1st & Goal: 2021 Week 6 in Review

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

October 4, 2021

As we get deeper into the regular season, we expect to see league championship races draw to a close and the best of the best locally separate from the rest.

MI Student AidWeek 6 saw plenty of contenders begin pulling away and toward conference titles – but also a good share of packs grow as we head into the final three weeks before playoff selection.

We highlight many of both in this week’s review:

Bay & Thumb

HEADLINER Goodrich 48, Ortonville Brandon 21 The Martians (5-1) came way back to get past Brandon and secure a share of the Flint Metro League Stars championship. Goodrich scored 38 unanswered second-half points after Brandon (5-1) scored the first touchdown of the third quarter to take a 21-10 lead. Jace Simerson was among standouts with 187 yards and three touchdowns rushing, with two of those scores during the third quarter 28-7 blast. Click for more from WJRT.

Watch list Bad Axe 37, Reese 7 The Hatchets (6-0) won a matchup of undefeated Greater Thumb Conference West contenders to set up a potential Week 8 league title decider with Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port Laker, which also is unbeaten in league play. Laker must get by Reese (5-1) this week, however, and Bad Axe faces Vassar with an opportunity to set up a winner-take-all showdown.

Remember this one Flint Kearsley 40, Fenton 38 The Hornets (3-3) would need three results to go their way to claim a share of the Metro League Stripes title this week. But their first win over Fenton in 14 tries as members of the league together also put the Tigers (3-3) in a must-win situation if they hope to clinch a share and run their league title streak to 11.

More shoutouts Flint Hamady 52, Burton Bendle 20 Since scoring seven points total over back-to-back losses to begin the season, Hamady (4-2) has won all four of its Genesee Area Conference games to clinch a share of the league title, scoring 52 or more points in three of those victories. Bay City Western 54, Midland 8 The Warriors (5-1) have guaranteed their best overall finish since 2012 with their first win over Midland since 2008 – and this one also kept Western in the Saginaw Valley League Blue title conversation with leader Mount Pleasant coming up in two weeks.

Greater Detroit

HEADLINER West Bloomfield 34, Clarkston 27 (OT) The Lakers (5-1) emerged with a share of the Oakland Activities Association Red championship, also avenging last season’s 24-21 loss to the Wolves (5-1) that ended up deciding the 2020 league title. West Bloomfield standout Dillon Tatum made multiple plays at the end with all of that on the line, scoring in overtime and intercepting a Clarkston pass in the end zone to end the game on the ensuing possession. Click for more from the Oakland Press.

Watch list Sterling Heights Stevenson 36, Clinton Township Chippewa Valley 32 After sharing the league title last season, Stevenson (5-1) has emerged from a crowded group of state-renowned contenders again, clinching a share of the Macomb Area Conference Red title with this win over the Big Reds (4-2). Stevenson can win the league outright this week against Romeo.  

Remember this one Warren De La Salle Collegiate 17, Detroit Catholic Central 7 The Detroit Catholic League Central title belongs to the Pilots (5-0), who avenged last season’s 14-10 loss to the Shamrocks (4-2) and also earned a 5-4 advantage against DCC over the rivalry’s last nine games.

More shoutouts Riverview 42, Milan 29 The Pirates (6-0) need one more Huron League win over the next two games to repeat as champions and all but ended title aspirations for the Big Reds (4-2). Rochester Adams 28, North Farmington 21 (OT) The Highlanders (6-0) put together a string of big plays late to emerge with a share of the OAA White championship. Trailing midway through the fourth quarter, Adams forced a turnover deep in North Farmington territory, scored on the next possession to tie the game, then scored the first points of overtime and stopped the Raiders (3-3) on their possession to finish the job.


HEADLINER Lansing Catholic 31, Portland 29 The Cougars (6-0) took a two-score lead into the fourth quarter, but needed 33-yard field goal by Jonah Richards on the game’s final play to push past the Raiders (5-1) and clinch a share of the Capital Area Activities Conference White championship. Portland had won 33 straight league games dating to 2014. Click for more from the Lansing State Journal.

Watch list Williamston 21, Haslett 14 Three teams are tied atop the CAAC Red standings with a league game to play after Williamston (4-2) stopped Haslett’s attempt to clinch a share of the championship. Both the Vikings and Mason are also 4-2 overall and 3-1 in league play, and all three play opponents this week with 1-3 conference records.

Remember this one New Lothrop 66, Ovid-Elsie 24 The Mid-Michigan Activities Conference is back to a four-team league title race with these two and Durand all 4-1 and Montrose 3-1 with two MMAC games to play. New Lothrop (4-2) sees Durand this week, while Ovid-Elsie (4-2) finishes the conference slate with two opponents that are a combined 2-7 in league play.

