A Game for Every Fan: Week 9

October 18, 2012

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Most of this weekend is about numbers for hopeful MHSAA football teams. 

There are still a few league titles to award. Some are listed below. But much of the focus is on the 256-team playoff field that will be determined Sunday. As of this morning, 178 teams have achieved automatic berths.

Some other numbers of note:

  • Only five games this weekend feature 5-3 teams facing each other. That means at least five more teams will be added to the automatic qualifier list.
  • Six 5-3 teams face undefeated opponents, and 16 5-3 teams face opponents that have only one loss.
  • A total of 31 teams face opponents with six or more losses, including eight that face teams that haven't won this fall.

See below for some of the most significant games being played in every corner of the state. Visit the MHSAA Score Center all weekend for updated scores and standings, and tune in to Fox Sports Detroit at 6 p.m. Sunday for the Selection Sunday Show.

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

Greater Detroit

Detroit Catholic Central (5-3) vs. Orchard Lake St. Mary (6-2), Saturday at Ford Field

The Detroit Catholic League Central title had seemed all but sown up by the Eaglets before DCC’s stunning 35-13 win last week that pushed Brother Rice out of this Prep Bowl game and set up this rematch instead. But two of DCC’s losses were to Ohio powers and it’s fast becoming the expectation for three Catholic League Central teams to make runs at MHSAA Finals.

Others that caught my eye: Detroit Martin Luther King (5-3) vs. Detroit East English (7-1) at Ford Field, Clarkston (8-0) at Oak Park (7-1), Allen Park Cabrini (6-2) vs. Detroit Loyola (8-0), Saturday at Ford Field; Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard (7-1) vs. Pontiac Notre Dame (8-0), Saturday at Ford Field.

Upper Peninsula

Kingsford (7-1) at Escanaba (4-4)

The Flivvers have secured a share of the Great Northern Upper Peninsula Conference title, but can win it outright with one more victory tonight. That would appear likely as Kingsford has beaten Escanaba in 12 straight. But the Eskymos are holding onto a faint hope of making the playoffs at 5-4, and winning this one would go a long way beyond the obvious toward making that happen.

Others that caught my eye: Lake Linden-Hubbell (4-4) at Crystal Falls Forest Park (6-2), Bellaire (5-3) at Rapid River (7-1), Cheboygan (6-2) at St. Ignace La Salle (8-0), Powers North Central (5-3) at Stephenson (6-2).


Holt (5-3) at Grand Ledge (6-2)

This may be the best rivalry in the Lansing area. These are the only regular Division 1 teams, and they’ve split their last 10 meetings. With it unlikely that Lansing Everett will lose to winless Jackson tonight, Grand Ledge probably won’t gain a share of the Capital Area Activities Conference Blue title. But the Comets can continue to improve their playoff point average – and possibly keep Holt from qualifying at all.

Others that caught my eye: Portland (7-1) at Charlotte (6-2), Fruitport (8-0) at DeWitt (6-2), Grass Lake (7-1) at Leslie (8-0), Mendon (8-0) at Pewamo-Westphalia (6-2).

Thumb and Bay

Midland Dow (5-3) at Midland (8-0)

The Chemics secured a share of the Saginaw Valley Association North title by defeating Bay City Western last week, but easily could end up sharing the championship. Western plays Bay City Central, a tough foe, but perhaps not as tough as the Chemics run against in Dow – which must win to secure a playoff berth. Midland has won nine of the last 10 against the Chargers.

Others that caught my eye: Vassar (7-1) at Frankenmuth (8-0), Montrose (7-1) at Lake Fenton (7-1), Linden (7-1) at Swartz Creek (7-1), Lapeer West (6-2) at Fenton (7-1).

West Michigan

Muskegon (8-0) at Zeeland East (8-0)

Muskegon might’ve left a more competitive conference top to bottom when it moved from the O-K Red to Black after last season. But it still has to face a similarly tough foe for the title in the Chix. Zeeland East is seeking its second league title in three seasons; Muskegon its first since 2008, plus the possibility of home playoff games through Regionals.

Others that caught my eye: Lowell (7-1) at Grand Rapids Christian (7-1), Hastings (6-2) at Grand Rapids South Christian (5-3), Grand Rapids Northview (7-1) at Grand Rapids West Catholic (5-3), Hamilton (5-3) at Hudsonville Unity Christian (4-4).

Lower Up North

Boyne City (8-0) at Grayling (8-0)

These teams have succeeded in avoiding all obstacles on the way to this deciding game in the Lake Michigan Conference, which was dominated lately by Traverse City St. Francis before the Gladiators left the league after this spring. Grayling has won their last three meetings by at least 27 points and is going for its first perfect season since at least 1950 (the 1970 team didn’t lose, but had a tie). Boyne City is hoping for its first perfect regular season since 2001.

Others that caught my eye: Elk Rapids (4-4) at Kalkaska (6-2), Menominee (7-1) at Petoskey (5-3), Muskegon Catholic Central (5-3) at Traverse City St. Francis (4-4), Mayville (5-3) at Big Rapids Crossroads (0-8).

Southwest and Border

Lawton (7-1) at Watervliet (8-0)

Watervliet can claim the Southwestern Athletic Conference South championship for the second straight season and is averaging 50 points per game in league play. Lawton would love to get the title back after winning in 2010 but falling to Watervliet in the deciding game last season.

Others that caught my eye: Otsego (6-2) at Dowagiac (8-0), Paw Paw (8-0) at Edwardsburg (6-2), Portage Northern (7-1) at Mattawan (7-1), Portland St. Patrick (8-0) at Waldron (6-2).

PHOTO: Pontiac Notre Dame, here against Dearborn Divine Child, will face Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard in a Prep Bowl game Saturday at Ford Field. (Click to see more at Terry McNamara Photography.)

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.)