1st & Goal: 2021 Week 2 Preview

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

September 1, 2021

Last week's return to "normal" football was as good as anticipated, if not better. And the good news is we're just getting started. 

As we cruise into Labor Day weekend, the great majority of Week 2 games will again be played Thursday. Additionally, more than 150 games will be viewable live on MHSAA.tv, with Bally Sports Detroit broadcasting Friday's Detroit Cass Tech at Muskegon game on its PLUS cable channel and State Champs! Sports Network streaming live Saturday's Grand Rapids Catholic Central game against Merrillville (Ind.) Andrean. See the full schedule from the MHSAA Score Center.

In addition to our weekly glance at some of the games to watch in every corner of our state, we're also introducing a new feature for this season -- an "Unforgettable 5ive" of highlights from MHSAA.tv and media partner broadcasts. See below for our Week 1 5ive, which includes the following: 

► Marquette's Jordan Demay with the Pick 6 in Marquette's 49-14 win over Alpena.
► Clinton Township Chippewa Valley's Cephus Harris with the 60-yard TD run in a 45-20 win over Detroit Catholic Central.
► Dearborn Fordson's Alex Osman connecting with Antonio Gates Jr. for a 37-yard TD in Fordson's 38-23 win over Canton.
► DeWitt's Tyler Holtz throwing a 30-yard touchdown pass to Bryce Kurncz in DeWitt's 47-27 win over Traverse City Central.
► Grand Blanc's Elijah Jackson-Anderson sealing a 40-34 win over East Lansing with a 40-yard TD run.

Bay & Thumb

Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port Laker (1-0) at Ubly (1-0), Thursday

Both got off to solid starts last week, Laker downing Flint Beecher and Ubly upending Unionville-Sebewaing. By October, both could be contending for league championships as well. Ubly was third in the Greater Thumb Conference East last season, while Laker came in third in the GTC West.

Keep an eye on these: THURSDAY Saginaw Swan Valley (0-1) at Frankenmuth (1-0), Saginaw Nouvel (1-0) at Millington (1-0). FRIDAY North Branch (1-0) at Croswell-Lexington (0-1), Lapeer (0-1) at Midland (0-1).

Greater Detroit 

Muskegon Mona Shores (1-0) at Detroit Martin Luther King (0-1), Friday

Mona Shores began its drive last week for a third-straight Division 2 championship with a 42-point win over Lowell, and they’ve lined up 2019 Finals foe King for a second-straight regular-season meeting. The Sailors have won both of those last two matchups, and the Crusaders also have plenty driving them from last week’s 42-40 loss to Indiana power Carmel – decided on a 35-yard touchdown catch on the game’s final play.

Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Davison (0-1) at Detroit Catholic Central (0-1), West Bloomfield (0-1) at Oak Park (0-1), River Rouge (1-0) at Warren De La Salle Collegiate (1-0), Dearborn (1-0) at Belleville (1-0).


Lansing Catholic (1-0) at Williamston (1-0), Thursday

Formerly league rivals until 2018, both again have league title aspirations after the Capital Area Activities Conference didn’t award championships last season due to the shortened schedule. Williamston, from the CAAC Red, set the tone coming off last year’s Division 4 Semifinal trip by doubling up Croswell-Lexington on the road last week. Lansing Catholic, in the CAAC White, made the Division 5 Semifinals last season and doubled up Lansing Waverly in its opener.

Keep an eye on these: THURSDAY Lansing Everett (1-0) at Lansing Eastern (1-0), DeWitt (1-0) at Portland (1-0), Pewamo-Westphalia (1-0) at Laingsburg (1-0), Jackson (1-0) at Grand Ledge (1-0).

Northern Lower Peninsula

Maple City Glen Lake (1-0) at Kingsley (1-0), Thursday

These are two more who could emerge as league champions over the next eight weeks. Kingsley – from the Northern Michigan Football Conference Legends division – has made the best of last year’s unfortunate circumstance, when the undefeated Stags were unable to take the field for their District Final. Kingsley opened with a 54-8 win over McBain, last season’s Highland Conference champion. Glen Lake was second in the NMFC Leaders last fall, ending a four-year league title streak, but opened last week with a 35-6 win over 2020 Highland co-runner-up Houghton Lake.

