1st & Goal: 2022 Playoff Week 2 Review

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

November 7, 2022

Only 72 teams remain in this season’s MHSAA Football Playoffs. And several of them this weekend took advantage of opportunities to avenge past losses with District and Regional titles on the line.

MI Student AidMost were seeing rivals for the second time this season. Others were running into opponents they’ve faced in playoffs past – and a number of teams are moving on that were stopped the last time around.

Below is a glance at a number of those results as we move another step closer to 8-Player Finals at Northern Michigan University in two weeks and 11-Player Finals at Ford Field the weekend after that.

11-Player Division 1

HEADLINER Caledonia 14, Rockford 13 (2 OT) Only two weeks earlier, Caledonia fell to Rockford 38-15 with a league title and perfect regular season on the line. But the No. 8 Fighting Scots (10-1) avenged by handing the No. 3 Rams (10-1) their lone loss, clinched by Mason McKenzie’s 2-point conversion run on the game’s final play. Click for more from FOX 17.

District Digest Clarkston 49, Davison 40 The No. 5 Cardinals (9-2) got within two of the lead late, but No. 7 Clarkston (9-2) put away the win with Ethan Clark’s sixth touchdown of the game. Grand Ledge 21, Holt 20 The Comets (9-2) scored first and continued to hold Holt off until the end, the final defensive stand coming with just under two minutes to play to avenge a 14-6 Week 3 loss to the Rams (7-4). Macomb Dakota 17, Romeo 0 No. 2 Dakota (11-0) posted its third-straight shutout to finish a season sweep of Romeo (8-3) after also winning their Week 6 meeting 21-14.

11-Player Division 2

HEADLINER Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central 33, Muskegon Mona Shores 21 The No. 4 Rangers (11-0) avenged playoff losses to the No. 7 Sailors (8-3) from the last two seasons, rolling up 30+ points for the fifth straight game. FHC quarterback Justin Osterhouse starred throwing and running. Click for more from the Muskegon Chronicle.

District Digest Harrison Township L’Anse Creuse 49, St. Clair Shores Lakeview 7 Not only did L’Anse Creuse (7-4) avenge a 37-0 Week 6 loss to Lakeview (7-4), but the Lancers earned their first District title in doing so. East Lansing 34, Portage Northern 24 The Trojans (8-3) continued to bounce back from a two-game losing streak to end the regular-season, downing the Huskies (7-4) to clinch their third District title in six seasons. Midland 41, Waterford Mott 34 The No. 5 Chemics (10-1) earned their third District title in five seasons by holding off a Mott offense that scored a combined 200 points over its final four games in finishing 8-3.

11-Player Division 3

HEADLINER DeWitt 56, Mount Pleasant 49 (3 OT) This piled a season’s worth of nail-biters into one game, as No. 9 DeWitt (8-3) scored on the final play in regulation to force overtime, the teams traded scores through the first two extra sets of downs and the Panthers scored to start the third overtime and then held the No. 5 Oilers (9-2) scoreless. It was the second-straight season these two met in a District Final, with DeWitt also advancing in 2021. Click for more from the Lansing State Journal.

District Digest Trenton 17, Gibraltar Carlson 7 After Trenton’s 27-6 Week 4 loss to No. 10 Carlson eventually resulted in the two teams sharing the Downriver League title, the Trojans (10-1) nearly flipped the score to claim a District championship. Zeeland West 36, St. Joseph 18 The No. 6 Dux (10-1) also did some avenging after falling in a District opener last season to the No. 8 Bears (9-2), who hadn’t lost since Week 1. Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice 30, Walled Lake Western 22 Brother Rice reached 5-5 by holding off a Western attack that averaged 42 points per game entering the weekend. The District title was Rice’s second straight. Western ended 9-2 and was ranked No. 2 entering the postseason.

11-Player Division 4

HEADLINER Goodrich 10, Freeland 9 The No. 6 Falcons (8-3) carried a 9-0 lead into the fourth quarter. Goodrich made it 9-7 on a Jace Simerson run early in the final period, setting up an incredible series of moments over the final seconds as the Martians (10-1) blocked a Freeland punt attempt, the ball came to rest with two seconds to play, and Caden Kolanowski kicked the 25-yard game-winning field goal as time expired. See below for more from WJRT.

