1st & Goal: 2022 Week 7 Preview

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

October 7, 2022

League title pursuits will continue all over the state this weekend as we begin the final third of the 2022 regular season.

MI Student AidBut for those no longer in a championship race, or interested in what else lies ahead, every week of results makes the data even stronger as we prepare to announce the field and matchups for the MHSAA Playoffs at 6 p.m. Oct. 23 on Bally Sports Detroit.

The place to track how things are shaping up for the postseason is the MHSAA’s Playoff Point Summary page, where data can be sorted by division for both 11 and 8-player formats. The calculations update in near-real time as results are reported throughout the weekend.

Below are some of the matchups that could make things jump a little more over the next three days as we continue to settle into October.

Bay & Thumb

North Branch (6-0) at Armada (5-1)

The Blue Water Area Conference race shuffled last week with Armada defeating Croswell-Lexington, sending the Pioneers out of a tie for first with North Branch and into a tie for second with the Tigers. Now North Branch gets Armada this week and Croswell-Lexington next, needing to defeat one to clinch at least a share of the title – and after losing to both last season, including 34-28 to the Tigers. Armada is scoring 31 points per game and was one of only two opponents to put up more than 30 on North Branch last season – making this likely the best test so far for a Broncos defense giving up only six points per game this fall.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Bad Axe (5-1) at Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port Laker (6-0), Bay City Western (4-2) at Midland (5-1), Lake Fenton (3-3) at Goodrich (5-1), Fenton (4-2) at Linden (5-1).

Greater Detroit

Carleton Airport (5-1) at Riverview (6-0)

Riverview has won 25 straight regular-season games, including 20 consecutive in the Huron League – with both streaks going back to 2019. The Pirates can clinch a third-straight league title with a win in this matchup (or claim the outright championship with a win plus a New Boston Huron loss). Riverview also owns a nine-game winning streak against Airport – but with one more win this fall, Airport will tie its winningest season since 2011, and the Jets already have avenged two 2021 defeats.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Walled Lake Western (5-1) at Waterford Mott (5-1), River Rouge (4-1) at Allen Park (4-2), Detroit U-D Jesuit (3-3) at Detroit Country Day (4-1), Utica Eisenhower (5-1) at Macomb Dakota (6-0).


Lake Odessa Lakewood (5-1) at Olivet (5-1)

These two will wrap up their ninth seasons in the Greater Lansing Activities Conference with a winner-take-all championship matchup, as both are heading to the Capital Area Activities Conference next fall. Olivet owns a 6-2 edge in their GLAC matchups, and six of those meetings decided league titles. The Eagles have won five straight, with Lakewood the only other team to win the GLAC in this sport. Olivet hasn’t given up double-digit points in a game since Week 2 and got past Pewamo-Westphalia last week 20-7, while Lakewood is riding two straight shutouts.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Lapeer (6-0) at Grand Ledge (5-1), Parma Western (4-2) at Hastings (5-1), Big Rapids (4-2) at Howard City Tri County (6-0), Saginaw Michigan Lutheran Seminary (6-0) at Ithaca (5-1).

Northern Lower Peninsula

Boyne City (6-0) at Elk Rapids (5-1)

Elk Rapids has won as many games this fall as the last three seasons combined and have an opportunity to win a league championship for the first time since claiming the Lake Michigan Conference title in 2010. The Elks are a game behind Boyne City because of a Week 4 loss to Charlevoix, but breaking a nine-game losing streak against the Ramblers would give all three a single defeat in the Northern Michigan Football Conference Leaders with a game left for Boyne City and the Rayders. That said, the Ramblers haven’t had a game closer than 15 points this season and haven’t allowed Elk Rapids to score in their last two meetings.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY St. Ignace (5-1) at East Jordan (3-3), Roscommon (3-3) at Lake City (4-2), Kingsford (4-2) at Petoskey (2-4). SATURDAY Sault Ste. Marie (4-2) at Traverse City St. Francis (6-0).

