1st & Goal: 2022 Week 8 Review

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

October 17, 2022

Plenty of regular-season wheels were still in spin during football’s Week 8, including opportunities for a few more historic league championship claims and a few upsets to keep this season’s playoff field a little tougher to forecast.

MI Student AidDexter and Durand are among the latest to celebrate league titles many years in the making. Spring Lake, Elk Rapids and East Grand Rapids kept us on our toes as well as we dug deeper into crunch time with only one week of regular-season matchups to play.

Here’s a look at how those teams and others continued to drive us forward as we draw nearer to playoff selection coming up this Sunday.

Bay & Thumb

HEADLINER Goodrich 21, Linden 0 The Martians (7-1) added the overall Flint Metro League championship to their Stars division title and also extended their winning streak that began after a season-opening defeat. Since that Week 1 loss, Goodrich has given up more than seven points in a game only once, with this its third shutout of the fall. The Martians have won all three meetings with Linden (5-3) since joining the Metro in 2019. Click for more from the Flint Journal.

Watch list North Branch 35, Croswell-Lexington 21 The must-follow Blue Water Area Conference race has reached a conclusion, with North Branch (7-1) clinching a share of the championship with this victory and Armada (7-1) clinching a share with its win over Richmond on Friday. The Broncos avenged a 28-7 defeat last year to the Pioneers (6-2), who went on to win the 2021 BWAC title.

On the move Harbor Beach 28, Bad Axe 7 The East’s Harbor Beach (7-1) won this matchup of Greater Thumb Conference division runners-up, avenging last year’s 42-33 loss to the Hatchets (5-3). Davison 49, Grand Blanc 14 The Cardinals (7-1) avenged last year’s 43-7 loss to the rival Bobcats to set up a winner-take-all Saginaw Valley League South title matchup this week against Lapeer. Freeland 40, Birch Run 6 The Falcons (7-1) have moved up in the Division 4 playoff-point rankings three straight weeks and now sit at No. 12 after sending Birch Run (4-4) one spot out of the Division 5 qualifier list to No. 33 heading into the regular-season finales.

Greater Detroit

HEADLINER Detroit Cass Tech 28, Detroit Martin Luther King 14 The Detroit Public School League Blue championship game was a rematch from Week 4, won by King 28-23. But this time, Cass Tech was able to shut down a Crusaders offense averaging 43 points per game and break a three-game losing streak against its biggest rival. Cass Tech (5-3) also received a nice boost to No. 29 in Division 1 playoff-point average after entering the weekend at No. 31. King, at 5-2, sits No. 12 on the Division 3 playoff-point list. Click for more from the Detroit News.

Watch list Farmington 39, Birmingham Seaholm 21 A two-point loss to Troy in Week 5 put the Falcons (6-2) in chase mode, but they earned a share of the Oakland Activities Association Blue title by handing Seaholm (7-1) its lone loss in the league finale. The next-best news for both is both were sub-.500 last year and have rebounded in big ways.

On the move Belleville 42, Livonia Franklin 14 The Tigers (8-0) clinched another Kensington Lakes Activities Association East title outright and ran their overall winning streak to 19, while dealing Franklin (7-1) its only defeat. Detroit Central 31, Detroit Southeastern 14 The Trail Blazers (8-0) ran their regular-season winning streak to 18 in finishing an outright PSL Gold championship run with a second win over Southeastern (5-3) this fall. Clarkston 48, Lapeer 13 The Wolves (6-2) have two good losses and some really solid wins this season, this one over the Lightning (7-1) just the latest and enough to push Clarkston up to No. 7 on the Division 1 playoff-point list.

A Detroit Cass Tech ball carrier looks to break past a Martin Luther King defender.


HEADLINER Durand 23, New Lothrop 21 The Railroaders’ season would have been considered a mighty success with just a shared championship in the Mid-Michigan Activities Conference. But Durand (8-0) continued  to make its case as one of the most intriguing stories of this season statewide by edging the Hornets to claim the title outright, after two weeks ago earning a share of its first league championship since 1983. Even with the loss, New Lothrop (6-2) moved up a spot in Division 7 playoff-point ranking to No. 12, and its defeats this season are by a combined three points. Click for more from the Owosso Argus-Press.

Watch list Holt 16, East Lansing 13 The Rams actually ran their winning streak over East Lansing (6-2) to two, but this one spun the Capital Area Activities Conference Blue race on its side with Holt (5-3) clinching a share and East Lansing and Grand Ledge now set to decide the other half of the championship when they face off this week. The Trojans had entered the weekend in first alone.