District Digest Riverview 53, Tecumseh 30 No. 3 Riverview (11-0) slowed down a Tecumseh offense averaging 51 points per game entering the weekend and posted its highest score of the season as well in a matchup of previously-undefeated teams. Tecumseh ended 10-1 and was ranked No. 7. Dearborn Divine Child 30, Livonia Clarenceville 24 (2 OT) The Falcons (9-2) needed a 2-point conversion to send the game to double overtime, and then stopped Clarenceville (6-5) to close out the District title win. Grand Rapids South Christian 35, Hudsonville Unity Christian 20 The No. 2 Sailors (11-0) won their third-straight District title, stopping Unity’s pursuit of a possible fourth in five seasons. The Crusaders, last season’s Division 4 runners-up, finished 6-5.

11-Player Division 5

HEADLINER Flint Hamady 33, Marine City 27 The Hawks (10-1), who were playing in Division 7 just six years ago, defeated a second league champion this playoffs to earn this Division 5 District title – the program’s second ever, but also second in five years to go with the championship won in Division 6 in 2018. Marine City (8-3) was last season’s Division 5 runner-up. See below for more from the D Zone.

District Digest Flat Rock 29, Romulus Summit Academy North 28 The Rams (8-3) earned their first District title with a comeback capped by a 23-yard game-winning field goal by Mitchell Smith with 15.5 seconds to play. Summit finished 8-3, tying its winningest season of 2019. Muskegon Oakridge 30, Belding 8 The No. 4 Eagles’ defense continued to shine, this time stopping a Belding offense averaging 43 points per game. Oakridge moved to 10-1, and the No. 6 Black Knights ended at 9-2. Portland 34, Corunna 28 The No. 10 Cavaliers (8-3) pulled within six of the lead with just under three minutes to play, but got no closer as No. 3 Portland (10-1) clinched its fourth District title in six seasons.

11-Player Division 6

HEADLINER Warren Michigan Collegiate 14, Madison Heights Bishop Foley 0 Last season’s Division 6 runner-up and current No. 4-ranked Michigan Collegiate (10-1) posted one of its most impressive defensive performances of the last two seasons in shutting out a Ventures offense averaging more than 39 points per game. Bishop Foley (10-1) closed its first season reaching double-digit wins and had entered the playoffs ranked No. 9. Click for more from the Macomb Daily.

District Digest Gladstone 36, Manistee 14 No. 10 (tied) Gladstone (9-2) not only claimed its first District title since 2008, but earned a chance to avenge a Week 7 loss to No. 3 Negaunee this week. Manistee started 3-3 but closed at 7-4 for its winningest season since 2018. Millington 14, Standish-Sterling 12 Both defenses impressed, but Millington (10-1) made some crunch-time stops in avenging a 28-24 loss to the No. 10 (tied) Panthers (8-2) in Week 5. Grand Rapids West Catholic 50, Constantine 24 Top-ranked West Catholic (10-1) reached 50 points for the second time this season and held No. 8 Constantine (9-2) to almost half of its 47 ppg average entering the weekend.

11-Player Division 7

HEADLINER Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central 36, Detroit Central 28 The Falcons (6-5) handed top-ranked Central (10-1) its lone loss to clinch their fourth District title in six seasons. The Trail Blazers were giving up only 4.7 points per game entering the weekend, but St. Mary was able to build a lead and hold on to down a second undefeated opponent over the last three weeks. Click for more from the Monroe News.

District Digest Jackson Lumen Christi 35, Hudson 0 The No. 4 Titans (8-3) shut out a Hudson offense that was averaging 38 points per game, making the No. 3 Tigers (9-2) the sixth of their last seven opponents to score seven points or fewer. Lawton 35, Schoolcraft 21 Last season’s Division 7 runner-up and current No. 10-ranked Lawton (9-2) finished a season sweep of Schoolcraft (7-4) after also defeating the Eagles 49-14 in Week 7 to decide the Southwestern Athletic Conference Valley title. Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port Laker 28, Montrose 14 No. 6 Laker (10-1) finished a repeat District title run and reached double-digit wins for the first time since 2017, ending Montrose’s season at 7-4.

