1st & Goal: 2022 Week 6 Preview

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

September 30, 2022

Many Michigan football league play right through the end of the regular season, although often league championships are decided by power-packed matchups in Weeks 6, 7 or 8.

MI Student AidThis Week 6 is shaping up as perhaps the week that may most shape the 2022 regular season.

A number of eventual conference champions could be decided tonight – some surely by the eight matchups of teams entering the weekend both 5-0.

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

Bay & Thumb

Saginaw Nouvel (4-1) at Saginaw Michigan Lutheran Seminary (5-0) 

MLS quietly has been dominating this season, with its 233 points only 24 shy of the team’s total over nine games last season. While three wins have come against teams that remain without a victory, a fourth was 43-32 over Marine City Cardinal Mooney, which leads the Detroit Catholic League Intersectional 2. MLS’s next two games – this one against Nouvel and next week against Ithaca – should be similarly tough and will decide if the Cardinals will claim the Tri-Valley Conference 10-2 title, which would be their first league championship since their most recent overall winning season in 2019. Nouvel’s only loss was to Ithaca in Week 3.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Almont (3-2) at Croswell-Lexington (5-0), Grand Blanc (3-2) at Lapeer (5-0), Linden (4-1) at Swartz Creek (5-0), New Lothrop (5-0) at Montrose (3-2).

Greater Detroit

Warren De La Salle Collegiate (4-1) at Detroit Catholic Central (4-1), Sunday

Every season this game means something, and this season it’s likely to again determine the Detroit Catholic League Central title. DCC went undefeated in Central play to win the league championship in 2020, but relinquished it to the Pilots last season as De La Salle downed the Shamrocks 17-7 in what ended up the title decider. Both teams have done serious work over the first five weeks this fall. DCC came back from a season-opening loss to Clinton Township Chippewa Valley with wins over Davison, DeWitt, Detroit U-D Jesuit and Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice by two points. De La Salle’s only loss was by a point to Rice, and the Pilots own wins over Detroit Renaissance, Muskegon, Jesuit and Orchard Lake St. Mary’s.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Davison (4-1) at Walled Lake Western (5-0), Detroit Central (5-0) at Detroit Northwestern (4-1), Marine City (4-1) at Madison Heights Lamphere (4-1), Macomb Dakota (5-0) at Romeo (4-1).


Portland (4-1) at Charlotte (5-0)

This could be Charlotte’s biggest game since 2008, when it shared the Capital Area Activities Conference Gold title with DeWitt and Haslett. A win over the Raiders would give the Orioles a share of the CAAC White championship – a nice jump after going 2-3 in league play last season. Charlotte has had only four overall winning seasons since 2008 but has all but guaranteed one this fall. Portland, meanwhile, is a five-point Week 2 loss from being undefeated and looking to take back the White after seeing a league title streak end at six last season.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Marshall (4-1) at Hastings (4-1), Gladstone (5-0) at Durand (5-0), DeWitt (3-2) at Grand Ledge (4-1), Olivet (4-1) at Pewamo-Westphalia (3-2).

Northern Lower Peninsula

Charlevoix (5-0) at Boyne City (5-0)

Boyne City’s last league loss was to eventual champion Charlevoix in 2020. Charlevoix’s only league loss since 2019 was last year to eventual champion Boyne City. And that makes for a pretty solid rivalry as this matchup could again decide the Northern Michigan Football Conference Leaders title. Charlevoix hasn’t given up a point since opening night – with a 48-0 shutout of third-place Elk Rapids among the four straight. Boyne City won by forfeit last week but is barreling along at 46 points per game – making the Ramblers’ offense vs. the Rayders’ defense the matchup of the night.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY East Jordan (3-2) at Frankfort (4-1), Sault Ste. Marie (4-1) at Kingsley (3-2), Cadillac (3-2) at Petoskey (2-3), Evart (4-1) at McBain (2-3).

