A Game for Every Fan: Week 4

September 13, 2012

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Just like that, the MHSAA football season is one-third over. And after this weekend, teams will be cruising into the midpoint of the regular season. 

Don't let it pass you by. We're entering the thick of league races, Homecoming and rivalry games. The toughest part can be choosing which to watch. 

See below for some of the best options 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.)

Bay and Thumb

Flint Powers (3-0) at Saginaw Nouvel (3-0)

This beats out some pretty strong league matchups because of a few hard-to-match circumstances. Both are undefeated, yes. But both also are reigning MHSAA champions -- Powers won Division 5 last season and Nouvel was Division 7. Both have already survived close calls, but are surging behind solid defensive efforts -- both teams are giving up roughly 11 points per game. 

Others that caught my eye: Croswell-Lexington (3-0) at Capac (2-1), Bay City Western (3-0) at Saginaw (2-1), Marine City (2-1) at Clawson (3-0), Goodrich (3-0) at Montrose (2-1).

West Michigan

Lowell (3-0) at Muskegon (3-0)

These two have been in the conversation for best game in the state just about every week so far. That's the product of loading up tough nonleague opponents before expected championship runs through their respective conferences. Lowell is a slight favorite in the O-K White, and Muskegon is a little bit more in the O-K Black. But this game might indicate something even bigger -- the eventual frontrunner for the MHSAA Division 2 title. 

Others that caught my eye: Allendale (3-0) at Comstock Park (2-1), Hudsonville (1-2) at Grand Rapids Christian (2-1), Zeeland East (3-0) at Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central (3-0), Cedar Springs (3-0) at Zeeland West (2-1).


Saginaw Swan Valley (3-0) at Alma (3-0)

Two teams kept Alma from winning the Tri-Valley Conference Central in 2011, and the Panthers are rolling after gaining vengeance on Freeland last week. They've also beaten Swan Valley in two straight, but by a combined three points. The TVC Central race has whittled down quickly, with these two and Hemlock the only three off to 2-0 starts in the league. That number will be down to at least two by the end of tonight. 

Others that caught my eye: Haslett (1-2) at DeWitt (2-1), Charlotte (2-1) at Jackson Lumen Christi (3-0), St. Johns (3-0) at Owosso (2-1), Lansing Everett (3-0) at Holt (2-1). 

Greater Detroit

Birmingham Brother Rice (2-1) at Warren DeLaSalle (2-1), Saturday

Raise your hand if you realized DeLaSalle has won three of its last four against the Warriors. Or that the teams' last eight meetings have been decided by 11 or fewer points. The reason that might surprise is Brother Rice's four trips and two wins in MHSAA Finals over the last decade -- DeLaSalle also has played in two Finals, but is seeking its first title. The winner this weekend will have the upper hand in the Detroit Catholic League Central, a great sign for another MHSAA run. 

Others that caught my eye: Oxford (2-1) at Farmington (3-0), Oak Park (3-0) at Southfield (2-1), Detroit Country Day (2-1) at Dearborn Divine Child (2-1), Monroe St. Mary Catholic (3-0) at Carleton Airport (3-0).

Upper Peninsula

Ishpeming (3-0) at Ishpeming Westwood (2-1)

This rivalry has been one-sided lately, with Ishpeming winning the last 15 meetings including twice in the playoffs. The Hematites ended Westwood's 2011 season and own a couple of impressive wins already this fall over Iron Mountain and Calumet. But the Patriots haven't given up a point since their Week 1 loss to Stephenson -- and appear due to tilt this series the other way. 

Others that caught my eye: Engadine (2-0) at Cedarville (3-0), Negaunee (3-0) at Iron Mountain (2-1), Gladstone (2-1) at Menominee (3-0), Iron Mountain North Dickinson (3-0) at Stephenson (2-1).

Lower Up North

Traverse City St. Francis (2-1) at Grayling (3-0)

St. Francis is the big opponent on many teams' calendars. That goes with winning six MHSAA championships. But both of these teams were ranked in the opening Associated Press polls this week. The Gladiators have won two straight since being shut out on opening night by Kingsley; Grayling is off to its third straight 3-0 start and looks like the favorite in the Lake Michigan Conference after watching last season's title fall out of grasp with a one-point loss to St. Francis in the regular-season finale. 

Others that caught my eye: Muskegon Catholic Central (1-2) at McBain (2-1), Petoskey (2-1) at Traverse City Central (2-1), Maple City Glen Lake (3-0) at Benzie Central (1-2), Boyne City (3-0) at Harbor Springs (2-1).

Southwest and Border

Portage Central (3-0) at Stevensville Lakeshore (3-0)

Four of the seven teams in the Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference West appear capable of winning it, with these two joining St. Joseph among the 3-0 teams so far this season. Lakeshore perhaps has been the most impressive after finishing second in the league to Mattawan last season. But Portage Central already has equaled last season's win total and has won five straight going back to 2011's Week 8. 

Others that caught my eye: Paw Paw (3-0) at Allegan (1-2), Plainwell (2-1) at Otsego (3-0), St. Joseph (3-0) at Portage Northern (2-1), Kalamazoo Loy Norrix (2-1) at Sturgis (1-2).

PHOTO: Flint Powers senior receiver Zach VanAlst attempts to break a tackle in his team's game against Mount Pleasant during Week 2. (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.)