1st & Goal: 2023 Week 2 Preview

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

August 31, 2023

While opening weekend is always going to be among the most highly-anticipated every football season, Week 2 this fall could provide quite an encore.

MI Student AidThis weekend’s schedule statewide leads off with a trio of massive matchups that include teams from the Grand Rapids and/or Muskegon areas, with perhaps the top two teams in both the Lansing area and entire Upper Peninsula also set to face off and a possible Flint-area league championship also potentially being previewed for the second-straight season.

Four games were scheduled to be played Wednesday, with 241 today, 53 on Friday and two Saturday. Broadcasts of several will be available on MHSAA.tv with subscription, and come back all weekend to the MHSAA Scores page for results as they come in.

Here’s a look at some of those matchups that jump off the page most:

Bay & Thumb

Linden (1-0) at Goodrich (1-0), Thursday

Three of four meetings between these two over the last four seasons has been decided by six points or fewer. They met twice last season, first in a Flint Metro League non-divisional tune-up – won by Goodrich 6-0 – and then in the league championship game after both won their divisions, with the Martians prevailing again 21-0. After going separate ways a second time, Goodrich ended up in the Division 4 Final and finished runner-up, and Linden reached a Regional Final in Division 3.

Keep an eye on these THURSDAY Richmond (1-0) at Croswell-Lexington (1-0), Ithaca (1-0) at Standish-Sterling (0-1), Cass City (1-0) at Harbor Beach (1-0). FRIDAY Traverse City Central (1-0) at Lapeer (1-0).

Greater Detroit

Rochester (1-0) at Rochester Adams (1-0), Thursday

Look past that Adams has won this matchup 26 times in a row, and the rivalry has had a different vibe of late as Rochester has continued to improve. The Highlanders won both meetings last year, 34-18 in Week 2 but also 28-14 in a Division 1 District Final while facing the Falcons in the playoffs for the second time in three seasons. Rochester High has strung together three straight winning seasons and lost last week by just a point, 22-21, to Utica while Adams opened with a 22-8 win over Orchard Lake St. Mary’s.

Keep an eye on these THURSDAY West Bloomfield (1-0) at Birmingham Groves (1-0), Detroit Loyola (1-0) at Warren Michigan Collegiate (1-0). FRIDAY Hastings (1-0) at Pontiac Notre Dame Prep (1-0), Clarkston (0-1) at Southfield Arts & Technology (1-0).


Mason (1-0) at DeWitt (1-0), Thursday

These two both were one more win away from giving Ford Field an all-Capital Area Activities Conference Division 3 Final last season, as they both finished with losses in Semifinals on the opposite sides of the bracket. They may be mid-Michigan’s top two teams this season. DeWitt again is a favorite in the CAAC Blue and showed plenty of mettle in coming back to defeat Haslett in their opener 27-17. Mason returns nearly its entire starting lineup from last year’s 12-1 run and opened last week with a 52-14 win over Holt, a Division 1 playoff team last fall.

Keep an eye on these THURSDAY Hudsonville (1-0) at East Lansing (0-1), Portland (1-0) at Olivet (0-1), Lansing Sexton (1-0) at Lansing Catholic (1-0), Fenton (1-0) at Haslett (0-1).

Northern Lower Peninsula

Frankfort (1-0) at Maple City Glen Lake (1-0), Thursday

These two frequent league title contenders didn’t determine any championships last year, but Frankfort did win their matchup 22-6 to finish runner-up in the Northern Michigan Football League Legacy. Both teams opened with wins last week, Frankfort in the Legacy 38-8 over Mancelona, and the Lakers 34-18 nonleague over Manton. After a mostly-dominating 20-teens, Glen Lake has had a few tough seasons of late – but winning this matchup would be a nice boost as first-year coach Jesse Smith establishes his program.

Keep an eye on these THURSDAY Hudson (1-0) at Benzie Central (1-0), Johannesburg-Lewiston (1-0) at East Jordan (1-0), Gaylord (1-0) at Kingsley (1-0). FRIDAY Elk Rapids (0-1) at Boyne City (1-0).