11-Player Division 8

HEADLINER Fowler 28, Beal City 27 The No. 8 Eagles handed No. 3 Beal City its only loss of the season, in doing so clinching its second District title in four seasons. Fowler scored the most points the Aggies (10-1) gave up this fall and came back after trailing by a score at halftime. Click for more from the Lansing State Journal.

District Digest White Pigeon 34, Reading 20 After avenging a Week 5 loss to No. 10 (tied) Centreville to open the playoffs, White Pigeon (8-3) did the same in this District title matchup after losing the No. 9 Reading 33-14 in their season opener. Clarkston Everest Collegiate 42, Marine City Cardinal Mooney 21 The Mountaineers (8-3) avenged a league-title deciding loss, having fallen to No. 10 (tied) Cardinal Mooney 15-8 in Week 6. The District title was Everest’s third straight. Ubly 49, Saginaw Michigan Lutheran Seminary 14 The top-ranked Bearcats (11-0) earned their fourth-straight District title by limiting an MLS offense averaging 45 ppg entering the weekend. At 9-2, the No. 5 Cardinals finished their winningest season since 2016.

A Grand Ledge receiver hauls in a pass against Holt.

8-Player Division 1

HEADLINER Martin 56, Adrian Lenawee Christian 14 There will be a new Division 1 champion this month, as No. 3 Martin (9-2) ended No. 8 Lenawee Christian’s opportunity to extend a two-season reign. A year ago, the Cougars defeated Martin 36-14 in a Semifinal. But the Clippers found their stride on both sides of the ball in this Regional title game, with the 56 points the most Lenawee Christian (8-3) has given up in a game since switching to 8-player in 2020. Click for more from FOX 17.

Regional Roundup Munising 36, Newberry 22 This matchup was decided by 14 points for the second time this season, but with much more scoring than in the top-ranked Mustangs’ 14-0 win in Week 2. Munising improved to 11-0, while No. 6 Newberry ended 9-2 and its winningest season since 2004. Merrill 68, Breckenridge 28 The No. 2 Vandals (11-0) have won all of their games by at least 22 points this season, that closest win coming over Breckenridge (8-3) in Week 2 before nearly doubling up the margin in this rematch. Brown City 52, Deckerville 6 The No. 9 Green Devils’ 8-player debut almost couldn’t be going better. Brown City (10-1) claimed its first Regional title since 1997, in the process earning an opportunity to avenge its lone loss to Martin. Deckerville, surging at the end with a four-game winning streak, ended at 7-4.

8-Player Division 2

HEADLINER Mendon 46, Colon 44 These neighbors met for the first time in 8-player football, and with the kind of finish hoped for with a long-anticipated matchup. Mendon took the lead after a fourth-down conversion set up Jack McCaw’s go-ahead scoring run with 3:39 to play. The No. 7 Hornets held on to hand No. 2 Colon (10-1) its only defeat and will play in their first Semifinal since 2017. Click for more from the Sturgis Journal.  

Regional Roundup Powers North Central 45, Lake Linden-Hubbell 6 The top-ranked Jets (11-0) finished a season sweep of the Lakes (7-4) and ran their three-year winning streak to 35. Marion 14, Gaylord St. Mary 0 The No. 4 Eagles (11-0) are headed to the Semifinals for the third-straight season and have yet to give up a point in the playoffs. No. 10 St. Mary finished its winningest season since 2017 at 8-3. Morrice 34, Au Gres-Sims 14 The No. 9 Orioles piled up 409 yards including 386 on the ground and came back from an early deficit to win their first Regional title since 2019. The No. 6 Wolverines finished 7-2, their only other defeat in Week 2.

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PHOTOS (Top) A Livonia Franklin ball carrier finds an opening Friday against Temperance Bedford. (Middle) A Grand Ledge receiver hauls in a pass against Holt. (Photos by Douglas Bargerstock and Michele Hoffman, respectively.)

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.)