A Game for Every Fan: Week 9

October 21, 2015

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

This week more than any other requires a different perspective when considering what football games could turn out as the most significant when the final scores come in Saturday night.

There are still a few league titles to be contested, and we highlighted most of those below. There are 45 teams hoping to finish the regular season undefeated, and we’ve noted a number of those too – including the only game pitting 8-0 teams, Freeland at Frankenmuth.

But we’re also watching closely 90 teams that can guarantee a playoff spot with a Week 9 win – with 12 games pitting 11-player teams with 5-3 records and Parma Western and Detroit Edison Public School Academy needing a victory to join Detroit Cesar Chavez Academy among those this season earning postseason bids for the first time.

Be sure to tune in all weekend to the MHSAA Score Center for results as they come in, updated standings and playoff point averages, and watch Fox Sports Detroit at 7 p.m. Sunday to see the playoff field and brackets for the first time. (There are 13 games on Thursday this week. All games below are Friday unless noted.)

Bay & Thumb

Linden (7-1) at Fenton (7-1)

Four of these teams' last five meetings have been decided by a touchdown or less – and this one will decide an outright league champion. Fenton’s last loss in Flint Metro League play was on opening night 2012 to Linden, and the Tigers have shared or won outright the last four league titles – with Linden tying for first in 2012 and winning outright the year before Fenton’s streak started, in 2010.

Others that caught my eye: Freeland (8-0) at Frankenmuth (8-0), Midland (7-1) at Midland Dow (7-1), Lapeer (8-0) at Davison (5-3), New Lothrop (8-0) at Montrose (5-3).

Greater Detroit

Detroit Martin Luther King (8-0) vs. Detroit Cass Tech (7-1) at Ford Field

We detailed this rivalry before Week 5, when the two met in what eventually decided the Detroit Public School League East I championship for King. The Crusaders won 31-28 in overtime that day, and have given up a total of eight points over three games since – although two of those games were against the same team because of a rematch in the PSL Semifinals. Cass Tech no doubt has been waiting for this rematch – the Technicians haven’t lost two straight to King since the 2005-2006 regular seasons.

Others that caught my eye: Detroit Central Collegiate (6-2) vs. Detroit Collegiate Prep (8-0) at Ford Field; Warren DeLaSalle (6-2) vs. Orchard Lake St. Mary's (6-1) at Ford Field, Saturday; Detroit Loyola (6-2) vs. Pontiac Notre Dame Prep (7-1) at Ford Field, Saturday; Farmington Hills Harrison (7-1) at West Bloomfield (8-0).


Grand Ledge (8-0) at Holt (5-3)

It’s fair to say few saw Holt competing for a league title after dropping its first two games to Hudsonville and Rockford by a combined score of 75-14. But the Rams, under first-year coach Chad Fulk, ran off five straight wins before coming up short last week against Jackson. Grand Ledge has won four of the last five against its biggest rival and has a share of the Capital Area Activities Conference Blue title regardless of what happens this weekend – but Holt can gain a share as well.

Others that caught my eye: St. Ignace (7-1) at Fowler (6-2), Marshall (7-1) at Portland (8-0), Clare (5-3) at Harrison (6-2), Novi (4-4) at Howell (5-3).

Northern Lower Peninsula

Charlevoix (5-3) at Harbor Springs (5-3)

There are a number of good matchups in the northern Lower Peninsula this week, but this is the only one that will guarantee the winner a playoff berth. Charlevoix is second and Harbor Springs tied for third in the Northern Michigan Football League Legends division, and neither can catch champion Frankfort. But the Red Rayders are looking for a second straight playoff appearance coming off back-to-back 1-8 finishes in 2012 and 2013, and Harbor Springs hasn’t had a .500 record or made the playoffs since 2000.