Southeast & Border

Riverview (1-0) at Carleton Airport (1-0), Thursday

Riverview was able to clinch the outright Huron League title last season in part because of an 18-13 win over Airport in Week 7, with the Jets going on to tie for second. This matchup could be part of the equation again, especially after Airport claimed an impressive 31-10 win last week over Gibraltar Carlson – winner of nine games both of the last two seasons – and Pirates more than doubled up Detroit Renaissance to run their regular-season winning streak to 29.

Keep an eye on these THURSDAY Whitehall (1-0) at Tecumseh (1-0), Detroit Country Day (1-0) at Parma Western (1-0). FRIDAY Edwardsburg (0-1) at Chelsea (0-1), Dexter (0-1) at Saline (1-0).

Southwest Corridor

Traverse City St. Francis (1-0) at Lawton (1-0), Friday

This season’s Gladiators picked up some key experience on the fly last week with a 41-40 overtime win over Charlevoix as they work to replace many of last year’s leaders who took the team to a Division 7 runner-up finish and along the way defeated Lawton 42-7 in Week 8. The Blue Devils were in a similar spot a year ago as the 2021 Division 7 runner-up and rebounded from the St. Francis defeat to win a District title before falling by just a point to eventual champion Jackson Lumen Christi in the Regional. St. All four teams mentioned here are in Division 7 this fall, and Lawton opened with a 51-20 win last week over Benton Harbor.  

Keep an eye on these THURSDAY Schoolcraft (1-0) at Centreville (0-1), Delton Kellogg (1-0) at Parchment (1-0), Niles (1-0) at Stevensville Lakeshore (0-1). FRIDAY Battle Creek Harper Creek (1-0) at Battle Creek Central (0-1)

Upper Peninsula

Negaunee (1-0) at Gladstone (1-0), Thursday

The conversation went back and forth last season about which of these two was the Upper Peninsula’s best team until Negaunee won their first meeting 24-6 in Week 7, and the Miners wrapped that up again with an 18-12 Regional win on the way to finishing Division 6 runner-up. It’s too early to have that conversation yet this year, but judging by last week’s results – Gladstone won 36-7 over Marquette and Negaunee doubled up Ishpeming 32-16 – both may be in the conversation again.

Keep an eye on these THURSDAY Bark River-Harris (1-0) at Iron Mountain (1-0), Cadillac (0-1) at Escanaba (1-0), Menominee (1-0) at Hancock (1-0), Kingsford (1-0) at Houghton (0-1).

West Michigan

Warren De La Salle Collegiate (0-1) at Muskegon (0-1), Friday

As noted, there are some monster matchups on the west side of the state this weekend – see below for others – but it’s hard not to dive into this one even though both fell in season openers last week. Both also finished last season at Ford Field – De La Salle as repeat Division 2 champion and Muskegon as Division 3 runner-up. The Pilots were leading Davison last week before storms forced their game to finish up the next day and the Cardinals prevailed 31-26. The Big Reds, meanwhile, took on another Division 1 contender in Rockford and lost 27-7 in a game that also no doubt will pay off in experience and playoff points.

Keep an eye on these THURSDAY Portage Central (1-0) at Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central (1-0). FRIDAY River Rouge (0-1) at Grand Rapids Catholic Central (0-1), East Grand Rapids (1-0) at Grand Rapids South Christian (1-0), Rockford (1-0) at Muskegon Mona Shores (1-0).


Posen (1-0) at Rogers City (1-0), Friday

Rogers City was the North Star League Big Dipper champion last season, and Posen was the Little Dipper runner-up, and the Hurons claimed their Week 3 meeting 12-6. Both are coming off big season-opening wins last week, with Posen nearly doubling up a Pellston program that’s had a nice run of success most of the last half-decade. But this matchup likely will tell us much more about both teams, especially relative to the 18-1 regular-season run Rogers City has put together since the start of 2021.

Keep an eye on these THURSDAY Merrill (1-0) at Morrice (1-0), Lake Linden-Hubbell (1-0) at Indian River Inland Lakes (1-0), Colon (0-1) at Mendon (1-0), Munising (0-1) at Newberry (1-0).

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PHOTO A St. Clair Shores Lakeview ball carrier works to break a tackle during last week’s 28-0 win over Warren Woods Tower. (Photo by Chris Mudd/National Photo Scout.)

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.)