1st & Goal: 2022 Week 9 Review

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

October 24, 2022

Every league champion has been crowned. All 144 playoff pairings are set.

MI Student AidThis fall seemed to fly by, but the football regular season is complete. See below for several of the final steps we took to get there across the state during Week 9.

Bay & Thumb

HEADLINER Davison 28, Lapeer 6 The Cardinals (8-1) clinched the outright Saginaw Valley League South championship as this was a winner-take-all matchup. The victory also avenged a 2021 loss to the Lightning (7-2), and Davison’s defense arguably was the star of this show by limiting a Lapeer attack averaging 39 points per game in one of its most impressive performances of the fall. These two could meet again in a Division 1 District Final. Click for more from the Flint Journal.

Watch list Gladwin 35, Standish Sterling 7 The Flying G’s (9-0) won one of three matchups of unbeaten teams this weekend, and in doing so finished their second-straight perfect regular season. Standish-Sterling (7-1) has plenty to boast as well as it takes a combined 17-4 record over the last two seasons into these playoffs.

On the move Croswell-Lexington 41, Freeland 34 The Pioneers (7-2) saw their league title chances dissolve with two losses over the last month, but defeating the No. 12 team in Division 4 playoff-point average in Freeland (7-2) was a solid way to enter the postseason. Essexville Garber 34, Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port Laker 21 The Dukes (6-3) were No. 29 in Division 5 playoff-point average heading into the week but got a four-spot bump in handing Laker (8-1) its only loss. Goodrich 42, Almont 21 The Martians (8-1) will be home throughout the playoffs with this win over Almont (6-3) another solid building block for the postseason.

Greater Detroit

HEADLINER Belleville 42, Brighton 3 Although both teams entered undefeated, few have slowed Belleville over the last few seasons as the Tigers (9-0) ran their winning streak to 20 with this Kensington Lakes Activities Association championship win. Brighton (8-1) had given up only 81 points this season before Belleville scored 42; the Tigers have put up at least 41 in every game this fall. Click for more from the Detroit News.

Watch list Grosse Pointe South 44, Grosse Pointe North 14 With the Norsemen (8-1) eying their first perfect regular season since 1986, the Blue Devils (6-3) swooped in to win their sixth game over their last seven this fall and fifth in a row over their rivals.

On the move Detroit Cass Tech 33, Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice 14 The Technicians (6-3) were able to hold on to the No. 29 spot in Division 1 playoff-point average with their fifth-straight win. Southfield Arts & Technology 28, River Rouge 21 The Warriors (7-2) rebounded from a Week 8 loss to West Bloomfield with a win over a River Rouge team that while 5-3 is much better than that record as all three defeats were by seven points or fewer. Gibraltar Carlson 38, Brownstown Woodhaven 18 Carlson (8-1) is a co-champion in the Downriver League for the second-straight season, with Trenton after the Trojans (8-1) defeated Southgate Anderson.


HEADLINER Grand Ledge 45, East Lansing 30 The Comets (7-2) were considered emerging entering this season, but they finished the regular season as co-champions in the Capital Area Activities Conference Blue. The surge seemed to start with a Week 6 win over DeWitt and carried through with this victory over the Trojans (6-3), who were in first place before falling in their final two games to Grand Ledge and the other co-champion, Holt. Click for more from the Lansing State Journal.

Watch list Belding 36, Hopkins 14 The Black Knights (8-1) finished a perfect run through the Ottawa-Kent Conference Silver and also ended a five-game regular-season losing streak against Hopkins (5-4), which would have shared the title with a win. (Belding did win a playoff game over Hopkins in 2020 after losing the regular-season meeting.)

On the move Lansing Catholic 42, Pewamo-Westphalia 7 The Cougars sat 3-5 with their string of 13 straight playoff appearances potentially on the verge of ending before they posted their most impressive win in downing the Pirates (5-4). Durand 48, Marine City 28 During an undefeated run of impressive performances, Durand (9-0) may have saved the best for last in this win over the Macomb Area Conference Silver champion Mariners (7-2). Mount Pleasant 28, Linden 21 The Oilers (8-1) won another matchup of league champions, as the Eagles (5-4) suffered their second one-score defeat over the last three weeks.