Others that caught my eye: Kingsley (5-3) at Traverse City St. Francis (8-0), Saturday; Onekama (7-1) at Frankfort (7-1), Walled Lake Northern (5-3) at Traverse City West (4-4), Indian River Inland Lakes (5-3) at Johannesburg-Lewiston (7-1).

Southeast & Border

Ottawa Lake Whiteford (7-1) at Clinton (8-0)

Clinton has won 27 straight Tri-County Conference games (and 35 straight total during the regular-season), and once again no league opponent has come within two touchdowns of the Redskins. But Whiteford has come as close as anyone the last few years, falling by only two points to Clinton in 2012 and scoring 30 in a 24-point loss last fall. The Bobcats have tied last season’s win total and guaranteed a fourth straight playoff berth, and have nothing to hold back in this league finale.

Others that caught my eye: Jackson (6-2) at Jackson Lumen Christi (6-2), Homer (7-1) at Manchester (7-1), Lansing Catholic (7-1) at Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central (8-0), Dexter (0-8) at Parma Western (5-3).

Southwest Corridor

St. Joseph (7-1) at Portage Central (8-0)

For the second time in three seasons, the Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference West title will come down to this matchup. Portage Central already owns a share, but St. Joseph can snag one as well if it can end a three-game losing streak to the Mustangs. They almost ended it last season, falling to Portage Central 21-14 in the regular-season finale. The Mustangs know how to finish those games though; they’ve won two by seven or fewer points this fall.

Others that caught my eye: Portage Northern (4-4) at Benton Harbor (4-4), Delton Kellogg (5-3) at Schoolcraft (8-0), Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart (5-3) at Mendon (5-3), Buchanan (8-0) at Niles Brandywine (5-3).

Upper Peninsula

Crystal Falls Forest Park (5-2) at Lake Linden-Hubbell (8-0)

This has turned into a season of good-byes at least a little for Forest Park since the announcement a few weeks ago that it would move to 8-player in 2015. The Trojans have rallied to split the Mid-Eastern Conference title and make the playoffs for the 19th straight season, and can deal a massive blow to rival Lake Linden-Hubbell by extending a five-game winning streak over the Lakes, who haven’t had a game closer than 12 points this season.

Others that caught my eye: Negaunee (6-2) at Ishpeming Westwood (5-3), Escanaba (4-4) at Kingsford (6-2), L'Anse (5-3) at Munising (6-2), Menominee (8-0) at Marquette (3-4).

West Michigan

Hudsonville (6-2) at Rockford (5-3)

Not only is the Ottawa-Kent Conference Red title on the line – four teams are tied for first, guaranteeing there will be multiple champions – but Rockford needs a victory to continue a 20-season playoff streak, the third-longest in MHSAA history and active leader. These rivals have split their last four meetings – Rockford winning during the regular season and Hudsonville in playoff rematches the last two years.

Others that caught my eye: Grandville (5-3) at East Kentwood (6-2), Lowell (7-1) at Grand Rapids Christian (5-3), McBain (6-2) at Reed City (8-0), Ada Forest Hills Eastern (8-0) at Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern (6-2).


Battle Creek St. Philip (8-0) at Lawrence (7-1)

St. Philip is a combined 34-7 over the last four seasons, but Lawrence has been an obstacle since the latter went to 8-player football in 2013. St. Philip won their first meeting, 54-50, but Lawrence has won the last three and ended St. Phil’s last two seasons in Regional Finals. Lawrence has continued to roll despite graduating a strong nucleus from last season’s MHSAA championship-winning team. It hasn’t lost in-state in two years, with this season’s defeat to reigning Wisconsin champion Prairie Farm two weeks ago.  

Others that caught my eye: Pickford (5-3) at Onaway (5-3), Morrice (7-1) at Portland St. Patrick (6-2).

PHOTO: Detroit Collegiate Prep, in red, and enjoying its best season since 2007 (as Detroit Northwestern), will face Detroit Central Collegiate in the Public School League Division II championship game at Ford Field. (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.)