Glen Lake Blazes Trail Back to Finals

November 23, 2016

By Dennis Chase
Special for Second Half

TRAVERSE CITY – Congratulatory messages streamed in Saturday after Maple City Glen Lake defeated Leroy Pine River 34-20 in a Division 6 football Semifinal at snow-covered Thirlby Field – a win that secured the Lakers’ first MHSAA Finals appearance in 20 years.

Head coach Jerry Angers’ phone was particularly active. Among those calling or texting: Former Traverse City West coach Matt Prisk, who Angers previously worked under as a defensive coordinator; retiring St. Ignace coach Marty Spencer, whose Saints fell to defending Division 8 champion Muskegon Catholic earlier in the day; and Eric Gordon, the former Michigan State linebacker, who played for Prisk and Angers at West.

Angers, who was still fielding calls and texts late into the night Saturday, was “touched” by the show of support for his Glen Lake program.

Most of all, he was proud of his players, who kept improving every week to make this moment possible.

“They have worked hard for this opportunity,” he said. “I told them (after Saturday’s game), ‘You’re going to Ford Field. You’re one of 16 teams still playing. A lot of people will be watching, but I want you to enjoy it.’

“It’s like the Alan Jackson song ‘Remember When.’ I said in 20 years when you come back to see me I want you to say, ‘Remember when.’”

Glen Lake, which faces Jackson Lumen Christi for the title Friday, won the Class DD championship in 1994 under coach Bill Hollenbeck. The Lakers lost in the Class DD Final in 1996. Now, 20 years later, Glen Lake’s back.

“It’s an incredible feeling,” all-state linebacker Duke Angers, the coach’s son, said a few hours after the game. “It seems surreal right now. Growing up as a kid, you dream about playing at Ford Field. Now we get that opportunity. We’ll enjoy this for 24 hours and then get to work for Jackson Lumen Christi.”

Junior quarterback Cade Peterson, who rushed for 179 yards and three touchdowns in the win over Pine River, is also a coach’s son. His father, Tim, was head coach at Lake City for 15 seasons. The family moved into the Glen Lake school system this year. Tim is the quarterbacks coach for the Lakers.

“I’ve been going down to the state finals since I was 12,” Cade said. “And I would always think, ‘I want to play in this (state finals).’ Now it’s happening. You can ask any team in the state, and their ultimate goal would be to go to Ford Field and play for a state title. Only a few teams can say they accomplished that – and we did. As soon as that moment set in (Saturday), it was ‘Hey, we achieved our goal. Now let’s go win a state championship.’”

For Tim Peterson, who led Lake City to nine playoff berths, including Regional appearances in 2012 and 2013, it was a moment to savor.

“You work your whole life as a coach to try to get to the apex – and this is it,” he said. “We’re there. I couldn’t be happier for the kids, the program and the community.”

Now the task for the 11-2 Lakers is to a win a 12th game. Glen Lake will be taking on a program steeped in tradition. This will be Lumen Christi’s eighth MHSAA Finals appearance since 2000. The Titans have won five crowns during that span under coach Herb Brogan.

“Our kids have been facing challenges all year, and people keep underestimating them,” Tim Peterson said. “They just keep doing what they do – and they do it very well.”

Glen Lake’s losses were to Traverse City St. Francis (21-13) and Frankfort (26-21), teams that finished 11-1.  The Lakers came in second to Frankfort in the Northern Michigan Football League’s Leaders division. Jerry Angers, now in his eighth season at the helm, said his team learned valuable lessons from those defeats.

“Sometimes losses are good for you,” he said. “We, as coaches and fans, never want to believe that, but in our two losses we had 15 or so penalties in one and five turnovers in the other. So you go back and you work on it. You try to reduce the penalties, reduce the turnovers. That became a great focus for our kids. I think we’ve had eight penalties in four playoff games – total. And we’ve kept our turnovers to a minimum. If you focus on the task at hand, and what’s in front of you, those things are going to be eliminated.”

Cade Peterson said the setbacks brought the team closer together, too.

“People can start pointing fingers (in defeat),” he said. “That didn’t go on here. Everybody picked each other up and kept fighting, kept going.”

The 16 seniors on the team led the way.

