1st & Goal: 2022 Week 4 Preview

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

September 16, 2022

If last week’s top matchups could be considered tough to gauge beforehand, this week’s are a breeze to forecast.

MI Student AidOf the 18 teams listed below in our best-expected games from every region, 13 are ranked in the top 10 of their respective divisions by the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association. Our “Bay & Thumb” highlighted game featured two top-six Division 8 teams, and three more of those 13 are top-ranked with our best 8-player matchup featuring two teams that played in Finals last fall.

Games are Friday unless noted. Click for the full schedule from MHSAA.com and check out the broadcast schedule from MHSAA.tv.

Bay & Thumb

Ubly (3-0) at Harbor Beach (3-0)

The Bearcats continue to thrive as one of the strongest small-school programs in the state, as last season’s only loss came in the Division 8 Semifinals and after they were Division 8 runners-up in 2020 and also made the Semifinals in 2019. Ubly seemed to take over as the Greater Thumb Conference East powerhouse from Harbor Beach, but didn’t truly shake the Pirates until sweeping them last year 50-33 during the regular season and 35-6 in a playoff opener. Harbor Beach should put up another challenge this time; the Pirates didn’t give up a point this season until last week. Both teams have two wins over 2021 playoff teams.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Fenton (2-1) at Swartz Creek (3-0), Clare (2-1) at Gladwin (3-0), Saginaw Heritage (3-0) at Davison (2-1), North Branch (3-0) at Almont (3-0).

Greater Detroit

Detroit Martin Luther King (1-1) at Detroit Cass Tech (1-2)

This annual matchup between Detroit Public School League powers – now back in the same division – will be a breakout game for the winner. Both have suffered losses to Indiana powerhouses – Cass Tech to Carmel and King to Indianapolis Warren Central – and both rebounded to open the league schedule with 60-point shutouts. King won both matchups with Cass last season, but by only seven and six points. As usual, this likely will be just the first of two meetings this fall, with the next in the PSL playoffs.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Clarkston (2-1) at West Bloomfield (3-0), South Lyon East (3-0) at Walled Lake Western (3-0), River Rouge (2-0) at Orchard Lake St. Mary’s (1-2), Carleton Airport (3-0) at Grosse Ile (3-0).


DeWitt (2-1) at East Lansing (3-0)

This has been the matchup not just in the Capital Area Activities Conference Blue but usually all of Greater Lansing since DeWitt moving into the league in 2018. The Panthers have won four of the five matchups since, including two in the playoffs and 49-14 last season. This should see a much closer result. East Lansing’s run so far this fall includes two wins over likely league title contenders, Portage Central and Fenton. DeWitt’s two wins also came against league title contenders in Haslett and Portland, and the young Panthers continued to show they’re learning quickly in last week’s overtime loss at Detroit Catholic Central.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Mason (3-0) at Williamston (3-0), Traverse City Central (1-2) at Mount Pleasant (3-0), Lansing Waverly (3-0) at Grand Ledge (2-1), Lake Odessa Lakewood (2-1) at Perry (2-1).

Northern Lower Peninsula

Kingsley (2-1) at Traverse City St. Francis (3-0)

Don’t let the Stags’ one-point loss to Gaylord in Week 2 take any of the dazzle off this Northern Michigan Football League Legends clash. Kingsley’s only other regular-season losses over the last five seasons were to St. Francis, 38-30 last season and then in 2018. The Gladiators have lit up the scoreboard with 42 or more points every game this fall, and they own an impressive 42-35 Week 2 win over Jackson Lumen Christi.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Evart (3-0) at Manton (2-1), Beal City (3-0) at Lake City (2-1), Elk Rapids (3-0) at Charlevoix (3-0), Grand Blanc (1-2) at Traverse City West (1-2).

