1st & Goal: 2021 Week 9 in Review

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

October 25, 2021

For a lot of reasons – two big ones in particular – this football regular season had a different feel to it.

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And one of those was magnified significantly during Week 9.

Of course, we’ve rolled through the fall almost “normally” after the 2020 season had to hurdle various COVID-related adjustments.

But the biggest football-related change this fall dealt with the first year of playoff qualification using the enhanced strength-of-schedule formula instead of automatic qualification by win total.  And with that switch, eyes were glued to the MHSAA playoff-point webpage from Thursday night through about 11 p.m. Saturday, watching every adjustment as we arrived with our 288-team field.

A lot of moving parts went into those final calculations, and the results below had leading roles.

Bay & Thumb

HEADLINER Ubly 25, Bad Axe 13 The Bearcats (9-0) won a matchup of Greater Thumb Conference champions, representing the East in victory over one of the three co-champs from the West in the Hatchets (7-2). Ubly also locked up one of two perfect regular seasons in Division 8 – its first undefeated regular season since 2016 – to add to a run that has seen the program go 62-16 over the last seven years. Click for more from the Huron Daily Tribune.

Watch list Marine City 21, Pontiac Notre Dame Prep 10 The Mariners (9-0) moved up to No. 2 in Division 5 playoff points, finishing with one of six perfect regular-season records in that bracket. Four wins came against teams in Division 3 and 4, including Notre Dame Prep (7-2).

Remember this one Lapeer 38, Davison 35 While the Lightning (7-2) locked up a Division 1 playoff spot, Davison (5-4) just missed the postseason for the first time since 2014, adding another layer to an always highly-anticipated rivalry game.

More shoutouts Flint Kearsley 35, Armada 27 The Hornets started 2-3 but won four straight to return to the Division 3 playoffs, over an Armada team that at 6-3 is back in the playoffs for the first time (not counting the all-in 2020) since 2004. Frankenmuth 28, New Lothrop 14 Both are hoping to return to Ford Field, New Lothrop (6-3) the reigning Division 7 champion and Frankenmuth (9-0) the returning Division 5 runner-up and coming off a second-straight perfect regular season.

Frankenmuth/New Lothrop football

Greater Detroit

HEADLINER Gibraltar Carlson 28, Brownstown Woodhaven 14 Carlson’s first win over Woodhaven (8-1) since 2017 netted the Marauders a share of the Downriver League championship, their first since sharing with Woodhaven in 2018, and also pushed Carlson (8-1) up to No. 3 in the final Division 3 ranking. Three Cody Britt rushing touchdowns were among the difference-makers. Click for more from the Southgate News-Herald.

Watch list Detroit Cass Tech 40, Orchard Lake St. Mary's 7 Eyes across the state were watching the Division 1 playoff list as scores came in Friday night, knowing the Technicians (6-3) had won big Thursday but still were on the edge of qualifying. Downing the Division 3-qualifying Eaglets (5-4) provided the necessary bump for Cass Tech to lock up a postseason spot.

Remember this one Belleville 46, Hartland 9 Since falling to Livonia Churchill in Week 3, Belleville (8-1) has won six straight including to clinch the Kensington Lakes Activities Association East and now overall titles. This win over the Eagles (7-2) tied for its biggest playoff points bump of the season.  

More shoutouts Oxford 29, Clinton Township Chippewa Valley 28 The Wildcats (5-4) ran their winning streak to four with three of those wins by one score and two by one point, this time against a Chippewa Valley team (6-3) with three losses by a combined nine points. Madison Heights Bishop Foley 43, Clarkston Everest Collegiate 37 Jackson Zeiter caught two touchdown passes, ran for a third score and returned a kickoff for another in the Detroit Catholic League Cardinal championship game.


HEADLINER Pewamo-Westphalia 12, Lansing Catholic 7 The Pirates pushed the go-ahead score across midway through the fourth quarter to add one of their most impressive wins to a run of 60 regular-season victories over their last 62 games going back to 2015. P-W not only handed Division 6 top-ranked Lansing Catholic (8-1) its lone loss, but the Division 7 No. 5 Pirates (9-0) avenged last season’s 28-13 defeat against the Cougars. Click for more from the Lansing State Journal.

Watch list Portland 31, Montague 7 The Raiders (7-2) earned their second win this season over a reigning Finals champion, adding this victory over Division 6 Montague (6-3) to the Week 2 edging of Division 3 DeWitt.

Remember this one Ionia 35, Lake Odessa Lakewood 14 The Bulldogs’ third-straight win in this annual Week 9 rivalry game meant more this season as it sent Ionia (5-4) into the Division 3 playoffs with their first (not counting 2020) berth since 2013.