“They set the tone,” Tim Peterson said. “The senior leadership has been phenomenal in keeping the focus.”

Glen Lake had to go on the road at Roscommon and Calumet to win two of its four playoff games. On Saturday, the Lakers, who were averaging 160 yards passing and 215 yards rushing per contest out of their spread offense, stuck to the ground to beat Pine River in blustery conditions that forced officials to clear snow off the artificial turf before and during the game.

Glen Lake rushed for 309 yards. In addition to Peterson’s 179 yards, Duke Angers picked up 59 and Nick Apsey 54. Apsey also hauled in two catches for 34 yards. The Laker backs – running behind a line that features tackles Jake Palmer and Brandon Tremble, guards Ryan Nadlicki and Zack Gushurst and center Tommy Kendall – averaged nearly five yards a carry. Nadlicki’s uncle, Mike, was a star on Traverse City’s state championship team in 1988.

“The weather forced us to be very one-dimensional (Saturday), but we’re real pleased with our ability to run the football as well as throw it,” Tim Peterson said. “That’s a good combination to have when you go deep into the playoffs because you never know what the weather will be.”

For the season, Cade Peterson’s completed 106 of 207 passes for 1,953 yards and 20 touchdowns. Jared Jackson, last year’s starting quarterback, has caught 30 passes, Apsey 23.

The 6-foot-4, 190-pound Peterson leads the team in rushing with 843 yards. Apsey, also a junior, has added 791 yards.

Defensively, Duke Angers, a four-year starter, is averaging 10 stops a game and Tony Duperon seven. Glen Lake is surrendering less than 200 yards in offense per game. Angers was the Traverse City Record-Eagle’s Defensive Player of the Year a year ago.

“As a football coach, he’s one of the best leaders and overall players that I’ve ever been associated with,” Jerry Angers said.

Jerry Angers led Glen Lake to back-to-back 9-2 seasons in 2012-13. The Lakers reached the District Finals those years.

Glen Lake qualified for the playoffs a year ago, finishing 5-5. This season, with a number of experienced players returning, coupled with the addition of Cade and Drew Peterson, the team has flourished. Drew is a sophomore defensive end and receiver. He had an interception Saturday.

Cade Peterson was a two-year starter at Lake City, throwing for 1,753 yards and 19 touchdowns as a sophomore.

“I feel a big part of why I’ve been successful (at Glen Lake) is because of how welcoming everybody was – not only the team and coaches, but the school and community,” he said.

“When those two (Peterson) boys walked in, our kids just grabbed them and said, ‘Hey, let’s go. You’re part of us now,’” Jerry Angers added.

Tim Peterson retired as a principal in June of 2015. He coached the Trojans that fall, but after the school year the family decided to make a move. Peterson was familiar with the Glen Lake area, since he worked camps with Hollenbeck. He was also good friends with Angers.

“It was time for a change,” Peterson explained. “We came up and looked at the academic piece of it, which is most important to us, and we said this is where we want to go.

“We’ve always said, at some point, we’d like to get here. This community is so supportive of their kids and of their school and that’s what you look for as a parent.”

Now the Lakers are one win away from a second MHSAA title. Regardless of what happens, though, Duke Angers said he believes his senior class has made an impact.

“We raised the bar a little,” he said. “We wanted to leave a trail to follow – and I think we have.”

Dennis Chase worked 32 years as a sportswriter at the Traverse City Record-Eagle, including as sports editor from 2000-14. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Manistee, Wexford, Missaukee, Roscommon, Ogemaw, Iosco, Alcona, Oscoda, Crawford, Kalkaska, Grand Traverse, Benzie, Leelanau, Antrim, Otsego, Montmorency, Alpena, Presque Isle, Cheboygan, Charlevoix and Emmet counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) Maple City Glen Lake’s Nick Apsey (5) follows his blockers on the way to the end zone during Saturday’s Semifinal win over Leroy Pine River. (Middle) Wes Peplinski (68) drops the Pine River quarterback in the 34-20 victory. (Photos by Kim Jackson.) 

Constantine Football All-Stater, Wrestling Champ Aiming for Grand Finale

By Scott Hassinger
Special for

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.)