On the move Portland 32, Cadillac 6 The Raiders (7-1) are shaping up as Division 5 contenders again, with this win over the Vikings (5-3) moving them up three spots to No. 6 on that playoff-point average list. Charlotte 44, Flint Hamady 34 The Orioles’ rise continues as they moved to 7-1 by handing Hamady (7-1) its lone defeat. Hastings 33, Jackson Northwest The Saxons (7-1) clinched a share of the Interstate 8 Athletic Conference title and can claim it outright this week against winless Battle Creek Pennfield.

Northern Lower Peninsula

HEADLINER Elk Rapids 26, St. Ignace 19 Add the Elks (6-2) to teams enjoying an unforgettable fall. They finished third in the Northern Michigan Football Conference Leaders, but earned their most notable win this season over a St. Ignace team that’s clinched a share of the NMFC Legacy title and will play for the outright championship this week. Elk Rapids (6-2) has put together its best season since 2018, while the Saints (6-2) are surging through their best showing since 2016.

Watch list Traverse City St. Francis 42, Lawton 7 We’ve been watching the Gladiators all season, and it feels like we’ll be watching them late into November again as they moved to 8-0 with a big win over last season’s Division 7 runner-up Blue Devils (6-2).

On the move Traverse City Central 21, Bay City Western 0 A four-game losing streak in September had the Trojans (4-4) solidly outside the Division 2 playoff field, but a three-game winning streak has moved them back up to No. 21 in Division 2. McBain 46, Manton 20 After a few weeks skating outside the top 32 in Division 8 playoff-point average, McBain (4-4) is up to a more comfortable No. 27 with winless Muskegon Heights Academy up next. Charlevoix 38, Kalkaska 0 The Rayders moved to 7-1 with their second-straight shutout and sixth in eight games this season.

Southeast & Border

HEADLINER Dexter 21, Saline 14 The Dreadnaughts (8-0) defeated eight-time reigning champion Saline to clinch the Southeastern Conference Red championship outright – that league title also Dexter’s first in 59 years. Cole Cabana scored all three touchdowns, while the Dreadnaughts’ defense stood strong again and is giving up only 10.4 points per game this season. Saline moved to 6-2. Click for more from the Ann Arbor News.

Watch list Adrian 39, Sturgis 13 The Maples (4-4) finished fourth in the SEC White, but their four wins are the team’s most since 2016, and they are one spot outside making the Division 4 playoff field after moving up seven spots with this win over the Trojans (5-3).

On the move Napoleon 36, Addison 18 The Pirates (8-0) clinched the Cascades Conference championship outright with their first win over Addison (4-4) since 2018. Hudson 46, Dundee 17 The Tigers (8-0) guaranteed a winner-take-all Week 9 matchup with Clinton in the Lenawee County Athletic Association while taking Dundee (6-2) out of title consideration. Ottawa Lake Whiteford 50, Erie Mason 14 The Bobcats (8-0) finished a perfect run through the Tri-County Conference and sit No. 2 in Division 8 playoff-point average, while Erie Mason (5-3) is hanging in at No. 29 in Division 7.

Southwest Corridor

HEADLINER Buchanan 34, Benton Harbor 22 The Bucks (7-1) wrapped up the inaugural Lakeland Athletic Conference championship outright, and deservedly so after putting up the most points a tough Benton Harbor defense has given up this season. Similarly, the Tigers (4-4) tied the third-most Buchanan has allowed, and will hope to continue that trend this week as they sit two spots outside the Division 5 playoff field with a trip to Constantine next. This win moved Buchanan up three spots in Division 6 to No. 12. Click for more from the Niles Daily Star.

Watch list Homer 34, Reading 30 The Trojans (6-2) didn’t catch Union City in the Big 8 Conference but finished a solid second thanks to their first win over Reading (6-2) since 2016. They also guaranteed their best record since 2019 with the win.

On the move Edwardsburg 46, Chelsea 7 The Eddies (7-1) are making some noise, with this win over the reigning Division 4 champion Bulldogs (5-3) a good conversation starter. White Pigeon 44, Kent City 19 A three-game winning streak has White Pigeon (5-3) steadily moving up the Division 8 playoff-point list, and this win over Kent City (6-2) was their most impressive of the fall. Watervliet 32, Parchment 7 Watervliet (5-3) was in need of some added comfort in the Division 6 playoff field, and this win pushed it up six spots to No. 22. Parchment (4-4) fell five spots to a less comfortable No. 34, two out of making the postseason.