A Davison ball carrier follows his blocker during Friday's win over Lapeer.

Northern Lower Peninsula

HEADLINER Traverse City St. Francis 45, Detroit Country Day 20 The Gladiators may be favorites in the Division 7 playoffs and certainly are mathematically so as the closed the regular season 9-0 and with a playoff-points average nearly 4.7 points higher than the field. This defeat over a Country Day team (5-3) in line to host both District rounds in Division 5 was among six wins over teams that finished the regular season with winning records. Click for more from the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

Watch list Ogemaw Heights 35, Lake City 7 Ogemaw Heights’ six-game winning streak got a nice boost from this big win over the also-playoff bound Trojans (5-4). The Falcons (7-2) also surpassed the six wins they’d totaled over the last two seasons combined.

On the move Gaylord 28, Clare 7 The Blue Devils (6-3) entered Week 9 as the No. 32 team on the Division 3 playoff-point list, but were able to bump up a few spots thanks to this win over playoff-bound Clare (5-4). Frankfort 36, Elk Rapids 14 The Panthers (8-1) tied their most wins since 2017 with their sixth-straight this fall. Elk Rapids (6-3) is headed back to the playoffs for the first time since 2018, despite the defeat. Traverse City Central 14, Traverse City West 13 Even with West (2-7) finishing below .500 for the first time since 2015, this rivalry game remained must-see as Central (5-4) won for the fourth-straight season but with this matching the one-score deciders the teams waged from 2013-18.

Southeast & Border

HEADLINER Clinton 32, Hudson 26 The Redwolves (9-0) made one of the loudest statements of the weekend, not only clinching the Lenawee Country Athletic Association championship for the first time since 2000 but ending Hudson’s state-best 22-game winning streak. The perfect regular season was Clinton’s second in four years (and first since 2019), while Hudson heads to the playoffs at 8-1. Click for more from the Adrian Daily Telegram.

Watch list Dexter 45, Chelsea 0 The Dreadnaughts (9-0) finished atop the Division 2 playoff-point average list by more than four points after defeating Chelsea (5-4) for the first time since 1995.

On the move Napoleon 15, Union City 0 After missing out on the playoffs last season despite a 6-3 record, Napoleon has left no doubt this fall with this win in a Cascades/Big 8 crossover of champions giving the Pirates (9-0) their first perfect regular season since 2002. Union City (7-2) lost for the first time since Week 1. Ida 17, Dundee 12 The Bluestreaks (4-5) needed a strong finish to make the playoffs, and edging Dundee (6-3) gave them the boost. Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central 41, Ecorse 22 St. Mary (4-5) similarly needed to close on a high note to make the playoffs, and got it by handing Ecorse (8-1) its only loss.

Southwest Corridor

HEADLINER St. Joseph 47, Battle Creek Central 29 This winner-take-all Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference matchup went to the Bears (8-1), who earned their first championship since sharing the title in 2015. St. Joseph turned in one of its best offensive performances while scoring the most points the Bearcats (7-2) have given up in a game this season. Click for more from the St. Joseph Herald-Palladium.

Watch list Buchanan 36, Centreville 28 The Bucks (8-1) have gotten a lot of attention in this space lately, with good reason, as they added to their league title with a win over the Southwest 10 Conference champion Bulldogs (6-3).

On the move Constantine 37, Benton Harbor 20 The Falcons (8-1) capped a regular season that saw their only loss by two to Hudson in Week 2, and they enter the Division 6 playoffs No. 6 in playoff-point average. Portage Northern 35, Mattawan 21 The Huskies (6-3) closed on a three-game winning streak to return to the playoffs after missing last season. Plainwell 29, Paw Paw 23 The Trojans (4-5) missed the playoffs but ended with something to build on, stopping a four-game losing streak with this win over the playoff-bound Red Wolves (4-5). Three of Plainwell’s losses were by seven points or fewer.

A Cass City ball carrier prepares to take on a Beal City defender.

Upper Peninsula

HEADLINER Bark River-Harris 28, Ishpeming 20 The Broncos helped open the weekend Thursday by clinching the last league title up for grabs in the Upper Peninsula. Downing the Hematites not only gave the Broncos the outright Western Peninsula Athletic Conference Iron championship, but put them at 7-2 to conclude their winningest regular season since 2015. Ishpeming’s loss was its third by eight points or fewer, but it still qualified in Division 8 at 4-5. Click for more from the Escanaba Daily Press.

