1-0)

Mason’s experienced offense showed the difference a year can make by putting up 56 points in a win over Okemos last week after scoring only 14 against the Chieftains on opening night 2014. The Bulldogs went on last year to score a season-low 10 points in three games – including in a Week 2 10-7 win over Eaton Rapids. The Greyhounds are seeking to take the next step in their revival with a first win over Mason since 1993.

Others that caught my eye: Laingsburg (1-0) at Fowler (1-0), Sand Creek (1-0) at Stockbridge (1-0), Beal City (1-0) at Clare (0-1) (Fri.), Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian (1-0) at Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart (0-1) (Fri.).

Northern Lower Peninsula

Escanaba (1-0) at Petoskey (1-0)

The coach Dave Howes era at Escanaba began last week with a win over Alpena, which actually counts as the team’s third victory in four games going back to last fall. That’s something to build on for a program seeking its first winning season since 2011 and facing an opponent that has won 14 of its last 18 games. Petoskey could be a Big North Conference contender and would love to enter league play 2-0 for the third straight season.

Others that caught my eye: Boyne City (1-0) at Charlevoix (1-0), Gaylord (1-0) at Grayling (1-0), Whittemore-Prescott (0-1) at Oscoda (1-0), Traverse City St. Francis (1-0) at McBain (1-0).

Southeast & Border

Morenci (1-0) at Hudson (1-0)

Morenci burst back among this area’s elite last fall with its best finish (10-2) since 1996, and continued by beating another 2014 playoff team, Pittsford, 44-6 last week. The 21-16 victory over Hudson in Week 2 last season got momentum rolling in a big way for the Bulldogs and could do so again – but also was Hudson’s only regular-season loss, meaning the Tigers will be more than ready for the rematch.

Others that caught my eye: Portland (1-0) at Hillsdale (1-0), Concord (1-0) at Union City (1-0), Onsted (1-0) at Adrian Madison (1-0), Detroit Cesar Chavez (1-0) at Ida (1-0).

Southwest Corridor

Portage Central (1-0) at Battle Creek Lakeview (1-0)

After facing each other in a 2013 District Final, these two Southwest Michigan Athletic Conference contenders didn’t get to play each other last fall because weather washed the Week 2 game out. Lakeview went on to win the SMAC East and Portage Central was second in the SMAC West, and this should again be a matchup of contenders in their respective divisions.

Others that caught my eye: Decatur (1-0) at Constantine (0-1), Vicksburg (1-0) at Edwardsburg (1-0), Paw Paw (1-0) at Plainwell (1-0), Richland Gull Lake (1-0) at St. Joseph (1-0).

Upper Peninsula

Calumet (1-0) at Negaunee (1-0)

These northern U.P. neighbors re-started their series three seasons ago, and two of the first three games have been decided by eight or fewer points – although Negaunee has won all three of their matchups. Last season’s 31-22 win was a big reason why the Miners were able to qualify for the playoffs at 5-4 – and also ended up the closest loss for the Copper Kings, who ended 7-4.

Others that caught my eye: L’Anse (1-0) at Iron River West Iron County (1-0), Traverse City Central (1-0) at Marquette (0-1) (Fri.), Bark River-Harris (1-0) at Gogebic (1-0) (Fri.), Hurley, Wis. (2-0) at Lake Linden-Hubbell (1-0) (Sat.).

West Michigan

Detroit Loyola (0-1) at Muskegon Oakridge (1-0), Friday

Oakridge loaded its schedule with two reigning MHSAA champions to start things off this fall and last week ended Division 8 champ Muskegon Catholic Central’s 26-game winning streak. Like MCC, Loyola – the reigning winner in Division 7 – graduated many of its top contributors from the last few seasons. But the Bulldogs looked capable again in falling to reigning Division 3 champion Orchard Lake St. Mary’s 24-12 in their opener.  

Others that caught my eye: Grand Rapids South Christian (0-1) at Caledonia (1-0), Ravenna (1-0) at Montague (1-0), Holt (0-1) at Rockford (0-1), Muskegon (0-1) at Grand Rapids Christian (1-0) (Fri.)


Engadine (1-0) at Powers North Central (1-0), Friday

North Central, home to the reigning Class D boys basketball champion as well, is new to 8-player this season and put up a basketball-like 82 points last week. The Jets are only two seasons removed from an 8-3 record in 11-player, but should get more of a test from Engadine, a playoff team in 8-player three of the last four seasons.

Others that caught my eye: Onaway (0-1) at Brimley (0-1), Tekonsha (1-0) at Webberville (1-0).

PHOTO: Beal City quarterback Tucker Gross prepares to receive the snap during Friday’s win over Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart. 

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.)