More shoutouts Holt 34, Grand Ledge 6 The Rams (7-2) made it three wins in their last four games against the rival Comets (6-3), this one helping Holt finish second in the final Capital Area Activities Conference Blue standings. DeWitt 50, Stevensville Lakeshore 14 The CAAC Blue champ Panthers (8-1) added another impressive nonconference win against a Lakeshore team (6-3) they could see again in a Division 3 Regional Final.

Perry/Bath football

Northern Lower Peninsula

HEADLINER Traverse City St. Francis 38, Kingsley 30 The winner-takes-all matchup for the Northern Michigan Football Conference Legends championship was everything it was billed, with St. Francis (9-0) regaining the title after Kingsley (8-1) had won the last two. The Gladiators were behind 16-0 early, then up 16 into the fourth quarter before holding off a late rally to finish their first undefeated regular season since 2018. Click for more from the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

Watch list East Jordan 22, Frankfort 18 This one easily could’ve been considered the region’s “headliner” as well as East Jordan also won a winner-take-all NMFC matchup, to claim the Legacy title, and in doing so also clinched the final playoff spot in Division 7.

Remember this one Maple City Glen Lake 20, Mancelona 6 The Lakers (4-5) appeared all but done after a 1-5 start. But those defeats came against an eventually undefeated team, three with still one loss and another now at 6-3 – and defeating Mancelona (5-3) earned Glen Lake the second-to-last playoff spot in Division 6.

More shoutouts McBain 32, Muskegon Heights Academy 28 The Ramblers (6-3) were able to lock up a Division 7 playoff spot against a Muskegon Heights Academy team (5-4) that also reached the postseason, in Division 8. Grayling 32, Benzie Central 26 The third-place team in the Legends, Grayling (7-2) closed on a four-game winning streak.

Southeast & Border

HEADLINER Jonesville 20, Addison 14 The Comets completed their first perfect regular season since 1988 (according to Michigan-football.com) in this Big 8/Cascades champions crossover, in doing so handing Addison (8-1) its lone loss. Defense reigned as both teams were held to season-low scoring totals. The win helped Jonesville (9-0) improve four spots to No. 11 in Division 6, but didn’t move Addison from No. 3 in Division 8. Click for more from the Jackson Citizen Patriot.

Watch list Ottawa Lake Whiteford 62, Erie Mason 22 The Bobcats (8-1) eliminated the possibility of a shared Tri-County Conference championship, instead earning the title outright and finishing an in-state run of eight wins by at least 20 points. Their only loss this season was to Edon, Ohio.

Remember this one Ann Arbor Huron 31, Rochester 14 This season has been memorable and then some for the River Rats. Huron (8-1) moved up five spots to No. 10 in Division 1, and its eight wins tied as many as the program won from 2011-20 – and are the most in one season since 2001.  

More shoutouts Parma Western 35, Richmond 17 The Panthers (6-3) held onto the No. 27 spot in Division 3, and Richmond (4-5) also kept its grip on a playoff spot in Division 5. Michigan Center 28, Reading 20 This Big 8/Cascades runner-up crossover capped another solid regular season for the Cardinals, whose only loss was by a point Week 4 to Addison.

Southwest Corridor

HEADLINER Portage Central 26, Battle Creek Harper Creek 7 The Mustangs (7-2) won this matchup of league champions with one of their strongest defensive performances, holding Harper Creek scoreless until midway through the fourth quarter. Portage Central moved up five spots to No. 11 in Division 2, while Harper Creek (6-3) moved down five to a still-comfortable No. 21 in Division 3. Click for more from the Battle Creek Enquirer.

Watch list Lawton 42, Saugatuck 21 This combined with Delton Kellogg’s loss to Schoolcraft gave Lawton (9-0) the outright Southwestern Athletic Conference Valley championship and its second perfect regular season in three years.

Remember this one Mattawan 26, Battle Creek Central 6 After losing nine straight on the field between the end of last season and start of this one, the Wildcats (4-5) finished on a three-game winning streak (to go with a Week 4 forfeit victory) to gain the No. 29 spot in Division 3.

More shoutouts Niles Brandywine 44, Benton Harbor 32 After opening with a pair of solid wins including against reigning Division 8 champion Centreville, Brandywine (4-5) found itself outside the Division 7 playoff field before jumping up five spots to No. 28 with this victory. Parchment 38, Watervliet 27 The Panthers (6-3) have occupied the No. 32 spot in Division 5 four of the last seven weeks – and with this win, held onto it when it counted most. Watervliet (5-4) still tied for No. 29 in Division 6.

