A Game for Every Fan: Week 5

September 24, 2015

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Halftime of this weekend’s games will mark the midway point of the 2015 football regular season.

And the final results this Friday and Saturday could prove to be turning points for a number of teams playing for league titles all over the state.

The Week 5 slate is filled with matchups of teams tied for first place in their respective leagues, plus others pitting leaders against those in second and hoping to move up. The report below touches on many, but not all of these – tune in to the Score Center this weekend for scores and updated standings as those games are decided.

Bay & Thumb

Frankenmuth (4-0) at Millington (4-0)

The latest chapter in this Tri-Valley Conference East rivalry should again decide the champion. Millington handed the Eagles their only loss of the 2014 regular season – although these two then shared the title with Birch Run after the Panthers beat the Cardinals. Millington has won nine of the last 15 meetings, but Frankenmuth holds a slim 22-20 edge going back to their first reported meeting in 1956.

Others that caught my eye: Almont (4-0) at Richmond (4-0), Mount Pleasant (3-1) at Lapeer (4-0), Flint Powers Catholic (3-1) at Midland Dow (3-1), St. Clair Shores South Lake (4-0) at Marine City (3-1).

Greater Detroit

Detroit Cass Tech (4-0) at Detroit Martin Luther King (4-0)

This Detroit Public School League rivalry game always is anticipated, but this season more than most. King’s only regular-season loss last season was to Cass Tech, in the PSL championship game; the Crusaders then saw their season end in the first round of the playoffs the next week. However, they opened this fall by beating reigning Division 2 champion Warren DeLaSalle. Cass Tech hasn’t lost a regular-season game since Week 8 of 2012 – to King – but despite dominating four opponents that had winning records a year ago, might be behind the Crusaders in terms of generating statewide buzz.

Others that caught my eye: Warren Mott (4-0) at Clinton Township Chippewa Valley (3-1), Belleville (3-1) at Dearborn Heights Robichaud (4-0), Southfield (3-1) at Farmington Hills Harrison (3-1), Warren DeLaSalle (3-1) at Orchard Lake St. Mary's (4-0).


Olivet (3-1) at Lake Odessa Lakewood (4-0)

Lakewood has plenty of history it would like to still make, but consider this from the Vikings’ start: they are 4-0 for the first time since 1974. Those four wins tie the total for all of last season and tie the team’s most for a season since 2005. Lakewood’s 176 points through four games is more than they scored during 14 of the last 20 seasons. But Olivet certainly can dampen the excitement by winning tonight’s Greater Lansing Activities Conference matchup, like the Eagles did last season 42-9 on the way to winning the league title.

Others that caught my eye: Jackson (3-1) at Grand Ledge (4-0), Flint Beecher (4-0) at Corunna (3-1), Haslett (3-1) at Mason (2-2), Holt (2-2) at East Lansing (2-2).

Northern Lower Peninsula

Boyne City (4-0) at Traverse City St. Francis (4-0)

By the smallest of margins, this game gets top billing over two others matching undefeated teams. For starters, Boyne City won the matchup last season 28-27 – and eventually, the Northern Michigan Football Conference Leaders division title. The Ramblers then made the Division 6 Semifinals, and then graduated a significant group of contributors – but has come back to shut out two of its first four opponents. Then again, St. Francis didn’t give up a point this season until last week and is sparking statewide chatter like its contending teams of a few years ago. 

Others that caught my eye: Gaylord (4-0) at Traverse City Central (4-0), St. Ignace (4-0) at Johannesburg-Lewiston (4-0), Onekama (4-0) at Maple City Glen Lake (3-1), McBain (3-1) at Manton (2-2).

Southeast & Border

Clinton (4-0) at Morenci (4-0)

Morenci won 10 games last fall for the first time since 1996 – but the only blemish on an otherwise incredible regular-season run was a 28-26 loss to Clinton that ended up deciding the Tri-County Conference championship. All four of the Bulldogs’ wins this season are against teams .500 or better so far, lining this up as again a likely league title decider – Clinton has shut out two of its first four opponents and won 31 straight regular-season games.

Others that caught my eye: Brooklyn Columbia Central (4-0) at Ida (4-0), Monroe (3-1) at Ann Arbor Pioneer (4-0), Chelsea (4-0) at Tecumseh (2-2), New Boston Huron (2-2) at Milan (3-1).

Southwest Corridor

Berrien Springs (4-0) at Bridgman (4-0)

Both of these programs have enjoyed recent success; Bridgman has made the playoffs three straight seasons, and Berrien Springs made the postseason last year and two of the last four. But there’s a little more intrigue although these teams don’t play in the same division of the Berrien-Cass-St. Joseph Conference. Bridgman has never started 4-0 – and looks like the BCS Blue favorite. Berrien Springs likely will battle Buchanan in the BCS White and hasn’t allowed a point in two weeks, most recently shutting out BCS Red favorite Cassopolis.

Others that caught my eye: Saugatuck (4-0) at Decatur (3-1), Dowagiac (3-1) at Edwardsburg (4-0), Jackson Lumen Christi (4-0) at Marshall (3-1), Sturgis (3-1) at Vicksburg (3-1).

Upper Peninsula

Lake Linden-Hubbell (4-0) at L'Anse (3-1)

The Lakes are used to success and have made the playoffs nine of the last 11 seasons – but are 4-0 for the first time since winning 10 games in 2009 and on pace to score their most points since 1997. L’Anse has bounced back from 4-5 a year ago but has a tough schedule over the season’s second half – and would enjoy the momentum from playing a tough opponent well this weekend.

Others that caught my eye: Crystal Falls Forest Park (2-2) at Newberry (3-1), Detroit Country Day (3-1) at Escanaba (2-2), Ishpeming Westwood (2-2) at Iron Mountain (2-2), Felch North Dickinson (1-3) at Bark River-Harris (4-0).

West Michigan

Montague (4-0) at Whitehall (3-1)

The season’s first half has been one of resurgence for Montague, one of the state’s most successful programs during the first decade of the 2000s. The Wildcats are 4-0 for the first time since 2010 and after going only 2-7 a year ago. They’re giving up points, but scoring more including 70 on Ravenna and 55 against Shelby. Whitehall did fall by a score to undefeated Traverse City Central last week, but otherwise navigated well a solid nonleague slate – and beat Montague 48-20 a year ago.

Others that caught my eye: Hudsonville Unity Christian (3-1) at Byron Center (3-1), Grand Rapids Christian (3-1) at Hudsonville (3-1), Zeeland East (3-1) at Muskegon Mona Shores (4-0), Caledonia (2-2) at Rockford (2-2).


Posen (4-0) at Pickford (3-1)

Pickford should be finding 8-player football to its liking so far. The Panthers, in their first season, have one more win than they earned all of 2014 and have lost this fall only to reigning MHSAA runner-up Cedarville. Posen has shown to be in a similar elite class so far, especially after last week’s 30-point win over always-tough Bellaire – and the Vikings have guaranteed tying their best finish since 2010.

Others that caught my eye: Webberville (4-0) at Waldron (4-0), Owendale-Gagetown (4-0) at Akron-Fairgrove (3-1).

PHOTO: A Detroit Cass Tech ball carrier breaks through during the Technicians’ win this season against Detroit Renaissance. (Photo courtesy of Detroit Public School League.)

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.)