A Game for Every Fan: Week 7

October 4, 2012

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Two thirds of the MHSAA football regular season are complete. And one tenth of Michigan’s teams are still perfect – at least two for only a few more hours.

A total of 59 teams are 6-0, and four are playing each other in two of our most significant clashes in the state this weekend.

See below for those matchups and more from your neighborhood. And be sure to check out the first-time, full-hour MHSAA Football Friday Overtime, kicking off with highlights from 13 games at 11:30 p.m. tonight on Fox Sports Detroit.

Also, remember to visit the MHSAA Score Center all weekend for updated scores and standings.

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


Grand Ledge (5-1) at Lansing Everett (6-0)

The Vikings have turned aside all challengers in their pursuit of a first league title since 1986. But despite a 6-0 win over East Lansing last week, the toughest might still be yet to come. Grand Ledge has won five straight since opening with a loss to East Kentwood, and over the years has thrived in games when everyone else is talking more about the other team.

Others that caught my eye: Pewamo-Westphalia (5-1) at Fowler (5-1), Grand Blanc (4-2) at Hartland (6-0), Lansing Catholic (5-1) at Portland (6-0), Olivet (5-1) at Battle Creek Pennfield (5-1).

Thumb and Bay

Flint Carman-Ainsworth (6-0) at Flint Powers Catholic (6-0)

Powers' season has been plenty eventful; the reigning MHSAA Division 5 champion owns wins over reigning Division 7 champ Saginaw Nouvel and reigning Division 3 runner-up Mount Pleasant, and fought through an emotional evening a week ago to beat Davison on the same day as retired coach Jack Pratt's funeral. Carman-Ainsworth's journey to this potential Saginaw Valley Association South title decider has rolled along a little more quietly. All the Cavaliers have done is outscore their first three league opponents by a combined 148-8.

Others that caught my eye: Frankenmuth (6-0) at Essexville Garber (4-2), Freeland (5-1) at Hemlock (5-1), Marysville (5-1) at Marine City (5-1), Croswell-Lexington (6-0) at Almont (4-2).

Lower Up North

St. Ignace (6-0) at Pickford (5-1)

Both are newcomers to the Ski Valley Conference this fall, from different former leagues, and are dominating the North division. The winner tonight claims a share of the league title, and Pickford already has beaten third-place Pellston big. A sixth win would give the Panthers their most since 2007. The Saints aren't budging, outscoring opponents 253-12 so far.

Others that caught my eye: Maple City Glen Lake (6-0) at Frankfort (3-3), Grayling (6-0) at Kalkaska (5-1), Johannesburg-Lewiston (4-2) at Onaway (5-1), Benzie Central (3-3) at Kingsley (4-2).

Upper Peninsula

Ishepming (6-0) at Negaunee (6-0)

Two of six undefeated teams in the Upper Peninsula meet to decide at least a share of the Mid-Peninsula Conference – and eventually, this result could decide the whole title with the way these two have dominated. Negaunee has had a few close calls, but has some additional incentive after losing to Ishpeming in six of the last seven meetings.

Others that caught my eye: Marquette (4-2) at Menominee (5-1), Iron Mountain North Dickinson (6-0) at Powers North Central (4-2), Kingsford (5-1) at Iron Mountain (4-2), Rapid River (4-1) at Eben Junction Superior Central (5-1).

West Michigan

Muskegon Oakridge (6-0) at Shelby (5-1)

Winning the West Michigan Conference generally is a strong endorsement for a team's playoff hopes. Six of eight league teams still are up for automatic playoff berths, but Oakridge can claim a share of the championship tonight. Shelby's lone loss was to Montague, which lost to Oakridge; a Shelby win would create a three-way tie for first place between all three.

Others that caught my eye: Grand Rapids South Christian (4-2) at Grand Rapids Catholic Central (6-0), Caledonia (5-1) at Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central (4-2), East Grand Rapids (2-4) at Lowell (5-1), Grand Rapids Northview (5-1) at Cedar Springs (4-2).

Greater Detroit

Garden City (4-2) at Dearborn Heights Robichaud (6-0)

Robichaud hasn't been perfect this deep into a season since 1991, and got a lot of the heavy work out of the way last week by beating reigning league champion Redford Thurston to earn a share of the Western Wayne Athletic Conference Red. But the Bulldogs can't forget about Garden City, which like Thurston is just a win back of Robichaud and would create a three-way title with a win tonight.

Others that caught my eye: Farmington Hills Harrison (4-2) at Oak Park (6-0), Birmingham Seaholm (5-1) at Bloomfield Hills Lahser (5-1), Plymouth (5-1) at Canton (4-2), Detroit Catholic Central (4-2) at Birmingham Brother Rice (4-2), Saturday.

Southwest and Border

Dowagiac (6-0) at Three Rivers (4-2)

Dowagiac hasn't given up a point in three games and easily could look ahead to Edwardsburg, next week's opponent and the other team tied for first in the Wolverine B Conference South. But the Chieftains won't overlook Three Rivers, which is two eight-point losses from being 6-0 -- including one of those to Edwardsburg two weeks ago.

Others that caught my eye: Lawton (5-1) at Marcellus (5-1), Mattawan (6-0) at Portage Central (5-1), Niles Brandywine (4-2) at St. Joseph Lake Michigan Catholic (6-0), Hartford (5-1) at Decatur (5-1).

PHOTO: Portland running back Jacob Kimmell works to break away from multiple tacklers during the Raiders' 36-13 win over Corunna on Sept. 8. (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.)