Guy Delivers Champion's Trophy This Time After Sparking Muskegon's Comeback Win

By Paul Costanzo
Special for

November 26, 2023

DETROIT – M’Khi Guy was going to get his hands on the championship trophy no matter what happened in Saturday night’s Division 2 Football Final.

Handing out the championship and runner-up trophies is one of the perks of being part of the MHSAA Student Advisory Council, of which the Muskegon senior is a member. As much of an honor it would have been either way, Guy wanted to do everything he could to make sure he was handing the bigger wooden mitten to his coach, Shane Fairfield.

After rushing for 215 yards, throwing for 159 and accounting for four touchdowns, Guy got to do just that, placing the Division 2 championship trophy into Fairfield’s hands following Muskegon’s 33-21 victory over Warren De La Salle Collegiate at Ford Field.

“It’s awesome,” Guy said. “Last year wasn’t too fun for me, because I had to give it to the opposing team, Detroit (Martin Luther) King. But this time, I got to give it to my coach, my guy right here, and it made me feel great.”

Muskegon prevented De La Salle from winning a third straight Division 2 title while claiming its seventh Finals championship. It was the first since winning it all in 2017, and in between then and now Muskegon had finished runner-up three times, including a year ago to King. 

The Big Reds’ Destin Piggee (5) stretches to snag the ball on his 94-yard touchdown catch. “Everyone was wanting us to give up and quit and not get here,” Fairfield said. “‘You’re going to lose when you get there.’ And, like I said before we left, people want us to fall apart, people want us to break. I said we will not be broken today. We keep telling these guys to follow us and trust us. As much as they get the naysay, for these young men to believe in this coaching staff and their school district, in each other – words do not describe it.”

Muskegon (13-2) had to muster up some extra belief at halftime as it was down 21-7, and outside of an 80-yard touchdown run by Guy had gotten next to nothing going on offense.

That changed almost immediately in the second half, as Guy ran for a 52-yard score on the first possession of the half, and Muskegon wound up out-scoring the Pilots 26-0 over the final 24 minutes.

“They made plays and we didn’t,” De La Salle coach Dan Rohn said. “We went out there on that first drive and went three and out and gave them the opportunity to have the field. Then we did pin them deep, they hit us with a 90-yard touchdown pass, which is what we want them to do is throw the ball. Then we get an opportunity to get a drive going, we drop a pass, we have a fumble – uncharacteristic of us. We didn’t make those plays in the second half; they did.”

The 94-yard touchdown pass was what tied the game up, as Guy hit Destin Piggee down the middle of the field. Piggee had broken open, and Guy lofted the ball for him to run under. Piggee accelerated toward the ball, somehow kept his feet at midfield, and ran the rest of the way for the score, turning the game on its head midway through the third quarter.

“Really, at first I thought it was overthrown, so I was thinking I was going to dive for it,” Piggee said. “But I was able to keep my ground. As I was running, I was looking up at the screen and I saw (De La Salle defensive back James Wallace) gaining ground on me, so I swerved to the left a little bit and just kept on running.”

Guy presents the championship trophy to his coach Shane Fairfield as part of his duties as a member of the MHSAA Student Advisory Council. The Big Reds didn’t take their first lead of the game until the 2:16 mark of the third quarter, when Guy hit Da’Carion Taylor for a 28-yard score, making it 27-21. 

Taylor had set the drive up with a fumble recovery in Muskegon territory and was tended to for an injury afterward. He returned, however, to make the leaping grab in the end zone.

A 12-yard TD run by Jakob Price gave the Big Reds a two-score lead at 33-21 with 10:43 remaining, but it was a later drive that didn’t provide any points that essentially put the game away.

After forcing a turnover on downs at their own 20, Muskegon drove 61 yards on 11 plays, taking 6:36 off the clock. While the score remained 33-21 when the drive ended, De La Salle was left with just 1:26 to score twice.

Even with that, though, Fairfield wasn’t satisfied until the final seconds ticked off the clock.

“When there was 11 seconds on the clock, I still wasn’t ready,” Fairfield said. “I’ve been here before. We were four seconds away from beating (Orchard Lake) St. Mary’s in (2016), and they threw a Hail Mary pass. I was re-living that again.”

Price finished with 86 yards rushing and the one touchdown for Muskegon.

De La Salle was led by Sante Gasperoni’s 249 yards passing and 41 rushing. He had two touchdowns on the ground, and one through the air to Damion King IV. King finished the game with 103 yards on five catches for the Pilots (12-3).

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS (Top) Muskegon’s M’Khi Guy (3) pulls away on one of his long runs during Saturday’s Division 2 Final at Ford Field. (Middle) The Big Reds’ Destin Piggee (5) stretches to snag the ball on his 94-yard touchdown catch. (Below) Guy presents the championship trophy to his coach Shane Fairfield as part of his duties as a member of the MHSAA Student Advisory Council. (Photos by Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)

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.)