A Game for Every Fan: Week 3

September 6, 2012

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

It's coach speak for sure, but true all the same: First, teams focus on winning the league title. And after that, bigger things tend to take care of themselves.

Many across Michigan started that quest last weekend. But for most of the rest, the first steps toward a conference championship will come tonight.

Need a game to watch? No problem. See below for what's playing near you. And remember to visit the MHSAA Score Center for updated scores and standings

(All are tonight unless noted. Go to Score Center for additional dates and kickoff times.)

West Michigan

Muskegon (2-0) at Rockford (1-1)

After four seasons of defining the O-K Red as arguably the best league in the state, these two are now split up as Muskegon moved to the O-K Black this fall. But there will continue to be a share of statewide eyes watching this one. The Big Reds put potential playoff opponents back on notice by opening with a 21-14 win over reigning MHSAA Division 3 champion Orchard Lake St. Mary, and Rockford came back from a tough opening loss to Lowell by shutting out Holt last week, 22-0.

Others that caught my eye: East Kentwood at Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central, Grand Rapids Christian at Grand Rapids Kenowa Hills, Grand Haven at Lowell, Montague at Muskegon Oakridge.

Greater Detroit

Dearborn Fordson (2-0) at Warren DeLaSalle (1-1), Saturday

The Detroit Catholic League Central also has annual claim as the state's toughest conference, so wins are at a premium for that league's teams -- and DeLaSalle has its work cut out tonight. Fordson has opened with victories over 2011 playoff teams Macomb Dakota and Redford Thurston, and fell to the Pilots only 31-28 a year ago. Quarterback Shane Morris and company will be hoping to shift momentum after last week's 49-13 loss to Cleveland St. Ignatius -- and with Birmingham Brother Rice and Detroit Catholic Central up next.

Others that caught my eye: Romeo at Macomb Dakota, Rochester Adams at Oak Park, Cincinnati Moeller at Detroit Catholic Central (Saturday), Detroit Renaissance at Detroit Cass Tech.

Upper Peninsula

Hurley, Wis., (2-0) at Crystal Falls Forest Park (2-0)

Hurley actually plays more teams from Michigan than from its home state, and has opened by dominating two of them by a combined score of 90-13. Forest Park just missed a ninth-straight season with at least 10 wins last fall in part because it lost to Hurley 33-16 -- the Trojans' only loss of the regular season. In fact, Forest Park has lost two of its last three against the Midgets, which probably gives this the sense of a rivalry game for the home team located only a few miles from the border.

Others that caught my eye: Bessemer at Baraga, Iron Mountain at Iron River West Iron County, Calumet at Ishpeming, Stephenson at Norway.

Southwest and Border

Dowagiac (2-0) at Plainwell (2-0)

The upstart Trojans are hoping to break a six-game losing streak to Dowagiac, although for the first time during that string they are no longer in the same division -- the Wolverine B split into North and South this fall. Still, this would be significant for a few reasons: Plainwell is 2-0 for the first time since 2001 and after finishing 0-9 only two seasons ago, and a win tonight would give the team its first 3-0 start since 1998. For Dowagiac, it's a chance to be 3-0 for the first time since 2006, and this potentially is its toughest test until the Wolverine B South finale against Edwardsburg on Oct. 12 or a week earlier against Three Rivers.

Others that caught my eye: Sturgis at Battle Creek Harper Creek, Olivet at Schoolcraft, St. Joseph Michigan Lutheran at St. Joseph Lake Michigan Catholic, Coloma at Paw Paw.

Bay and Thumb

Millington (2-0) at Frankenmuth (2-0)

For a few decades, this was THE GAME in the Tri-Valley Conference East just about every season. But the Cardinals have won four straight and at least 10 games total in each of the last three seasons, and often that sort of one-sidedness drains some of the mystique. In this case, that's doubtful. This matchup decided the league title again last fall, and Frankenmuth is 2-0 for the first time since 2007. But if the Eagles score tonight, it will be a first against Millington this season. The Cardinals have outscored their first two opponents by a combined 92-0.

Others that caught my eye: Comstock Park at Bay City John Glenn, Lapeer East at Lapeer West, Saginaw at Midland Dow, Alma at Freeland.

Lower Up North

Cadillac (2-0) at Petoskey (2-0)

Petoskey has won three of the last four Big North Conference championships, with that lone lapse in 2009 -- when Cadillac finished one game ahead to claim the title. The Northmen were first and the Vikings tied for second last season, and this could be the decider again. Petoskey won big last season, 63-24, but Cadillac is 2-0 for the first time since 2006.

Others that caught my eye: Benzie Central at Frankfort, Manton at McBain, Johannesburg-Lewiston at Mancelona, Elk Rapids at Traverse City St. Francis.


Lansing Sexton (0-2) at Grand Ledge (2-0)

Sexton is anything but a typical 0-2 team; the Big Reds, who played in the Division 4 postseason in 2011, opened this fall with a loss to Division 1 power Plymouth before falling to Monroe by a point for the second straight season. Now comes another much larger school in Grand Ledge, which beat Sexton 14-0 last fall. The Comets began this season with a 40-30 loss to East Kentwood, but aren't having much trouble scoring -- the came back with a 31-10 win over Holland West Ottawa and are led by multi-talented quarterback Jalen Brady.

Others that caught my eye: Pewamo-Westphalia at Laingsburg, Portland at Corunna, Burr Oak at Portland St. Patrick, Morrice at Webberville.

PHOTO: Warren DeLaSalle quarterback Shane Morris attempts to break away from two Ann Arbor Pioneer defenders during their opening-night game, a 35-7 DeLaSalle win. (Click to see more from HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)

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.)