1st & Goal: 2021 Week 7 in Review

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

October 11, 2021

One result we're watching closely with the switch to a new playoff selection format for 11-player football – with no six-wins-and-in – is that every game feels like it matters more.

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It could be a lot, or just a little as teams must push all the way through Week 9 to solidify their spots in the playoff field.

We’ll start understanding that much more over these final few weeks as teams hope their strength of schedule helps boost their playoff hopes. And there were plenty of results from Week 7 that likely will impact how 256 11-player and 32 8-player teams reach the playoffs Oct. 24.

Bay & Thumb

HEADLINER Port Huron 14, Port Huron Northern 7 The Big Reds (6-1) finished a repeat run in the Macomb Area Conference Blue with this winner-take-all victory over the rival Huskies (6-1), extending their streak against Northern to three straight victories. Port Huron took a 14-0 lead into the break and finished with its fewest points given up in a game this season. Click for more from the Port Huron Times-Herald.

Watch list Lake Fenton 14, Goodrich 12 The Blue Devils (6-1) ended a three-game losing streak to the Martians (5-2) to create a shared Flint Metro League Stars championship between the two. Goodrich scored late, but Lake Fenton stopped the two-point conversion try to hold onto the lead.

Remember this one Gladwin 48, Clare 42 The Flying G’s (7-0) have earned a share of their first Jack Pine Conference championship since 2002, sending Clare (4-3) into second place, and can clinch their first outright JPC title this week against Beaverton.

More shoutouts Reese 27, Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port Laker 18 By way of this win, Bad Axe earned a share of the Greater Thumb Conference West title. Laker (5-2) still can make the league end with a three-way championship, adding Reese (6-1) back into the mix, if it defeats the Hatchets this week. Swartz Creek 35, Flushing 28 This combined with Fenton’s 36-34 win over Linden created a shared Metro League Stripes championship between the Dragons and Tigers, both 4-3 overall.

Greater Detroit

HEADLINER Romeo 7, Sterling Heights Stevenson 0 A stingy Romeo defense put together its best performance of the season when it counted most, earning its second shutout of the fall to create a shared MAC Red championship with the Titans (5-2). Joey Kostrubiec’s fourth-quarter scoring run provided the Bulldogs (6-1) with their winning margin. Click for more from the Detroit Free Press.

Watch list Dearborn Fordson 38, Livonia Churchill 33 Alex Osman’s five first-half touchdown passes helped Fordson reset the Kensington Lakes Activities Association East title race. Fordson, Churchill and Belleville all are 5-1 in league play and 6-1 overall heading into this week’s division finales.

Remember this one Madison Heights Bishop Foley 51, Ann Arbor Father Gabriel Richard 20 The Ventures (6-1) scored their season high in clinching the Detroit Catholic League Intersectional #1 championship after finishing second in the league a year ago.

More shoutouts Harper Woods Chandler Park 18, Warren Michigan Collegiate 16 The Eagles (5-2) came back from a two-point halftime deficit to clinch the Charter School Conference East title against second-place Michigan Collegiate (4-3). Detroit Pershing 22, Detroit Osborn 0 The Doughboys (5-2) posted their third shutout in Detroit Public School League Division 2 play to earn a spot in this week’s Gold championship game, while sending Osborn to 4-3.


HEADLINER Breckenridge 12, Carson City-Crystal 0 The winner-take-all Mid-State Activities Conference championship matchup went to the Huskies, as they posted their second-straight shutout to lock up their sixth-straight league title. Breckenridge (5-2) is 29-0 in league play since joining the MSAC in 2016, and Carson City-Crystal (6-1) has finished league runner-up three of the last four seasons. Click for more from the Mount Pleasant Morning Sun.

Watch list New Lothrop 33, Durand 20 The Mid-Michigan Activities Conference title race has worked itself down to three teams as the Hornets handed Durand (5-2) its second league loss. The Hornets (5-2) and Ovid-Elsie are tied for first at 5-1 in league play with a game to go, and Montrose figures in too at 4-1 since one of its league games was canceled.

Remember this one Olivet 37, Lake Odessa Lakewood 0 The Eagles (5-2) ran their Great Lakes Activities Conference winning streak to 23 games and championship streak to five seasons since last losing a league game and title, to Lakewood (4-3), in 2016.

