Pirates' Football Voice Ends 30-Year Run

November 12, 2019

By Tim Robinson
Special for Second Half

PINCKNEY — Bob Reason has been the voice of Pinckney High School football and basketball for more than 30 years.

It’s his voice you heard over the public address system, good times and bad, through wins and losses.

He’s always played it down the middle, in the style of public address announcers at Michigan Stadium.

“I get excited when Pinckney scores,” he said in the Pinckney Stadium press box last week. ‘But I don’t want to take away from the athletes.”

Reason, a 1961 Pinckney graduate who moved back to the house he was born and grew up in during the mid-1980s, announced his last football game Oct. 11, Pinckney’s homecoming game.

Fittingly, it was against Dexter, where Reason lived for more than a decade and, with former Dreadnaughts athletic director Al Ritt, helped pass a bond issue in the 1970s that built a stadium now named for Ritt.

At 76, Reason decided it was time to retire.

“I just enjoyed doing it, but at 76, I feel it’s time,” he said.

He’ll still do Pinckney basketball for at least two more seasons. His son, Tom, is the boys coach and grandson Dylan is a junior.

“I’m going to try to sucker him into announcing for the girls program when my daughter is old enough to play,” Tom said, chuckling. “But he wants to sit in the stands, and sometimes it’s nice to sit there and be a grandpa.”

It will be a well-earned retirement for Reason, whose athletic career at Pinckney ended when he tore a knee ligament on the first play of his senior football season.

He became the Pirates public-address announcer after moving back to Pinckney from the Toledo area.

“One of his first games was announcing my brother’s games,” Tom Reason said. “I remember being a rug rat running around the stands. I thought it was pretty neat. When you’re a young one, you think your dad is the coolest dad in the world because his voice is coming out of the press box.

“To this day, my daughters love it. They always go up and visit him and he gives them candy. It’s a neat thing. I’ve been around Pinckney athletics for a long time, and it’s neat to hear his voice.”

Bob Reason has been active in the community too over the last 30-plus years. He’s served on the Pinckney athletic boosters board and spent a quarter-century running Saturday morning basketball programs at Pinckney, including enlisting varsity players as referees.

And it’s the athletes that kept bringing Bob Reason back to the microphone.

Well, that, and a slight bit of chicanery the last couple of years.

“He tried to retire, but I wouldn’t let him,” former Pinckney athletic director Tedd Bradley said.

“I was going to retire five years ago,” Reason said. “(Bradley) said, ‘OK, but we’ll have to find someone, so you have to do it this year. And then the next year, they didn’t find anyone.”

Current AD Brian Wardlow finally bent to Reason’s wishes this year, hiring Pat Allen, who worked the Pirates’ final home game against Jackson this season.

“There were a lot of people there (at homecoming), and people who had been around for decades got to hear one last game,” Wardlow said. “When I was in Pinckney, Bob was our football announcer, too, so he’s the only voice I’ve ever known in football and basketball.”

And, through his years working for Pinckney athletic programs, generations of Pinckney athletes know him and say hello.

“We went to Disney World as a family a few years ago, and three people came up to us. At Disney World,” Tom Reason said. “They come up and say, ‘Hey, Mr. Reason!’ We can’t go anywhere without someone knowing him.”

Bob Reason said part of the impetus toward retirement was his eyesight, which had been slowly failing due to cataracts the last couple of years. He credits his longtime spotter in the press box, Linda Lambert, with helping him credit the right athletes at the right time.

“Some of the teams that have played have white jerseys with white numbers outlined in black, and it’s hard to see the numbers,” he said. “I could not have done the games the last two years without her.”

The man in the PA booth, so calm with his delivery, is a Pinckney Pirate through and through.

Take the 1989 season, for example.

The Pirates had made the playoffs with an 8-1 record and had drawn a home game with East Grand Rapids in the first round. Below the “Welcome to Pinckney” sign outside of town, he and some co-conspirators hung a sign that said, “Welcome, East Grand Rapids. We’ve been waiting for you.”

East Grand Rapids won the game, 37-30 on a touchdown in the final minutes, and Reason went to Flint to see the Pioneers play Oxford in the next round.

“I had a Pinckney hat on,” Reason said, “and a guy from East Grand Rapids saw my hat and talked to me about the sign.”

The gentleman, as it turned out, was more than a little chapped about the sign.

“I said, ‘We just wanted to welcome you,’” Reason said, laughing at the memory.

After all these years, he said, the games and players all roll together in memory, but the lure of high school sports remains.

“I still think high school athletes give all they’ve got,” Reason said, “every game they play, regardless of position. Athletics is not just about winning. It’s about learning to play with your teammates, developing your skills, trying to be the best you can be and learning life lessons. I think one of the most important things high school athletics gives all of our kids is never to give up. Regardless of what happens in your life, there’s tomorrow, and never give up. Keep trying and keep working, and I think that carries forward into life itself.”

“He’s always super-complimentary about every kid who’s out there trying,” said Wardlow, who grew up in Pinckney and has been employed by the school district since 2002. “It’s important in a community like Pinckney to have that guy you can always count on, and the community knows what it’s going to get.”

Reason said he’s not going anywhere.

“I don’t have any interest in moving,” he said. “I talked about moving to Florida once. I said to my kids, ‘Do any of you want to buy the house? I’ll sell it for $500,000.’ I was joking, of course, and they said, ‘No, Dad. It’s too much. We’ll give you a dollar.’”

So Bob and his wife, Dorothy, are staying in Pinckney.

“The football team gave me a cushioned seat for the stands,” he said. ‘I’ll go to the home games. I love it. I like to watch the band play at halftime.”

Bradley, who retired in 2015, looks forward to attending games with his friend next fall.

“I will enjoy standing next to him at those games,” he said. “Bob is a tremendous gentlemen. He and his family are special people.”

PHOTO: Longtime Pinckney announcer Bob Reason takes his familiar seat in the stadium’s press box. (Photo by Tim Robinson.)

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.)