A Game for Every Fan: Week 3

September 10, 2015

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

League play begins this week for many teams across Michigan – and with favorites facing off immediately in games that eventually could decide who wins those conference titles.

The highlighted matchups below include a few of those, but mostly some of the last titanic nonleague battles we'll see this fall – at least, until we reach the MHSAA playoffs.

All games below are tonight unless noted. Follow all of the results as they come in at the MHSAA Score Center. And keep an eye on Muskegon vs. Grandville; with their next win, the Big Reds will become the first program in state history with 800 victories. 

Bay & Thumb

Millington (2-0) at Essexville Garber (1-1)

This might not seem the caliber of a “best game of the week” from this area, but it’s been a sneaky-good matchup the last few years as Garber won in 2013 and Millington came back with a 28-19 victory on opening night in 2014. The Cardinals’ opening-night victory over Vassar this fall was a solid start, and the Dukes have scored 80 points total despite splitting their first two matchups.

Others that caught my eye: Marine City (1-1) at Marysville (1-1), Sandusky (2-0) at Bad Axe (1-1), Ortonville-Brandon (2-0) at Clio (2-0), Corunna (2-0) at Goodrich (1-1).

Greater Detroit

Detroit East English (2-0) at Detroit Martin Luther King (2-0)

King is expected by many to be the team to beat from the Detroit Public School League this season, and its first five opponents include reigning Division 2 champion Warren DeLaSalle (a 12-10 win), now East English and in two weeks rival Cass Tech. East English has opened with victories over 2014 playoff teams Walled Lake Central and Detroit Renaissance.  

Others that caught my eye: Southfield (1-1) at Farmington (2-0), Lincoln Park (2-0) at Trenton (2-0), Clarkston (1-1) at West Bloomfield (2-0), Farmington Hills Harrison (1-1) at Oak Park (0-2).


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

While Grand Ledge looks early like possibly the Lansing area’s best team (Lansing Catholic is on the other side of that argument), the Comets can't look past an old rival. Sexton graduated a lot from last season’s Division 4 runner-up team, including the majority of its skill players on offense, but a new group is coming along – with the 0-2 start coming against two 2014 playoff teams.

Others that caught my eye: Lansing Catholic (2-0) at Williamston (2-0), Jackson (2-0) at East Lansing (0-2), Oscoda (1-1) at Vestaburg (2-0), Eaton Rapids (1-1) at Ionia (1-1).

Northern Lower Peninsula

Escanaba (2-0) at Gaylord (2-0)

There’s tons of excitement surrounding these programs as we head toward the middle of September. Escanaba is off to its first 2-0 start since 2011 and a win away from equaling its total from each of the last two seasons. Gaylord missed the playoffs a year ago and came back by starting this fall outscoring its first two opponents 94-6 – and won all three meetings the last time these teams had a series, from 2008-10.

Others that caught my eye: Lincoln Alcona (2-0) at Rogers City (2-0), Fife Lake Forest Area (1-1) at Indian River Inland Lakes (2-0), Grayling (1-1) at Maple City Glen Lake (2-0), Traverse City Central (2-0) at Traverse City West (0-2).

Southeast & Border

Saline (2-0) at Ann Arbor Skyline (2-0)

This might be the most highly-anticipated game in Michigan this weekend. Saline is playing like a team with arguably the state’s top quarterback (Josh Jackson) and coming off finishing runner-up in Division 1 – the Hornets then beat Rockford by 13 on opening night. And Skyline is playing like a team with two of the state’s most dynamic players in Daelin Hayes and Hunter Rison, opening with a pair of double-digit wins after entering the season with 12 straight losses.

Others that caught my eye: Morenci (2-0) at Petersburg-Summerfield (2-0), Hillsdale (1-1) at Brooklyn Columbia Central (2-0), Climax-Scotts (2-0) at Adrian Lenawee Christian (2-0), Homer (1-1) at Concord (2-0).

Southwest Corridor

Portage Central (2-0) at Stevensville Lakeshore (2-0)

These Southwest Michigan Athletic Conference West rivals again kick off the league schedule against each other after last season’s 20-17 Lakeshore win in Week 3 eventually decided the title. Five of their six meetings since joining the same SMAC division have been decided by 10 points or fewer – and those six meetings have resulted in three wins for each team. 

Others that caught my eye: New Buffalo (1-1) at Cassopolis (2-0), Battle Creek Pennfield (1-1) at Coldwater (2-0), Paw Paw (2-0) at Sturgis (1-1), Kalamazoo Loy Norrix (1-1) at Kalamazoo Central (2-0), Battle Creek Lakeview (1-1) at Battle Creek Central (0-2). 

Upper Peninsula

Negaunee (2-0) at Gladstone (2-0)

Gladstone likely was feeling similarly excited this time last fall when it ended a 22-game losing streak with a 3-0 start, only to drop its final six games. But the Braves have bounced back again and hope to follow last fall’s 24-19 win over Negaunee, which had to be considered an upset then and after as the Miners made the playoffs for the sixth time in seven seasons. They’re 2-0 after surviving a tough test last week from Calumet.

Others that caught my eye: Munising (2-0) at Felch North Dickinson (1-1), Ishpeming (2-0) at Calumet (1-1), Iron River West Iron County (2-0) at Iron Mountain (1-1), Marquette (0-2) at Sault Ste. Marie (1-1).

West Michigan

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

The Rams are taking on their second 2014 MHSAA runner-up already this season, having fallen to Saline in Week 1 and now taking on the second-place team from Division 2. Rockford handed the Sailors their only pre-Ford Field loss in 2014, 10-7 in Week 3. But Mona Shores has had no problem putting points on the board despite replacing a Division I college quarterback – the Sailors have scored 55 in each of their first two games.

Others that caught my eye: East Grand Rapids (2-0) at Caledonia (2-0), Hudsonville (2-0) at Zeeland East (2-0), Grandville (2-0) at Muskegon (1-1), Scottville Mason County Central (2-0) at Whitehall (2-0).


Rapid River (2-0) at Cedarville (2-0)

Together these two have played in three of the first four MHSAA 8-player Finals, and they’ll continue this growing rivalry game despite playing in different leagues for the first time since making the format switch. Cedarville's only regular-season losses of the last three years have come, twice, to the Rockets, who won 20-19 a year ago and haven’t lost a regular-season game since Week 9 of 2012.

Others that caught my eye: Peck (1-1) at Kinde-North Huron (1-1), Powers North Central (2-0) at Bellaire (2-0) (Sat.).

PHOTO: Grand Ledge’s 2-0 start included a 38-7 win over Holland West Ottawa in Week 2. (Click for 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.)