More shoutouts Holt 26, East Lansing 21 The Rams (5-2) got some serious playoff-point bounce from defeating East Lansing (4-3) as they look to stick in the Division 1 field. Mason 24, Fowlerville 6 The Bulldogs (5-2) finished with a share of a third-straight Capital Area Activities Conference Red title, with Haslett and Williamston also earning pieces of the championship with wins this weekend.

Northern Lower Peninsula

HEADLINER Boyne City 50, Mancelona 18 The Ramblers clinched a share of the Northern Michigan Football Conference Leaders championship in what was a showdown for the top spot in the league. Boyne City (6-1) can claim the title outright this week against Elk Rapids, while Mancelona (5-1) still can guarantee its winningest season since 2014 with a victory this week against Charlevoix or Week 9 against Maple City Glen Lake. Click for more from the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

Watch list Traverse City Central 56, Alpena 7 After opening this season with a loss to DeWitt at Michigan Stadium, Central (6-1) has won all of its games by at least 24 points and finished a third-straight perfect run through the Big North Conference.

Remember this one Cadillac 35, Petoskey 0 The Vikings (5-2) are up to a comfortable 10th in Division 4, while Petoskey (3-4) is sitting just outside the Division 3 playoff field at No. 34 after this defeat.

More shoutouts Traverse City St. Francis 42, Sault Ste. Marie 28 The Gladiators (7-0) are up to No. 3 in Division 7 and remain set up for a winner-take-all NMFC Legends meeting with Kingsley in two weeks. Charlevoix 32, Kalkaska 30 The Rayders (6-1) narrowly eluded an upset, but Kalkaska (1-6) has made strides – the Blazers have faced the top three teams in the Leaders over the last three weeks and lost to two of them by only a score.

Southeast & Border

HEADLINER Saline 35, Temperance Bedford 21 The Hornets secured a share of an eighth-straight Southeastern Conference Red championship with an opportunity to finish the outright title run this week against Dexter. Saline quarterback CJ Carr was a standout with three passing touchdowns and one more rushing. Bedford (5-2) still has a strong chance to reach seven wins for the first time since 2016 with its final two opponents a combined 1-13. Click for more from the Toledo Blade.

Watch list Sand Creek 48, Erie Mason 6 The Aggies (5-2) will need some help from Mason in Week 9 to catch leader Ottawa Lake Whiteford for a share of the Tri-County Conference title, but Sand Creek moved into a tie for second place by avenging last season’s 56-38 loss to the Eagles (4-3).

Remember this one Michigan Center 12, Napoleon 7 The Cardinals (6-1) turned this week’s Napoleon/Addison game from a winner-take-all in the Cascades Conference title race to an opportunity to share the championship three ways if the Pirates can rebound with a win.

More shoutouts Addison 59, Grass Lake 0 Addison (7-0) sealed a share of the Cascades title, its third straight. Dexter 56, Monroe 27 This was an important win for Dexter (5-2), which sits No. 16 in Division 2 with two losses by a combined eight points and two undefeated opponents finishing off the regular-season schedule.

Southwest Corridor

HEADLINER Stevensville Lakeshore 35, St. Joseph 28 The Lancers (6-1) scored 21 fourth-quarter points and the game winners during the final minute to hold on to a share of first place in the Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference and send St. Joseph (5-2) into third with its second straight one-score defeat. The fourth quarter also featured back-to-back kickoff return touchdowns that made the score 28-28 before Ryan Korfmacher found Trevor Griffiths on a scoring pass as the final 30 seconds ticked off the clock. Click for more from the St. Joseph Herald-Palladium.

Watch list White Pigeon 32, Cassopolis 8 While this game was only for second place in the Southwest 10 Conference, White Pigeon (6-1) held on to a top-10 spot in Division 8.

Remember this one Mattawan 19, Battle Creek Lakeview 14 The Wildcats’ only other win this fall came by forfeit, but they have a chance to finish strong after almost taking Lakeview (4-3) completely out of the SMAC title race.

More shoutouts Kalamazoo United 37, Watervliet 0 United (5-2) made a move into the top half of the Division 5 playoff list and remains one of two teams undefeated in Southwestern Athletic Conference Lakeshore play after shutting down a Watervliet offense that averaged 32 points per game during its 4-2 start. Vicksburg 35, Plainwell 6 The Bulldogs (6-1) moved up to No. 5 in Division 4 after winning this matchup for second place in the Wolverine Conference.