Watch list Menominee 42, Kingsford 41 Arguably the most exciting game above the Bridge this season saw the Maroons hold off a final charge by the Flivvers. Menominee (5-4) in doing so solidified its spot in the Division 6 field, while Kingsford (6-3) qualified as No. 12 in Division 5.

On the move Calumet 41, L'Anse 22 The Copper Kings (6-3) were out of contention in the West-PAC Copper but closed with three straight wins to make the playoffs for the 18th time in 19 seasons. L’Anse also advanced for the first time (not counting all-in 2020) since 2013. Sault Ste. Marie 20, Benzie Central 14 (OT) The Blue Devils (6-3) just missed the playoffs for the second-straight season but came back from a midseason three-game losing streak to finish above .500 for the fifth-straight year. St. Ignace 54, Harbor Springs 14 The Saints capped their turnaround regular season at 7-2, their best record since 2016, and as outright champions in the Northern Michigan Football Conference Legacy.

West Michigan

HEADLINER Rockford 38, Caledonia 15 Another winner-take-all decided the Ottawa-Kent Conference Red championship, with the Rams clinching their fourth straight with their third-straight undefeated regular season while sending the Fighting Scots to 8-1. Rockford built a sizable first-half lead in part by locking down a Caledonia offense that entered the game averaging nearly 46 points per. These two could see each other again in a Division 1 District Final. Click for more from FOX 17.

Watch list Muskegon 55, Muskegon Mona Shores 35 The Big Reds (7-2) seemed to fall out of the statewide conversation after a two-point loss to Zeeland West put them at 3-2. But they need to be talked up again after this big win over Mona Shores (7-2) gave them a share of the O-K Green title and vaulted them to No. 6 in Division 3 playoff-point average. Shores sits No. 9 in Division 2 playoff-point average.

On the move Fruitport 52, Holland Christian 21 The Trojans (7-2) clinched a share of the O-K Blue title and continued to build on their best record since 2012. Reed City 16, Cadillac 8 (OT) The Coyotes (8-1) are riding substantial momentum into the playoffs as the No. 3 team in Division 6 playoff-point average. Grand Rapids West Catholic 39, Hudsonville Unity Christian 18 West Catholic is the No. 1 team on that Division 6 list and the other half of the O-K Blue co-championship after downing last season’s Division 4 runner-up Unity (5-4).


HEADLINER Au Gres-Sims 42, Posen 24 The Wolverines finished up an outright championship run in the North Star League Little Dipper, sending Posen (7-2) into second place with its lone league loss. Au Gres-Sims (8-1) has won seven straight games (including a forfeit in Week 8), and held a Posen offense averaging 45 points per game to nearly half that. Click for more from WBKB.

Watch list Deckerville 62, Peck 60 (4 OT) The Eagles (6-3) finished third in the North Central Thumb League Stars but vaulted into the postseason with this win over the Stripes champion Pirates (7-2). The teams hadn’t faced each other since 2019, but Deckerville has won their last seven meetings.

On the move Stephenson 50 Norway 40 This was notable for several reasons – the Eagles secured a spot in the playoff field, they did so against a Norway team (6-3) that’s been considered among the best in 8-player Division 1, and at 6-3 as well Stephenson has its most wins since 2017. Powers North Central 42, Crystal Falls Forest Park 0 The Jets (9-0) finished another Great Lakes Eight Conference West title with their 33rd straight win, and could see Forest Park (7-2) again in a Regional Final. Bridgman 35, Martin 34 The Bees finished their second-straight perfect regular season after moving to 8-player four years ago, with this win over Division 1 contender Martin (7-2) among their most impressive victories of the run.

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PHOTOS Negaunee's Kai Lacar (10) finds a hole and sprints for another Miners touchdown in the second quarter of last week's win over Ishpeming Westwood. (Middle) A Davison ball carrier follows his blocker during Friday's win over Lapeer. (Below) A Cass City ball carrier prepares to take on a Beal City defender. (Photos by Cara Kamps, Terry Lyons and High School Sports Scene, 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.)