Keep an eye on these: THURSDAY Marquette (1-0) at Traverse City Central (0-1). FRIDAY Grand Haven (1-0) at Traverse City West (1-0), Escanaba (1-0) at Petoskey (1-0), Grayling (1-0) at Traverse City St. Francis (1-0).

Southeast & Border

Erie Mason (1-0) at Hudson (1-0), Thursday

The Eagles were one of the best stories of the 2020 season, breaking a string of 15 straight sub-.500 finishes to win the Tri-County Conference in their first season in the league. If this fall’s Week 1 is an indication, former Lenawee County Athletic Association foe Hudson could be a candidate for a similar 2021. The Tigers earned some statewide attention with a 59-14 opening win over annual power Ithaca.

Keep an eye on these: THURSDAY Jonesville (1-0) at Homer (0-1), Ida (1-0) at Ottawa Lake Whiteford (1-0), Michigan Center (1-0) at Hanover-Horton (1-0), Harper Woods (1-0) at Pinckney (1-0).

Southwest Corridor

Three Rivers (1-0) at Edwardsburg (1-0), Thursday

Even with reigning Division 6 champion Montague undergoing a bit of a fresh start, few results jumped off the page more last week than the Eddies’ 38-0 win in their opening matchup. A little more undercover but intriguing also was Three Rivers’ 36-34 overtime win over Paw Paw, the most frequent runner-up of late to Edwardsburg’s Wolverine Conference dominance. Three Rivers’ victory also gave it as many wins as it totaled all last season, and this week will be another opportunity to show what’s possible.

Keep an eye on these: THURSDAY Niles Brandywine (1-0) at Cassopolis (1-0), Schoolcraft (0-1) at Centreville (0-1), Battle Creek Pennfield (1-0) at Marshall (1-0), Kalamazoo Hackett Prep (0-1) at Stevensville Lakeshore (1-0).

Upper Peninsula

Ishpeming Westwood (1-0) at Iron Mountain (1-0), Thursday

The Mountaineers have a chance to stake a pretty serious claim as Western Peninsula Athletic Conference Copper favorites if they can add a win over Westwood to last week’s two-pointer over Negaunee. The Patriots similarly would enjoy a major boost with another Copper contender, Calumet, up next. Iron Mountain and Westwood have split their last four meetings on the field.  

Keep an eye on these: THURSDAY Calumet (0-1) at Negaunee (1-0), Bark River-Harris (1-0) at West Iron County (0-0). FRIDAY Gladstone (1-0) at Kingsford (1-0), Marinette, Wis. (0-2) at Menominee (1-0).

West Michigan

Detroit Cass Tech at Muskegon, Friday 

This was another anticipated matchup that couldn’t be played last fall because of the late start, but this would be a massive draw any season. Both are coming off big wins, and as in years past both feature plenty of future college players. The Technicians are riding a 10-game regular-season winning streak – but Muskegon has lost only twice at home over the last six seasons.

Keep an eye on these: THURSDAY Cedar Springs (1-0) at Rockford (1-0), Muskegon Oakridge (1-0) at Whitehall (1-0). FRIDAY Grand Blanc (1-0) at Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central (1-0), East Grand Rapids (0-1) at Grand Rapids South Christian (1-0). 


Hale (1-0) at Pellston (1-0), Friday

Pellston is a combined 15-3 over the last two seasons, and Hale is 12-6 over the same span of time – and Pellston won their league matchups in 2018 and 2019 before both moved into different conferences and didn’t play each other last season. This return of the series could feature strength on strength. Hale hasn’t given up more than 20 points in a game since last season’s opener, while Pellston’s 64 points last week followed the 45+ they scored six times a year ago.

Keep an eye on these: THURSDAY Marion (1-0) at Brethren (0-1), Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart (1-0) at Deckerville (0-0). FRIDAY Rapid River (0-1) at Lake Linden-Hubbell (1-0), Ironwood (1-0) at Ontonagon (1-0).

PHOTO: Capac and New Haven kicked off their season last week. Capac, returning after playing only one game a year ago, won 22-0. (Photo by Robert Batzloff.)

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.)