Southeast & Border

Tecumseh (6-0) at Chelsea (5-1)

Chelsea has won 22 straight Southeastern Conference White games, going back to 2018 and including the last three league titles with this matchup providing the opportunity to add a fourth outright. The defense has been outstanding again, giving up just under 10 points per game, and the reloaded offense has averaged 40 points per game over its last three. Tecumseh is another team enjoying long-awaited success, with all of its wins by at least 23 points and its victory total already its highest since 2013. That’s also the last season Tecumseh defeated the Bulldogs.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Dundee (5-1) at Hillsdale (3-3), Temperance Bedford (4-2) at Saline (6-0), Addison (4-2) at Grass Lake (3-3), Michigan Center (2-4) at Napoleon (6-0).

Southwest Border

Lawton (5-1) at Schoolcraft (4-2)

Big points totals the last three weeks have Lawton averaging 40 per game for the season just in time for what might end up the deciding game in the Southwestern Athletic Conference Valley. A win would clinch a share of the title for the Blue Devils, while Schoolcraft has played only one league game but would be in position to accomplish at least the same. The Eagles are continuing their bounce-back from their three-win 2021 campaign, and the defense was especially impressive in holding Centreville to two points in Week 2 and Muskegon Catholic Central to only 16 a week ago.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY St. Joseph (5-1) at Stevensville Lakeshore (3-3), Buchanan (5-1) at Niles Brandywine (4-2), Three Rivers (4-2) at Sturgis (4-2), Decatur (4-2) at Delton Kellogg (4-2).

Upper Peninsula

Negaunee (6-0) at Gladstone (5-1)

Last week’s Gladstone loss to Durand, 28-24, took only a bit of the luster off this matchup of the top two teams in the Upper Peninsula this season (with Iron Mountain a strong honorable mention on that list). The Braves have clinched a share of the Great Northern Conference title and their best record since at least 2017, but even while finishing 4-6 last year they gave Negaunee a challenge before falling 31-30 during the regular season and 42-28 in a playoff rematch. The Miners have a tougher road ahead as they look to wrap up the Western Peninsula Athletic Conference Copper title, but there are plenty of signs they too have improved on a team that went 8-3 in 2021. They are scoring more and giving up about the same number of points as at this point last season, with this their toughest test since defeating the Mountaineers 19-14 in their season opener.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Ishpeming Westwood (3-3) at L'Anse (3-3), Houghton (5-1) at Calumet (3-3), Marquette (2-4) at Menominee (4-2), Tomahawk, Wis. (3-4) at Ishpeming (3-3).

West Michigan

Ravenna (5-1) at North Muskegon (5-1)

With the expansion and split of the West Michigan Conference, these two are the contenders for the first Rivers division championship. Both are undefeated in league play, with Ravenna a win ahead at 4-0 and able to clinch a share of the title with another victory tonight. Ravenna gave challenges to annual favorites Muskegon Oakridge and Montague during their time together in the previously one-division WMC. This is newer ground but also a deserved opportunity for North Muskegon, which despite finishing in the middle of the former WMC has made the playoffs five straight years thanks to the added bonus of that tough competition.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Kent City (6-0) at Reed City (5-1), Ludington (5-1) at Whitehall (6-0), Muskegon Reeths-Puffer (5-1) at Zeeland West (5-1), Grand Rapids West Catholic (6-0) at Fruitport (4-2).


Au Gres-Sims (5-1) at Alcona (6-0)

Alcona and Rogers City are both undefeated and lined up to face each other in Week 8 for the North Star League Big Dipper title. But Au Gres-Sims, tied for first in the Little Dipper, can muddy things up if it can continue a high-scoring surge that began after a Week 2 loss to the Hurons. The Wolverines have scored at least 50 points in all four games since, and put up 72 in a 40-point win over Alcona last year. But this is a much-improved Tigers team, and only two opponents have scored more than 14 points against them this fall.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Concord (4-2) at Marcellus (4-2), Cedarville (5-1) at Rudyard (4-2). SATURDAY Mesick (5-1) at Brown City (5-1), New Haven Merritt Academy (4-2) at Peck (5-1).

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PHOTO A Muskegon Catholic Central defender makes a stop during last week's 16-12 win over Schoolcraft. (Photo by Tim Reilly.)

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.)