More shoutouts Hartland 29, Howell 7 This finish along with Canton’s win over Brighton also created a three-team tie atop the Kensington Lakes Activities Association West standings between the Eagles (5-1), Highlanders (5-1) and Chiefs. Howell must still see Brighton, and Hartland takes on Canton in Week 8. Pewamo-Westphalia 26, Olivet 14 The Pirates (6-0) appear well on their way to another Central Michigan Athletic Conference championship and got their toughest test of the season from the Eagles (4-2), who will face Lakewood this week for the outright Greater Lansing Activities Conference title.

Northern Lower Peninsula

HEADLINER Traverse City Central 24, Cadillac 0 The Trojans (5-1) put together their second-straight shutout to claim a share of the Big North Conference championship, and they can finish a third-straight outright league title run this week against one-win Alpena. Cadillac (4-2) did hold Central to its season low in points, but the Trojans took a 21-0 lead into halftime in extending their BNC winning streak to 18 with that one league game left before moving into the Saginaw Valley League for football in 2022. Click for more from the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

Watch list Charlevoix 14, East Jordan 6 The Rayders (5-1) will need help to end up with a title share in the Northern Michigan Football Conference Leaders division, but handing a defeat to Legacy co-leader East Jordan (4-2) provided a nice playoff points bonus boost.  

Remember this one Traverse City West 22, Petoskey 16 As West (5-1) also prepares to leave for the SVL, Petoskey in 2015 was the only team other than Central to defeat the Titans over the last seven seasons. Three of the last six meetings since were decided by one score.

More shoutouts Grayling 36, Sault Ste. Marie 32 With Legends contenders Kingsley and Traverse City St. Francis behind them, Grayling (4-2) has an opportunity to build some serious momentum heading into a playoff appearance – and defeating Sault Ste. Marie (4-2) was a great start. Boyne City 48, Kalkaska 16 The Ramblers (5-1) face Mancelona this week with a share of the Leaders title on the line, and they enjoyed a nice bounce-back after suffering their lone loss in Week 5.  

Southeast & Border

HEADLINER Jonesville 34, Reading 8 The Comets (6-0) clinched a share of a Big 8 Conference repeat championship with another strong defensive performance, making it five games of holding opponents to eight or fewer points while lowering their average to 6.8 points allowed per game. This time they stopped a Reading offense averaging 37 points per game. The Rangers (4-2) fell into a tie for third place, and Jonesville needs to defeat winless Quincy this week to claim the league title outright. Click for more from the Jackson Citizen Patriot.

Watch list Ann Arbor Huron 28, Dexter 21 The River Rats (5-1) have guaranteed their best finish since 2009, and one more win will take that back to tying their best since 2002. Huron surely will be cheering now for Dexter (4-2), which will play Southeastern Conference Red leader Saline in Week 8 with a chance to shake up the standings.

Remember this one Chelsea 49, Ypsilanti Community 13 The Bulldogs (6-0) clinched their third-straight SEC White championship and ran their regular-season winning streak to 21.  

More shoutouts Parma Western 13, Coldwater 7 Combined with Jackson Lumen Christi’s loss this weekend (see below), the Interstate 8 Athletic Conference race has a ton of possible conclusions – and Western (4-2) could be in the mix at the end. Napoleon 15, Grass Lake 0 The Pirates (5-1) kept alive a possible winner-take-all Cascades Conference title matchup in Week 8 against Addison, although they still must get past Michigan Center this week. Regardless, this one avenged a 39-0 loss to Grass Lake from last season.

Southwest Corridor

HEADLINER Portage Central 36, St. Joseph 30 (OT) The Mustangs (4-2) also made a series of unforgettable plays late to create a three-team tie atop the Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference. Aaron Pollack’s 30-yard field goal tied the score at 30-30 with 16 seconds left in regulation, the defense stopped the Bears (5-1) to start overtime and Thomas Layne scored the winning points on the ensuing possession. Click for more from WWMT.

Watch list Battle Creek Harper Creek 33, Jackson Lumen Christi 14 This one looked a little intriguing heading into the weekend. But many more eyes will be turned toward Harper Creek (5-1) and the I8AC over the next two weeks as this turned the title race into at least a three-teamer with Hastings also tied with these two for first.

Remember this one Centreville 28, Cassopolis 0 A third shutout this season gave Centreville a share of its second-straight Southwest 10 Conference championship. The Bulldogs can clinch it outright this week against Comstock, while Cassopolis (4-2) and White Pigeon remain a game back and face each other.

