'Gamer' Helps Shores Gut Out 1st Finals Win

By Paul Costanzo
Special for MHSAA.com

November 29, 2019

DETROIT – Brady Rose walked into Ford Field on Friday carrying the backup quarterback tag. 

After a performance that showed he was a backup in name only, the Muskegon Mona Shores junior walked out with the Division 2 Football championship. 

Rose, who was starting in place of injured all-stater Caden Broersma, accounted for 212 total yards and four touchdowns as he led the Sailors to their first Finals title with a 35-26 win over Detroit Martin Luther King.  

“He looked like an athlete,” King coach Ty Spencer said when asked if Rose looked like a backup. “He looked like a very good athlete that just helped his team win a state championship.” 

A year after coming up one win short of the program’s first title, Mona Shores (12-2) pulled off what most considered to be an upset against a King team that featured three Division I college committed recruits and several other players who hold Division I and II offers. Not only were the Sailors without Broersma, but they had to replace nine defensive starters from a year ago. 

They suffered a 53-0 loss in Week 8 to Division 3 finalist Muskegon and played two of their first three playoff games on the road. In the Semifinal victory over Walled Lake Western, Broersma injured his back on the first series, and the Sailors used a 2-point conversion in the final minute to pick up the win.

“People go back to our whoopin’ (against) Muskegon … I know it sounds crazy, but that was one of the best things that happened to us,” Mona Shores coach Matt Koziak said. “It obviously humbled us, made us dig a little deeper and understand that we might not be as good as we think we are without doing the little things. I understand that we were picked to lose, and we probably should have been picked to lose. But I told them after last game, I would never bet against them in anything – in life. They just find a way.” 

There was no comeback needed Friday, as the Sailors not only never trailed, but were never tied after taking a 7-0 lead on their first drive. But they were certainly pushed, and responded with an 8-minute, 40-second drive in the fourth quarter that put the game away. 

After King’s Peny Boone scored on a 66-yard run with 10:45 remaining, the Crusaders unsuccessfully went for two to try to tie the game at 28. 

Mona Shores responded with a 14-play, 72-yard drive that was capped off by a two-yard touchdown run by Rose, his third of the game. The Sailors converted two third downs and a crucial 4th-and-1 at the King 12 to keep the drive alive and essentially put the game away. 

“That last drive was 8:40, almost a 9-minute drive, when things weren’t going our way,” Koziak said. “King just kind of came out and was kind of like, ‘Bam. Bam.’ Kind of punched us in the mouth. (Rose) just didn’t get rattled by it. It’s almost like he’s playing on a middle school field; he doesn’t get caught up in the moment.” 

Rose was 8-of-11 passing for 122 yards and a touchdown and added 90 yards on 21 rushes.  

“Coach has confidence in me being the backup quarterback, so he just did the same thing as we would be doing if Caden was quarterback,” Rose said. “We just chipped away – 3rd-and-1, first down. 3rd-and-1, first down. We just chipped the clock away.” 

Broersma also had confidence that his teammate could get the job done. 

“I’ve said before that Brady Rose is just a gamer,” Broersma said. “You can put him in any situation and he’ll handle it better than probably 90 percent of this Earth. There’s really no question having him play quarterback. There’s total belief in him, there’s total belief in every play call and the coaching he gets. I’m super happy to see him succeed.” 

Broersma’s No. 4 did make its way onto the field, and made quite an impact, as teammate Kolbe Trovinger wore it and finished with seven tackles and the game-sealing interception with 36 seconds play. 

The two interceptions and a fourth-down stop ultimately made the difference, as they were the stops the Crusaders were unable to get on the other side of the ball. 

Also, it was the first time since 1993 and second time in Finals history that neither team punted.

“Really it just came down to getting the big stop,” Spencer said. “We had one of them, but then we turned the ball over on that drive. We had to get that big stop and make a play and I think it would have turned our way, but we didn’t.” 

The Mona Shores offense was nearly unstoppable in the first half, scoring on all three of its drives. Rose had a pair of one-yard scores, while Tre’Shawn Hatcher – who rushed for 95 yards on the day – added an 18-yard touchdown. The Sailors rushed for 130 yards on 23 carries in the half and added just enough passing – Rose was 5-of-7 for 64 yards during the first two quarters – to keep King honest.  

King’s balanced offensive attack kept it in the game. Justin Whyte scored on a 42-yard screen pass from Dante Moore on the Crusaders’ second drive, and Boone added a one-yard touchdown run in the final seconds of the first half. A missed extra point and failed 2-point conversion kept King two scores back at halftime, but the offense did manage 200 total yards – 81 on the ground and 119 from Moore’s arm – during the opening 24 minutes.  

Even on its first possession King managed to get to the Mona Shores 24-yard line, but a Cam Sobich sack on fourth down ended the threat. 

The King offense stayed hot to open the third quarter, marching 73 yards in five plays, and pulling within one of the Sailors following a nine-yard Boone touchdown run and 2-point conversion pass from Moore to Marshawn Lee. 

A big fourth-down stop at its own 14 gave King momentum and the opportunity to take the lead, but Rose stepped up near midfield, intercepting Moore. Seven plays later, Rose hit Jaylen Hopson for a 17-yard touchdown on fourth down. The point after put the Sailors back up eight at 28-20 with 16 seconds remaining in the third quarter. Hopson finished with five catches for 103 yards. 

Boone, who has committed to Maryland, finished with 198 yards rushing, while Moore was 15-of-29 for 209 yards. Joe Frazier and Jaylen Reed each had 11 tackles for King (11-3), while Rishad Hence had eight tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss and one forced fumble. 

“I thought the team’s character was outstanding to go from 0-2 to battle back and play in the state championship game and put yourself in a position to win it,” Spencer said. “We came up short, but I’m proud of these guys, proud of the seniors, proud of the way (Moore) has played all year long.”

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) Mona Shores’ Brady Rose follows a block by Tre’Shawn Hatcher into the end zone Saturday. (Middle) A Mona Shores defender gets an arm around King quarterback Dante Moore.

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.)