Bark River-Harris/Ishpeming football

Upper Peninsula

HEADLINER Ishpeming Westwood 32, Negaunee 14 The Patriots (8-1) locked up a shared Western Peninsula Athletic Conference Copper championship with Calumet, putting up the most points Negaunee has given up in a game this season while holding the Miners (7-2) to their fewest since Week 1. The championship was Westwood’s first since 1992 in the Mid-Peninsula Conference. Click for more from Upper Michigan Source.

Watch list Kingsford 34, Menominee 27 The Flivvers (6-3) hadn’t played a Great Northern Conference game since Week 5, but came back to finish off the regular season by keeping Menominee (5-4) from an outright league title and turning the championship into a three-team share with these two and Marquette.

Remember this one Bark River-Harris 26, Ishpeming 0 The Broncos (6-3) finished a perfect run through the West-PAC Iron with this winner-take-all championship game victory.

More shoutouts Calumet 53, L'Anse 32 As noted above, this gave the Copper Kings (7-2) a share of the Copper championship, their first since 2018. Marquette 17, Petoskey 14 Not only did it get to celebrate a league championship, but Marquette moved to 7-2 for the second-straight season to again tie its winningest going back to 2010.

West Michigan

HEADLINER Muskegon Catholic Central 30, Muskegon Oakridge 28 They aren’t quite neighbors, but made the 10-mile drive again for the first time since back-to-back games in 2015 and 2016 in another matchup of league champions. MCC (8-1) made the return trip home having represented the Lakes 8 Activities Conference well with a close victory over Oakridge (7-2), one of three co-winners of the West Michigan Conference title. Joe Waller ran for the tying touchdown and then two-point conversion winner with nine seconds to play. Click for more from the Muskegon Chronicle.

Watch list Reed City 38, Whitehall 28 This league champion clash saw the winner of the Central State Activities Association Gold, Reed City (8-1), edge another of the three West Michigan Conference co-champs in Whitehall (7-2).

Remember this one Hopkins 38, Belding 22 Both are in Division 5, and Hopkins (5-4) made a big jump to No. 17 past Belding (5-4), which sits No. 19 as both secured spots in the field.

More shoutouts Cedar Springs 38, Grand Rapids South Christian 32 The Red Hawks (7-2) bounced back from a one-point Week 8 loss to Grand Rapids Catholic Central to win another close one, over the Sailors (6-3). Grand Rapids Christian 48, Grand Rapids Northview 17 The Eagles (6-3) moved up for the third-straight week with this win, to No. 7 in Division 4, while making Northview (4-5) the last team eliminated from joining the Division 3 field.


HEADLINER Morrice 60, Deckerville 18 The Orioles (9-0) secured their fifth North Central Thumb League title in five seasons and second-straight in the Stars division while also handing Deckerville (7-1) its lone loss of the fall. Morrice shut down an Eagles offense that entered averaging 56 points per game, and with the win jumped five spots to No. 1 in Division 2. Click for more from WILX.

Watch list Adrian Lenawee Christian 41, Britton Deerfield 20 The Cougars (9-0) won this matchup of undefeated teams, but it could’ve been only chapter one – they may face again in a Division 1 Regional Final, although Britton Deerfield (8-1) opens this week on the road at Deckerville.  

Remember this one Powers North Central 42, Crystal Falls Forest Park 0 These two have build quite a rivalry over the last decade, and this meeting gave the Jets the outright Great Lakes Eight Conference West championship and their sixth shutout on the field this fall. North Central has given up 13 points total over eight games.

More shoutouts Indian River Inland Lakes 44, Gaylord St. Mary 30 The Bulldogs (9-0) finished a perfect regular season with the Ski Valley Conference championship, when a win by the Snowbirds (5-4) would’ve created a three-way shared title. Newberry 44, Rogers City 36 The GLEC East co-runners-up handed Rogers City (8-1) its lone loss while improving to 7-2.

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PHOTOS (Top) A Pewamo-Westphalia defender wraps up a Lansing Catholic ball carrier as the ball pops loose Friday. (2) A Frankenmuth ball carrier makes a move toward the sideline against New Lothrop. (3) Novi, left, and Livonia Churchill lock up during a Friday night crossover. (4) A Perry ball carrier pulls away from a Bath defender down the sideline. (5) A Bark River-Harris ball carrier works for more yardage as Ishpeming players pursue. (Photos by High School Sports Scene (1), Terry Lyons (2), Douglas Bargerstock (3), Christine McCallister (4) and Cara Kamps (5).)

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.)