Playmaking Sargent Powers Chargers

November 25, 2015

By Bill Khan
Special for Second Half

FLINT — Most high school football coaches aren't comfortable having their quarterbacks, no matter how athletic they are, perform double duty by playing defense.

The risk of injury or excessive fatigue is simply too great.

Flint Powers Catholic's Bob Buckel is no different than the majority of his peers.

"I'll be honest, I don't feel comfortable having him on the field all the time," Buckel said of senior quarterback Noah Sargent.

And, yet, having Sargent play defensive back when he isn't running the offense is one of the reasons why Powers (11-2) will play Zeeland West (13-0) for the MHSAA Division 4 championship at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Ford Field.

Sargent's team-high third interception of the season played a major role in Powers' 21-14 come-from-behind victory over Detroit Country Day in the Semifinals last Saturday in a snowstorm at West Bloomfield

He had already ignited a comeback from a 14-0 halftime deficit by tossing a 38-yard touchdown pass to Peyton Beauchamp. Sargent's one-handed interception later in the third quarter at the Country Day 20-yard line set up a 20-yard touchdown run by Reese Morgan.

Showing off one more aspect of his skill set, Sargent scored the winning touchdown on a 2-yard run with 26 seconds left in the game, putting Powers in the MHSAA championship game for the third time in school history. The 2005 team won the Division 4 championship, while the 2011 squad won the Division 5 title.

Putting an exclamation point on his performance, Sargent knocked down Country Day's final desperation pass as time expired.

"Noah understands we don't want him to get killed on defense," Buckel said. "We really try to put him on the best receiver and keep him out of harm's way. I heard someone earlier in the year say, 'When you get to the playoffs, you've got to save him.' I said, 'When you get to the playoffs, you have to play every play like it's your last play.' You throw him out there and hope for the best; the best happened last Saturday."

Sargent has 19 tackles, ranking ninth on the team. He is part of a defense that has allowed only 21 points in four playoff games and posted a school-record six shutouts.

"Coach really only plays me as a cover guy," Sargent said. "He doesn't like to throw me down (near the line). He uses me in coverage on third-and-long situations and passing downs."

As a quarterback, Sargent has displayed the kind of dual-threat capability that was integral to Powers' last MHSAA championship four years ago. Garrett Pougnet ran for 159 yards and two touchdowns and threw for 258 yards and four touchdowns in Powers' 56-26 rout of Lansing Catholic in the 2011 title game.

Sargent is Powers' leading rusher, in addition to its leading passer. He's run 134 times for 1,026 yards and 15 touchdowns, including an 83-yard scramble on third down for a touchdown in the playoff opener at Goodrich. He's 104 for 181 for 1,563 yards, 18 touchdowns and only four interceptions. Five of those touchdown passes came in a 41-0 victory over Goodrich, as he had a hand in all six touchdowns.

"We knew Sargent was the show," Goodrich coach Tom Alward said. "They've got good receivers, but Sargent's the one that makes them go."

Sargent is the son of Mike Sargent, an all-state linebacker at Powers in 1983 and a tight end on Michigan State's 1988 Rose Bowl championship team. Both of Sargent's parents went to Powers, and Noah attends his parents' alma mater with his sister, Nikole, who was the MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 2 shot put champion as a junior last spring. 

"He's a good leader," said senior tight end Nick Thompson, Powers' leading receiver with 27 catches for 448 yards and seven touchdowns. "He's humble. He's not selfish. He has the aspects of a good leader. You can see it on the field, obviously, and at practice. We trust him."

Sargent isn't the only Charger with a rich Powers pedigree.

Running back Reese Morgan and receiver Matt Wiskur had brothers on the 2011 championship team. Brooks Morgan was a starting receiver, while Ethan Wiskur was a starting defensive back who had an interception in the 2011 title game.

Watching in the stands as middle school students, the younger Morgan and Wiskur brothers had all the incentive they needed heading into high school.

"That's my main motivation," said Wiskur, who has 23 catches for 383 yards and five touchdowns. "They're the strongest team I've ever seen. They had great leaders. They were 5-4 going into the playoffs. They knew they were going to win states the whole time. They were confident in themselves, and they lived up to that."

A similarity between the 2011 and 2015 teams is their slow starts. Powers was on the brink of playoff elimination after six games, starting out 2-4 in Buckel's first season at the helm. This year's team lost its opener, 27-11, to a Flushing team that went 3-5 the rest of the way. The Chargers were 3-2 before winning their last eight games.

"I remember they didn't have a very good start, but they had a lot of heart and they made a big run in the playoffs and kind of shocked everyone," said Morgan, who has run 146 times for 987 yards and 10 touchdowns while catching 27 passes for 317 yards and two scores.

"The talent on that team was incredible. We have the same chance they did of winning."

When Powers steps foot onto the turf at Ford Field on Friday, the current team will play under the watchful eye of youngsters who hope to one day have the same experience.

"Any high schooler wants to leave a legacy when they leave," Sargent said. "Our whole team is trying to make a mark on Powers history."

Bill Khan served as a sportswriter at The Flint Journal from 1981-2011 and currently contributes to the State Champs! Sports Network. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Genesee, Lapeer, St. Clair, Sanilac, Huron, Tuscola, Saginaw, Bay, Arenac, Midland and Gladwin counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) Powers Catholic quarterback Noah Sargent drops back to pass against Midland Dow this season. (Middle) Sargent unloads a throw during the 35-30 loss, but has led the Chargers to an 11-2 record this fall. (Click for more from

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.)