More shoutouts Edwardsburg 57, Paw Paw 14 For the third-straight week Edwardsburg (6-0) defeated another top-four team in the Wolverine Conference, with only the bottom three teams in the league standings left as the Eddies play for a fourth-straight undefeated regular season. Lawton 69, Montrose 40 A late add to the schedule became one for the record books – literally – as they combined to score 109 points. Lawton (6-0) entered as No. 5 in Division 7, and Montrose (4-2) was tied for the No. 13 spot.  

Upper Peninsula

HEADLINER Marquette 40, Clare 39 The Pioneers (4-2) scored first and led until Marquette went ahead for good with 7:40 to play. Seven of nine teams on Marquette’s schedule this season are .500 or better after Week 6, and this one provided another playoff points bonus boost. Marquette returns to Great Northern Conference play this week and can clinch the league title outright against Menominee, while Clare will face Gladwin for first in the Jack Pine Conference. Click for more from the Marquette Mining Journal.

Watch list Calumet 21, Iron Mountain 6 Despite beginning the season 0-2, Calumet (4-2) has surged and sits in the middle of the title hunt in a Western Peninsula Athletic Conference Copper that still has all seven teams at .500 or better. The Copper Kings can claim a share by winning out.

Remember this one Menominee 46, Escanaba 20 The Maroons (4-2) set themselves up for that upcoming GNC clash referenced above, as they defeated Escanaba for the first time on the field since 2016.

More shoutouts Ishpeming Westwood 36, Hancock 6 The Patriots (5-1) remain in control of their West-PAC Copper destiny as a Week 9 matchup with Negaunee looks like it could decide at least one team that shares the league title. Negaunee 42, L'Anse 0 The Miners (5-1) held up their end of creating that season-finale showdown with their second-straight shutout and third this season.

West Michigan

HEADLINER Comstock Park 35, Belding 34 (OT) Comstock Park came back from a double-digit deficit and held on through overtime to hold onto a slim lead in the Ottawa-Kent Conference Silver. The Panthers (6-0) remain a game up on Hopkins and Sparta but have defeated both. Click for more from FOX 17.

Watch list Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central 35, Grand Rapids Christian 28 (OT) The Rangers (5-1) are a four-point Week 2 loss to Grand Blanc from a perfect record, and they’re setting themselves up well to face Byron Center in Week 8 to decide the O-K White title after those two shared it last season. This win sent Christian out of a first-place tie and into third.

Remember this one Muskegon Catholic Central 52, Muskegon Heights Academy 20 The Crusaders (5-1) clinched a share of the Lakes 8 Activities Conference championship, their second straight, and will attempt to finish it outright this week against Manistee.

More shoutouts Grand Rapids West Catholic 28, Coopersville 24 Week 6 promised to bring clarity to the O-K Blue race, and West Catholic (6-0) is one of two teams still tied for first after also coming back from a double-digit deficit against the Broncos (5-1). Hudsonville Unity Christian 54, Spring Lake 21 Also in the Blue, Unity Christian (6-0) held onto the other share of first place by handing Spring Lake (5-1) its first loss. Unity and West Catholic face each other this week.


HEADLINER Portland St. Patrick 21, Vestaburg 20 The Shamrocks (6-0) took a 13-0 lead into halftime but had to hold off a Vestaburg comeback on the way to earning a share of the Central Michigan 8-Man Football Conference title. Both defenses shined; St. Patrick had averaged 50 points per game entering the weekend, and the Wolverines (5-1) had averaged just more than 60. Click for more from the Greenville Daily News.

Watch list Pellston 34, Gaylord St. Mary 8 The Hornets (6-0) may have made the Ski Valley Conference race a two-team chase by handing St. Mary (4-2) its first league loss. Pellston next faces the other team without a Ski Valley defeat, Indian River Inland Lakes.

Remember this one Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart 44, Peck 36 The Irish (4-2) need help to earn a title share in the North Central Thumb League Stripes, but they gave some assistance to leader Kinde North Huron by sending Peck (5-1) out of a first-place tie.

More shoutouts Adrian Lenawee Christian 28, Climax-Scotts 12 The Cougars (6-0) navigated their closest game in two seasons of 8-player to take over first alone in the Southern Central Athletic Association A. Au Gres-Sims 58, Hale 50 The Wolverines (6-0) have scored 48 or more points every game this season, but survived a big offensive performance from Hale to remain in first alone in the North Star League.

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PHOTOS (Top) West Bloomfield’s Dillon Tatum (5) sprints past a pair of Clarkston defenders during Friday’s win. (Middle) Lansing Catholic’s Rory Durr (8) works to get upfield against Portland. (Top photo courtesy of C&G Newspapers; middle photo by High School Sports Scene.)

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.)