Upper Peninsula

HEADLINER Menominee 34, Marquette 13 The Maroons broke a three-game losing streak against Marquette and in doing so earned a share of the Great Northern Conference championship, their first since 2016. Menominee (5-2) went up 20-6 by halftime and locked down an offense that was averaging 44 points per game. Marquette (5-2) still will receive a share of the league title if Kingsford defeats Menominee in Week 9.

Watch list Negaunee 31, Gladstone 30 The Miners (6-1) have been on a run since losing to Iron Mountain by two in the season opener, but just got past Gladstone (3-4) to keep the streak intact.

Remember this one Iron Mountain 28, Hancock 18 The Mountaineers (4-3) earned a boost up to No. 8 in Division 8 while putting Hancock (3-4) in a tough position trying to reach the Division 5 playoff field.

More shoutouts Ishpeming Westwood 38, L'Anse 6 The Patriots (6-1) secured a spot in a possible Week 9 winner-takes-at-least-a-share title game against Negaunee in the Western Peninsula Athletic Conference Copper. Calumet 31, Houghton 7 The above-mentioned Week 9 Copper game isn’t necessarily winner-take-all as Calumet (5-2) now finishes with the bottom two teams in the league and is guaranteed a share as well with wins in both.

West Michigan

HEADLINER Muskegon 49, Muskegon Mona Shores 28 The Big Reds (6-1) are back on top in this rivalry and back on top in the Ottawa-Kent Conference Green after riding a big defensive touchdown just before halftime into a dominant second half. Mona Shores (5-2) led 21-14 during the first half before the big-time Big Reds finish. Click for more from CatchMark SportsNet.

Watch list Rockford 17, Caledonia 14 The Rams (7-0) took a major step toward an O-K Red title and perfect regular season by handing Caledonia (6-1) its lone loss. Rockford finishes with opponents that are a combined 3-11.

Remember this one Hudsonville Unity Christian 40, Grand Rapids West Catholic 14 Over two weeks we’ve watched the O-K Blue sort out from four first-place teams to Unity (7-0) on top alone with two league games to play and this the Crusaders’ closest so far.

More shoutouts Grand Rapids Christian 24, Byron Center 10 The O-K White race just got reshuffled a bit with the Eagles (4-3) back in the mix and Byron Center (6-1) now taking on leader Forest Hills Central this week just to keep a shared title possible. Spring Lake 27, Coopersville 20 The Lakers (6-1) and West Catholic (6-1) will be rooting this week for Coopersville (5-2), which moves on to take on Unity this week and can turn the Blue back into a three-team league race.


HEADLINER Martin 28, Mendon 20 The Clippers (7-0) won a first-place showdown in the Southwest Michigan 8-Man Football League Tier 1 to clinch a share of the conference championship. Martin significantly slowed a Mendon offense averaging 48 points per game and can clinch the title outright next week against Marcellus, while Mendon (5-2) will face Gobles and hope for some help from the Wildcats. Click for more from the Sturgis Journal.

Watch list Indian River Inland Lakes 49, Pellston 6 The Bulldogs (7-0) still need one more win to clinch a share of the Ski Valley Conference title and still have second-place Gaylord St. Mary coming up in Week 9. But sending Pellston (6-1) also into second place in impressive fashion should turn a lot of eyes toward the No. 6 team in Division 1.

Remember this one Tekonsha 36, Waldron 14 Tekonsha (5-2) finished second in its league the last two seasons but clinched a share of the Southern Central Athletic Association B title with this win while sending Waldron (5-2) into a tie for second place.

More shoutouts Suttons Bay 45, Marion 0 By handing Marion (6-1) its lone loss and in a big way, the Norsemen (7-0) made a statement with the playoffs coming up. Pickford 34, Newberry 28 (OT) The Panthers (6-1) maintained control of their title hopes, while sending Newberry (5-2) nearly out of contention in the Great Lakes Eight Conference East.

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PHOTO Muskegon pulled away from rival Mona Shores during the second half of Friday's 49-28 win. (Photo courtesy of Local Sports Journal.)

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.)