Southeast & Border

Clinton (5-0) at Dundee (5-0)

Dundee football re-arrived on the scene in 2019 with its first playoff appearance since 2013, and the Vikings took it a step farther last season making the District Finals for the first time since 2011. A win this week would be another giant step, as Clinton has won nine or more games the last three seasons and continues to be a major contender in the Lenawee County Athletic Association. Clinton has won its first three league games this fall by a combined 137-13, and Dundee has given up only 20 points over its first three including against two of the same opponents.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Union City (4-1) at Addison (4-1), Ann Arbor Huron (3-2) at Dexter (5-0), Napoleon (5-0) at Grass Lake (3-2), Tecumseh (5-0) at Jackson (3-2).

Southwest Corridor

Berrien Springs (5-0) at Buchanan (4-1)

These two are part of the inaugural Lakeland Conference, with Benton Harbor, Dowagiac and Niles Brandywine, and a win tonight would put Berrien Springs one away from earning the first league title (while a win combined with a Brandywine loss to Benton Harbor would give the Shamrocks a share of the championship). These two also are rivals from the former Berrien-Cass-St. Joseph Conference, and Berrien Springs has won six of the last seven meetings – but Buchanan already has more wins this fall than all of last season.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Edwardsburg (4-1) at Paw Paw (3-2), Portage Northern (3-2) at St. Joseph (4-1), Allegan (3-2) at Constantine (4-1), Battle Creek Central (4-1) at Portage Central (2-3).

Upper Peninsula

Calumet (3-2) at Iron Mountain (4-1)

Iron Mountain is up to No. 3 in Division 8 playoff-point average, ahead of four undefeated teams thanks to that lone loss coming to unbeaten Division 6 Negaunee. But Calumet has been a bit of a thorn during a strong five-year run by the Mountaineers, winning two of three meetings on the field since Iron Mountain joined the Western Peninsula Athletic Conference in 2018. The Copper Kings won last year’s matchup 21-6 and have picked up three straight wins (one a forfeit) this fall since opening the season with losses to Negaunee and Gladstone – arguably the two best teams in the Upper Peninsula.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Negaunee (5-0) vs. L'Anse (3-2), Maple City Glen Lake (3-2) at St. Ignace (4-1), Bark River-Harris (3-2) at Manistique (2-3). SATURDAY Detroit Old Redford (3-2) at Kingsford (3-2).

West Michigan

Grand Rapids Catholic Central (5-0) at Grand Rapids South Christian (5-0)

Grand Rapids Catholic Central’s 41-game winning streak may face one of its toughest challenges yet – and that’s saying something as the Cougars defeated South Christian by only a point in 2020 and have won three straight Division 4 or 5 Finals. GRCC already has outlasted Ada Forest Hills Eastern and held on against Cedar Springs to defeat the latter by a point. But the Sailors have yet to play a game closer than 22 points – that one a 28-6 win over Cedar Springs – and have given up only 33 points on the year.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Whitehall (5-0) at Muskegon Oakridge (5-0), Lowell (4-1) at Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central (5-0), Grandville (4-1) at Rockford (5-0), Muskegon Mona Shores (4-1) at Zeeland West (5-0).


Morrice (5-0) at Merrill (5-0)

This almost assuredly will end up deciding the Central Michigan 8-Man Football Conference championship, as these two sit atop the standings and two games ahead of four more teams tied for third. Merrill is ranked No. 4 in Division 1, and Morrice is No. 6 in Division 2, and neither has faced a massive challenge yet – the closest game for both was a 22-point win over Breckenridge. Morrice has been among standard-setters in 8-player, with a combined 46-4 record over the last five seasons. But Merrill appears on the verge of joining the elite coming off its first win over annual power Portland St. Patrick since moving to 8-player in 2020.  

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Brown City (4-1) at Britton Deerfield (3-2), Climax-Scotts (5-0) at Colon (5-0), Pickford (4-1) at Munising (5-0), Martin (5-0) at Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian (5-0).

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PHOTO Caledonia, on defense, faces Holt during a season opener. (Click for more from 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.)