Upper Peninsula

HEADLINER Negaunee 48, Houghton 0 The Miners (8-0) not only experienced no letdown after a big Week 7 win over Gladstone, they put up their third-most points of the season and earned their second shutout in clinching a share of the Western Peninsula Athletic Conference Copper title. Negaunee will play for its first perfect regular season since 2016 against Ishpeming Westwood this week, while Houghton (5-3) is working to hold onto a playoff spot in Division 6 and could see the Miners again. Click for more from Upper Michigan Source.

Watch list Kingsford 46, Hopkins 7 The Flivvers (6-2) quietly have won five straight – with Hopkins (5-3) playing for a league title share this week. Kingsford has gone over 45 points three of the last four games and held its last four opponents to single digits.

On the move Gladstone 22, Gaylord 14 The Braves (6-2) quickly bounced back from that Negaunee loss, with a sixth win representing their most in a season since 2017 – and against a Gaylord team (5-3) enjoying its best since 2018. Iron Mountain 28, Ishpeming 8 The Mountaineers (7-1) are holding on to the top spot in Division 8 playoff-point average for the second-straight week after defeating a possible playoff opponent in the Hematites (4-4). Bark River-Harris 34, Ishpeming Westwood 6 The Broncos (6-2) may bring a little more momentum to this week’s West-PAC Iron title decider with Ishpeming after avenging last year’s 50-8 loss to Westwood (4-4).

West Michigan 

HEADLINER Spring Lake 35, Hudsonville Unity Christian 32 The Lakers (3-5) have quite a bit to make up to have a shot at making the Division 4 playoffs. But they made a massive impact on the Ottawa-Kent Conference Blue race with this upset, denying Unity Christian (5-3) a chance to clinch a share of the league title and instead bringing Fruitport and Grand Rapids West Catholic back into the mix. Click for more from the Grand Haven Tribune.

Watch list East Grand Rapids 15, Lowell 14 The Pioneers (3-5) were coming off two losses, but in edging the Red Arrows (5-3) they pushed into a pretty solid No. 24 slot in Division 3 playoff-point average.

On the move Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central 30, Grand Rapids Christian 7 The Rangers (8-0) are one of two undefeated teams left in Division 2 and now own a share of the O-K White championship with the chance to repeat as outright winner this week. Muskegon Mona Shores 15, Muskegon Reeths-Puffer 0 With their second shutout of the season, the Sailors (7-1) clinched a share of the O-K Green title. Grand Rapids South Christian 37, Grand Rapids Kenowa Hills 7 These Sailors now own a share of the O-K Gold championship but with a tough opponent coming up in Forest Hills Eastern as they seek to win outright.


HEADLINER Rogers City 42, Alcona 26 The North Star League Big Dipper championship belongs to Rogers City after this highly-anticipated matchup. The last three between these rivals had been decided by a score, but the Hurons broke away and are now one more win from a first perfect regular season since 1998. Alcona is 6-2. Click for more from MI Sports Now

Watch list Central Lake 26, Farwell 22 Early losses to Gaylord St. Mary and Indian River Inland Lakes are  why Central Lake ended up third in the Ski Valley Conference. But the Trojans have won five straight (including a forfeit) and handing Farwell (7-1) its lone loss makes them a team to watch even more as we head into the postseason.

On the move Climax-Scotts 28, Adrian Lenawee Christian 21 The Panthers (7-1) are absolutely among the best teams in 8-player Division 2 with this win solidifying that reputation. Lenawee Christian (6-2) remains a favorite in Division 1. Gaylord St. Mary 38, Rudyard 14 The Snowbirds also are a Division 2 team to watch coming off a solid win over Division 1 Rudyard (5-3). Kingston 56, Mayville 26 The Cardinals (8-0) are a win away from a possible first perfect regular season since 1999, and this win over Mayville (5-3) was one of their best.

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.

PHOTOS (Top) Detroit Central's quarterback attempts to launch a pass amid a Southeastern rush during the PSL Gold final. (Middle) A Detroit Cass Tech ball carrier looks to break past a Martin Luther King defender during the PSL Blue championship game. (Photos by Chardonne’ U of Olivia B. Photography.)

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.)