A Game for Every Fan: Week 5

September 26, 2013

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Rivalry games develop for a variety of reasons: proximity, a history of close finishes and league ties are just the obvious. And finding one of these matchups worth watching is an easy task just about every week of MHSAA football season..

But tonight and Saturrday might feature the best set of rivalry games, collectively, this state has seen during one weekend in a long time. 

All featured below are tonight unless noted. Be sure to monitor all the scores as they come in at the MHSAA Score Center.

Greater Detroit and Southeast

Birmingham Brother Rice (4-0) at Detroit Catholic Central (4-0) - Saturday

Although DCC hasn’t played a Catholic League Central game yet (it was the odd team out during last week’s openers), the Shamrocks and Warriors are the only teams in the division still undefeated overall. Both are playing for their third trips to the MHSAA Finals – Brother Rice has won back-to-back Division 2 titles, and DCC has finished runner-up the last two seasons in Division 1. But first comes this weekend; they’ve split the last four meetings, and DCC’s defense already has three shutouts this fall. 

Others that caught my eye: Detroit Loyola (4-0) at Pontiac Notre Dame Prep (4-0), Farmington Hills Harrison (4-0) at Southfield (3-1), Melvindale (4-0) at Wyandotte Roosevelt (4-0), Rochester Hills Stoney Creek (4-0) at Clarkston (3-1).

Southwest and Border

Portage Northern (3-1) at Portage Central (4-0)

Portage Northern is coming off a heart-breaking 17-10 loss last week to St. Joseph. But the Huskies surely will bounce back quickly for this rivalry game – especially after falling to Central in last season’s playoff opener after beating the Mustangs by 29 just two weeks before. Central got its first challenge of the season last week as well, from Stevensville Lakeshore, but hasn’t scored fewer than 34 points in a game so far.

Others that caught my eye: Decatur (4-0) at Lawton (4-0), Edwardsburg (4-0) at Three Rivers (3-1), Hartford (3-1) at Watervliet (4-0), Portland St. Patrick (4-0) at Burr Oak (3-1).

Upper Peninsula

Kingsford (4-0) at Menominee (4-0)

A year ago in Week 5, Kingsford beat Menominee 14-13 and then went on to win the Great Northern UP Conference title. But that’s been the norm; beginning in 1999, one of these two has won or shared the league title every season. This matchup often during that run decided which finished on top. The Maroons might have a little momentum after coming back to beat Kingsford 48-14 in a 2012 District Final.

Others that caught my eye: Negaunee (4-0) at Gwinn (2-2), Bessemer (3-1) at Hurley, Wis. (3-1), St. Ignace (3-1) at Sault Ste. Marie (2-2), Detroit Country Day (1-3) at Escanaba (1-3).

Lower Up North

Maple City Glen Lake (4-0) at Kingsley (3-1)

Glen Lake jumped into the Northwest Conference title conversation last season for the first time in a decade and earned the championship thanks in large part to a 29-7 win over Kingsley – which similarly was enjoying its finest conference run since 2005 before finishing second. The Stags no doubt would like to finish the job by winning this rematch to move into first place alone; they then finish with winless league opponents Benzie Central and Mesick.

Others that caught my eye: Traverse City St. Francis (3-1) at Boyne City (3-1), Petoskey (2-2) at Cheboygan (3-1), Bellaire (4-0) at Posen (2-2), West Branch Ogemaw Heights (3-1) at Cadillac (4-0).

West Michigan

East Grand Rapids (3-1) at Grand Rapids Christian (3-1)

Grand Rapids Christian enjoyed its best season ever last fall, winning the Division 3 championship, which coincided with East Grand Rapids’ first playoff miss since 2000. But the Pioneers are looking like themselves again, and the Eagles remain elite despite graduating a star-filled class and losing standout receiver Drake Harris for the first part of the regular season with an injury. Three of these teams' last five games against each other have come down to seven points or fewer, and this could be another classic.

Others that caught my eye: Belding (4-0) at Comstock Park (4-0), Ludington (3-1) at Fruitport (2-2), Rockford (3-1) at Holland West Ottawa (3-1), Muskegon (3-1) at Muskegon Mona Shores (4-0).


DeWitt (4-0) at Haslett (3-1)

This once was the best rivalry in the Lansing area – until DeWitt won 10 straight (including three times in the playoffs), dating to Haslett’s last win in the series in 2005. Regardless, the Vikings have come closer than most to beating the Panthers during this latest run. And last season’s game seemed to signal a return to the grudge match, with DeWitt surviving 28-27. The Panthers are always strong offensively but have given up only 23 points this fall and have two shutouts. Haslett, meanwhile, is off to its best start since 2009.

Others that caught my eye: Holt (2-2) at East Lansing (3-1), Reading (2-2) at Homer (4-0), Coleman (4-0) at Carson City-Crystal (4-0), Jackson Northwest (2-2) at Jackson Lumen Christi (4-0).

Bay and Thumb

Midland (4-0) at Mount Pleasant (3-1)

With three wins – and only a 12-point loss to a strong DeWitt team – Mount Pleasant already has one more victory than all of last season, a rare down finish for the Oilers. Midland took advantage by breaking a three-season losing streak to Mount Pleasant and winning the Saginaw Valley Association North. As we reach the midpoint, these two have been the league’s most impressive teams so far.

Others that caught my eye: Harbor Beach (3-1) at Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port (4-0), Flint Beecher (4-0) at Lake Fenton (3-1), Warren Woods Tower (3-1) at St. Clair (4-0), Yale (3-1) at Almont (3-1).

PHOTO: Midland (blue uniforms) ran past Saginaw Arthur Hill last week to remain in first place in the SVA North. (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.)