A Game for Every Fan: Week 7

October 10, 2013

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Something's gonna give in many football leagues all over Michigan this weekend. 

In the southeastern corner alone at least seven matchups feature first and second-place teams aiming at claiming league titles. And titanic face-offs can be found continuing north to the coast of Lake Superior. 

Here's a look at some that stuck out most from this week's schedule. Be sure to check MHSAA Score Center all weekend for up-to-date scores and standings, and then again each morning for updated playoff points averages. 

West Michigan

Caledonia (5-1) at Lowell (6-0)

There's never much of a break in the O-K White, and Lowell gets to follow up last week’s four-overtime win at East Grand Rapids with a home game against second-place Caledonia. The Fighting Scots’ only loss was to much-improved Muskegon Mona Shores, and they’ve scored a combined 136 points in three wins since that Week 3 defeat. The Red Arrows are used to top competition with wins also against River Rouge (4-1) and Muskegon (5-1) this fall, and they get to follow this one with Grand Rapids Christian next week. 

Others that caught my eye: Holland West Ottawa (4-2) at East Kentwood (4-2), Belding (4-2) at Hopkins (4-2), Spring Lake (5-1) at Ludington (4-2), Zeeland East (5-1) at Muskegon Mona Shores (5-1).

Greater Detroit and Southeast

Canton (6-0) at Plymouth (5-1)

A set of baseball and softball fields separate these neighbors, and they’ve also seen each other twice each of the last five seasons – once during league play and again during the playoffs. A three-point loss by Plymouth to Livonia Franklin is all that kept this from being a matchup of undefeated teams – and if Plymouth wins, it will force Canton to share the Kensington Lakes Activities Association South title.  

Others that caught my eye: Belleville (4-2) at Dearborn Fordson (4-2), Detroit Denby (5-1) at Detroit Martin Luther King (5-0), Oak Park (5-1) at Farmington Hills Harrison (5-1), Detroit Mumford (6-0) at Detroit Cass Tech (6-0)

Thumb and Bay

Montrose (6-0) at Flint Beecher (5-1)

Beecher’s only loss this season was two weeks ago against Lake Fenton – which is tied with Montrose for first place in the Genesee Area Conference Red. If the Buccaneers can beat the Rams, a three-team shared title will remain a possibility – Montrose ends the regular season against Lake Fenton and has beaten the Blue Devils in three straight.

Others that caught my eye: Reese (5-1) at Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port (5-1), Flint Powers (3-3) at Flint Carman-Ainsworth (5-1), Traverse City St. Francis (4-2) at Saginaw Nouvel (5-1), Gladwin (4-2) at Sanford Meridian (6-0).

Southwest and Border

Paw Paw (6-0) at Plainwell (6-0)

How little have these Wolverine Conference East leaders been tested this fall? Combined, they’ve given up 68 points. It’s fair to say the Trojans have been the tiniest bit more impressive – they have three shutouts including one over Wolverine Conference West leader Dowagiac. But Paw Paw does have history on its side – the Redskins have won all eight meetings (including one in the playoffs) since the two became league foes in 2006.

Others that caught my eye: Climax-Scotts (6-0) at Bellevue (4-2), St. Joseph Lake Michigan Catholic (5-0) at Niles Brandywine (6-0), Coldwater (3-3) at Battle Creek Lakeview (6-0), Three Rivers (4-2) at Dowagiac (5-1).

Lower Up North

Beal City (6-0) at Lake City (6-0)

Talk about two teams that have simply dominated so far; these two have outscored their opponents by a combined 678-33. The winner claims a share of the Highland Conference title, which Beal City has won nine of the last 10 seasons. It’s anyone’s guess how this matchup might go; Lake City has given up six points this season and Beal City has scored at least 60 four times.

Others that caught my eye: Traverse City West (4-2) at Cadillac (6-0), Kalkaska (5-1) at Grayling (5-1), Evart (5-1) at McBain (4-2), Maple City Glen Lake (6-0) at Suttons Bay (3-3).

Upper Peninsula

Negaunee (6-0) at Ishpeming (6-0)

Ishpeming finished an incredible playoff run as the Division 7 champion last fall, but Negaunee can boast that it claimed the Mid-Peninsula Conference championship during the regular season thanks to a 20-8 win over the Hematites. Both have been similarly dominating again this season, making this arguably the best game in the Upper Peninsula for all of 2013.

Others that caught my eye: Powers North Central (5-1) at Felch North Dickinson (5-1), Cheboygan (5-1) at Sault Ste. Marie (3-3), Pickford (4-2) at St. Ignace (5-1), Marinette, Wis. (2-5) at Menominee (6-0).


Fowler (5-1) at Pewamo-Westphalia (6-0)

That this Central Michigan Athletic Conference clash is considered one of the best rivalries throughout mid-Michigan despite including two of its smallest schools speaks volumes both to how much these programs are respected by others big and small and how good this matchup has been over the last 40-plus seasons. During the last decade alone both have played in MHSAA Finals at Ford Field and faced each other in four games decided by eight or fewer points.

Others that caught my eye: Lansing Everett (5-1) at Grand Ledge (3-3), Carson City-Crystal (6-0) at Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart (5-1), Battle Creek Pennfield (5-1) at Olivet (6-0), Homer (6-0) at Springport (5-1).

PHOTO: Detroit Martin Luther King (white jerseys), here against Detroit East English, has claimed a share of the Detroit Public School League East title, but can win it outright by defeating second place Detroit Denby tonight. (Photo courtesy of the 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.)