Southeast & Border

Adrian (2-1) at Tecumseh (3-0)

We featured Tecumseh earlier this week as that team is off to a grand start as it seeks its first winning season since 2013. Adrian is in a similar spot, having won two games a year ago, with those victories breaking a previous losing streak that stretched back to 2017. After falling to Ada Forest Hills Eastern in their opener, the Maples have won by 27 and 31, respectively, the last two weeks. The winner of this matchup may provide the toughest challenge to Chelsea in the Southeastern Conference White.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Union City (2-1) at Reading (3-0), Erie Mason (3-0) at Petersburg Summerfield (2-1), Saline (3-0) at Monroe (2-1), Pinckney (1-2) at Chelsea (2-1).

Southwest Corridor

Constantine (2-1) at Schoolcraft (3-0)

After last season’s game couldn’t be played, this rivalry that goes back at least 70 years is back. And although these teams remain in separate divisions of the Southwestern Athletic Conference, this matchup still carries plenty of clout. The Falcons do have a defeat, but by only two to a Hudson team that’s won 17 straight. Schoolcraft is coming off a four-point win over Kalamazoo United as it continues to rebound from last season – the Kalamazoo win was the second straight to avenge a 2021 loss.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Edwardsburg (2-1) at Vicksburg (2-1), Battle Creek Lakeview (1-1) at St. Joseph (2-1), Sturgis (2-1) at Paw Paw (2-1), Centreville (2-1) at Decatur (2-1).

Upper Peninsula

Gladstone (3-0) at St. Ignace (3-0)

These two have been the stories of the Upper Peninsula so far this season as both are on a roll after finishing sub-.500 last fall. Gladstone has defeated three 2021 league champions and appears the team to chase in the Great Northern Conference. St. Ignace may be the same in the Northern Michigan Football League Legacy coming off its second-straight shutout this month, this one against last season’s Legends runner-up Frankfort.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Manistique (2-1) at Negaunee (3-0), L’Anse (2-1) at Iron Mountain (2-1), Menominee (1-2) at Escanaba (1-2). SATURDAY Bark River-Harris (3-0) at Houghton (2-1).

West Michigan

Ludington (3-0) at Muskegon Oakridge (3-0)

Two of the region’s best matchups this week come from the West Michigan Conference Lakes – Montague/Whitehall is the other – which means the league should sort out a bit by Saturday. Ludington is new to the league after playing formerly in the Lakes 8 Conference, and the Orioles already have equaled their win total of all of last season. The Oakridge matchup presents another level of opportunity though, as the Eagles are regular contenders in the former one-division WMC and owners of three wins already this fall over 2021 playoff qualifiers.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Byron Center (1-2) at Lowell (3-0), Montague (2-1) at Whitehall (3-0), Belding (3-0) at Grandville Calvin Christian (3-0), Holland West Ottawa (2-1) at Grandville (3-0)


Colon (3-0) at Adrian Lenawee Christian (3-0)

The Cougars are bringing a 27-game winning streak into this matchup – coinciding with their move to 8-player at the start of the 2020 season – and Colon was the opponent for two of those victories. But the Magi, last season’s Division 2 runner-up, also gave eventual Division 1 champ Lenawee Christian one of its best challenges last season, 47-21. Sidenote: These are two of five Southern Central Athletic Association A teams that have opened 2-1 or better.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Norway (3-0) at Crystal Falls Forest Park (3-0), Breckenridge (2-1) at Portland St. Patrick (3-0), Cedarville (3-0) at Newberry (2-1). SATURDAY Suttons Bay (2-1) at Brown City (3-0).

Second Half’s weekly “1st & Goal” previews and reviews are powered by MI Student Aid, a part of the Office of Postsecondary Financial Planning located within the Michigan Department of Treasury. MI Student Aid encourages students to pursue postsecondary education by providing access to student financial resources and information. MI Student Aid administers the state’s 529 college savings programs (MET/MESP), as well as scholarship and grant programs that help make college Accessible, Affordable and Attainable for you. Connect with MI Student Aid at www.michigan.gov/mistudentaid and find more information on Facebook and Twitter @mistudentaid.

PHOTO: A South Haven receiver pulls in a pass against Ada Forest Hills Eastern in Week 1. (Photo by Michigan Sports Photo.)

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.)