A Game for Every Fan: Week 7

October 7, 2015

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

We're at the point every football season when conference champions begin to be crowned. But for the Week 7's schedule to fall together like this is nearly inconceivable. 

Fifteen leagues statewide will feature matchups of teams tied for first place, with five more conferences bracing for tilts between first and second-place teams that could have immediate title implications.

Many of those games are discussed in detail below; all are tonight unless noted. Check MHSAA Score Center for results as they come in, updated standings and playoff-point averages.

Bay & Thumb

Almont (6-0) at Algonac (6-0)

What gives this matchup the slight edge in intrigue over undefeated teams facing off in the Saginaw Valley League (see below)? This is shaping up as arguably the most meaningful game in Algonac football history. The Muskrats’ perfect start is earning attention statewide and is a great story after the team went 1-8 a year ago and last had a winning record in 2005. But a league title, clinched tonight, would be the team’s first since 1972 – and standing in the way is reigning champion Almont, which hasn’t lost in the Blue Water Area Conference since Week 4 of 2013.

Others that caught my eye: Lapeer (6-0) at Midland (6-0), Vassar (5-1) at Unionville-Sebewaing (5-1), Detroit Cesar Chavez (4-2) at Mayville (4-2), Sterling Heights (5-1) at Marysville (4-2).

Greater Detroit

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

Plymouth’s championship-contending golfers this fall could land a ball at Canton in two strokes, these schools are so near to each other. And their last seven football meetings have been about that close too, all decided by 12 points or fewer. The Wildcats own a share of the Kensington Lakes Activities Association South title by way of Canton’s loss last week to Livonia Churchill – but the reigning champion Chiefs can grab a share as well by extending a current winning streak against Plymouth to three.

Others that caught my eye: Berkley (5-1) at Birmingham Groves (6-0), Farmington Hills Harrison (5-1) at Farmington (4-2), River Rouge (6-0) at Pontiac Notre Dame Prep (5-1), Warren Mott (5-1) at Sterling Heights Stevenson (5-1).


St. Johns (5-1) at DeWitt (6-0)

These neighbors are meeting to decide the Capital Area Activities Conference Red title for the second straight season, with DeWitt the reigning champion thanks to last year’s 16-10 victory. The Panthers have won five straight against the Redwings and won’t have trouble drumming up enthusiasm despite coming off facing its other rival, Haslett, last week. The Redwings have lost only to one-loss Grand Rapids Catholic Central, in Week 2, and feature speedy MHSAA track champion Steven Linton in the backfield and a defense that could slow this game down substantially.

Others that caught my eye: Sanford Meridian (6-0) at Harrison (5-1), Howell (5-1) at Brighton (5-1), Vestaburg (5-1) at Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart (3-3), Pewamo-Westphalia (6-0) at Laingsburg (5-1).

Nothern Lower Peninsula

Harbor Springs (4-2) at Frankfort (5-1)

Most of the best up north this weekend are nonleague matchups, but Harbor Springs could make some noise in the Northern Michigan Football League Legends division as it seeks to guarantee its best finish since 2000. The Rams earned an impressive victory last week over 4-2 Indian River Inland Lakes and have won two of the last three against Frankfort – which is first in the Legends and undefeated since opening night. The Panthers have given up 35 points total.

Others that caught my eye: Lincoln Alcona (5-1) at Johannesburg-Lewiston (5-1), Oscoda (4-2) at Hillman (5-1), Gaylord (5-1) at Petoskey (4-2), Maple City Glen Lake (4-2) at Traverse City St. Francis (6-0).

Southeast & Border

Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central (6-0) at Milan (5-1)

St. Mary hasn’t given up more than seven points in a game since Week 3 as it’s cruised during the first two-thirds of its Huron League repeat pursuit. But Milan arguably has been more impressive; the Big Reds, who won the league in 2012 and 2013, are a one-point loss to 5-1 Marshall on opening night from a perfect record this fall – and after losing to the Falcons 43-0 last year, would love to break St. Mary's 11-game winning streak.

Others that caught my eye: Ottawa Lake-Whiteford (5-1) at Morenci (5-1), Ann Arbor Skyline (3-3) at Ann Arbor Pioneer (5-1), Hudson (3-3) at Ida (6-0), Chelsea (6-0) at Ypsilanti Community (3-3).

Southwest Corridor

Watervliet (5-1) at Delton Kellogg (5-1)

This is the product of the reconfigured Southwestern Athletic Conference, which added teams – including Delton Kellogg – from the former Kalamazoo Valley Association this fall and split into three divisions. The SAC Lakeshore division has provided an extra boost to a Delton program that hasn’t made the playoffs since 2001 but has upped its win total three seasons running. Watervliet is a little more used to this with three 10-win seasons over the last four, but this fall both teams are in similar position – both one-point losses from perfection.

Others that caught my eye: Mattawan (3-3) at Battle Creek Central (3-3), Parchment (4-2) at Berrien Springs (6-0), Plainwell (4-2) at Edwardsburg (6-0), Portage Northern (3-3) at Portage Central (6-0).

Upper Peninsula

Negaunee (6-0) at Ishpeming (5-0)

Ishpeming has won 37 of its last 38 regular-season games. The only team to beat the Hematites? Negaunee, back in 2012, but the Miners came close in 2013 and remain Ishpeming’s toughest annual obstacle despite being shut out 28-0 a year ago. Ishpeming is coming off an open week and has had a little extra time to prepare, although a defense that has given up 33 points in five games has looked plenty ready to match a Negaunee offense scoring 41 points per contest.

Others that caught my eye: Calumet (4-2) at L'Anse (4-2), Bark River-Harris (5-1) at Munising (5-1), Iron Mountain (4-2) at Kingsford (4-2), Houghton (3-3) at Lake Linden-Hubbell (6-0) (Sat.).

West Michigan

Grand Rapids West Catholic (4-2) at Comstock Park (5-1)

Most teams would be fine with a 6-5 blip like Comstock Park experienced in 2014 after three seasons with a combined record of 33-6. But the Panthers look like themselves again, with a win over Ottawa-Kent Bronze co-leader Cedar Springs and the only loss to O-K Green co-leader Zeeland West by 10. West Catholic, which won the O-K Green last season thanks to a 47-33 win over Comstock Park, looked like it might be in for an off season after a 1-2 start. But the two-time reigning Division 5 champion has found a source of offense the last three weeks and looks good to make the playoffs for the 13th straight season regardless of what happens tonight. (This game can be viewed live with subscription on MHSAA.tv.)

Others that caught my eye: Byron Center (5-1) at Zeeland West (6-0), Wyoming Godwin Heights (4-2) at Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian (6-0), Big Rapids (4-2) at Remus Chippewa Hills (5-1), East Kentwood (4-2) at Rockford (4-2).


Waldron (6-0) at Battle Creek St. Philip (6-0), Saturday

This has been a history-making season for Waldron, off to its first 6-0 start since 1978 and approaching at least eight wins for the first time since 1984 (its final two opponents, Litchfield and Carsonville-Port Sanilac, are winless). Beating St. Philip would put the Spartans’ run into another echelon. The Tigers’ only losses the last two seasons were three times to reigning 8-player champion Lawrence – and they have a 49-0 win over 4-2 Webberville and a 65-32 win over 5-1 Morrice this fall.

Others that caught my eye: Portland St. Patrick (5-1) at Webberville (4-2), Lawrence (6-0) vs. Prairie Farm, Wis. (7-0) at Madison Middleton, Wis. (Sat.).

PHOTO: St. Johns' Steven Linton (20) turns the corner during a two-point win over Haslett in Week 4. (Click for 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.)