1st & Goal: 2023 Week 2 Review

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

September 4, 2023

Every season is a story, and Week 2 gave us plenty to consider as this one continues to unfold.

MI Student AidWe had pretty high expectations for this Labor Day weekend, which featured power-packed matchups from both local and statewide points of view – and we weren’t disappointed.

But there were several intriguing twists and turns as well – including numerous teams that came back impressively from opening-day losses – and we dive into many of those results below.

Bay & Thumb

HEADLINER Chesaning 27, New Lothrop 22 These two began playing each other regularly with the creation of the Mid-Michigan Activities Conference in 2018, and four-time league champion New Lothrop (1-1) had won the first five meetings of the recent series by an average score of 51-8 – including 40-14 a year ago. But Chesaning (1-1) built a 27-6 lead by the middle of the third quarter this time on the way to rebounding bigtime from a Week 1 four-point loss to Bath. Click for more from the Saginaw News.

Watch list Goodrich 45, Linden 28 The Martians (2-0) followed up a Week 1 win over reigning Division 5 runner-up Frankenmuth with this win over another returning league champion in Linden (1-1).

On the move Ubly 42, Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port Laker 0 The Bearcats (2-0) have now won their first two games by a combined score of 92-13 over teams that went a combined 19-6 last season. Montrose 22, Durand 14 Add this to the Chesaning win and the MMAC might be in for more change at the top, as the Rams moved to 2-0 by handing reigning champ Durand its second defeat. Yale 34, Armada 28 The same might be said in the Blue Water Area Conference as Yale (2-0) broke a four-game losing streak against reigning champion Armada (1-1), avenging last year’s 42-18 defeat.

Greater Detroit

HEADLINER Warren De La Salle Collegiate 40, Muskegon 28 The reigning Division 2 champion Pilots (1-1) needed just a week to put the opening loss to Davison solidly behind them as they crossed the state and picked up a major bounce-back win over last season’s Division 3 runner-up Big Reds (0-2). The teams traded leads for most of the first three quarters with De La Salle carrying a five-point lead into the fourth and adding one more score to pull away. Click for more from the Muskegon Chronicle.

Watch list Roseville 33, Romeo 30 The Panthers (2-0) are making big headlines early, following last week’s shutout of Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice with this win over the Bulldogs (0-2) that avenged last season’s 30-6 loss.

On the move West Bloomfield 41, Birmingham Groves 19 The Lakers also are off to another notable 2-0 start after doubling up a Division 2 semifinalist from a year ago. Southfield Arts & Technology 20, Clarkston 17 The Warriors (2-0) have set their pace defeating a pair of Division 1 powers, this time breaking a four-game losing streak against the Wolves (0-2).  Redford Union 14, Dearborn Heights Crestwood 12 Last season this ended up eventually deciding the Western Wayne Athletic Conference title for the Chargers, although this matchup was much closer than their 41-6 victory a year ago.


HEADLINER Mason 42, DeWitt 23 The Bulldogs (2-0) affirmed themselves as the frontrunners for the Lansing area’s best team after jumping out to a 35-0 lead on the Panthers (1-1) in this matchup of 2022 Division 3 semifinalists. Fourth-year varsity senior AJ Martel was among standouts with 139 yards and two touchdowns rushing. Click for more from the Lansing State Journal.

Watch list Lansing Sexton 48, Lansing Catholic 20 The J-Dubbs are off to their first 2-0 start since 2017, also their most recent winning season, and avenged a 35-0 loss to the Cougars (1-1) from a year ago.

On the move Haslett 41, Fenton 25 The Vikings bounced back from a Week 1 loss to DeWitt as Nakai Amachree scored six touchdowns. Ithaca 39, Standish-Sterling 26 The Yellowjackets (2-0) had lost the last two seasons to the Panthers (0-2), last season’s ending up Ithaca’s only defeat on the way to the Division 7 Regional Finals. Mount Pleasant 35, Midland 6 Add the Oilers (1-1) to the list of quick bounce-backers as they rebounded from a big Week 1 loss to down a Midland team that won 10 games last season and opened with a victory last week.

Northern Lower Peninsula

HEADLINER Gaylord 42, Kingsley 39 The Blue Devils are 2-0 for the second-straight season after holding off a late Kingsley comeback attempt. The Stags (1-1) scored twice over the final four minutes to again make this matchup a one-score game after Gaylord won last year’s meeting by a point. Click for more from the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

Watch list Cadillac 43, Escanaba 36 The Vikings (1-1) came back from a three-point season-opening loss to Midland to begin Big North Conference play with a key win over new league member Escanaba (1-1).

On the move Frankfort 28, Maple City Glen Lake 15 Just two weeks in, Frankfort finds itself 2-0 in the Northern Michigan Football League Legacy with a Week 8 matchup with East Jordan looking even more like one to circle. Boyne City 57, Elk Rapids 14 The Ramblers also are 2-0 after playing two 2022 playoff teams and with more tests ahead as the schedule doesn’t get any easier the rest of September. Mancelona 52, Tawas 20 The Ironmen (1-1) won one game last season and scored just 86 points over nine, but they equaled that victory total while avenging last year’s 30-8 loss to Tawas (1-1).

Remus Chippewa Hills improved to 2-0 with a 43-13 win over Grant.

Southeast & Border

HEADLINER Carleton Airport 48, Riverview 27 The Jets (2-0) not only have defeated two league champions so far this fall – add this win to the 31-10 opener over Gibraltar Carlson – but they’ve set themselves up well starting Huron League play after missing out on a shared title a year ago when Riverview (1-1) won the matchup 18-13 and went on to make the Division 4 Semifinals. Click for more from the Monroe News.

Watch list Parma Western 20, Detroit Country Day 17 There’s been early talk that Western (2-0) is a team to watch more closely this fall, and this combined with the Week 1 win over Dearborn Divine Child definitely is justifying the buzz. Country Day (1-1) is coming off a run to the Division 5 Semifinals.

On the move Quincy 18, Reading 12 The Orioles (1-1) are seeking a first winning season since 2018, and this could be big as they hadn’t defeated Reading (0-2) since 2016 and lost last year’s meeting 42-0. Chelsea 27, Edwardsburg 14 The Bulldogs (1-1) evened their record this fall and avenged a 40-7 loss to the Eddies (0-2) from last as these two recent Division 4 champions continued a regular-season series. Saline 41, Dexter 25 The matchup that decided the Southeastern Conference Red outright title for Dexter (0-2) in Week 8 last year moved to the front of the league schedule this fall and still might end up having championship implications as Saline (2-0) is off to a strong start.

Southwest Corridor

HEADLINER Lawton 38, Traverse City St. Francis 6 The Blue Devils’ Kal Motter was another of the statewide stars of the weekend with five touchdowns as Lawton handed reigning Division 7 runner-up St. Francis its first regular-season loss since October 2020. The Gladiators (1-1) had won last year’s meeting 42-7 and hadn’t been held to single-digit scoring also since 2020. Click for more from the Kalamazoo Gazette.

Watch list Battle Creek Harper Creek 21, Battle Creek Central 13 The Beavers are 2-0 for the first time since 2017 having now avenged both 2022 losses to neighbors Lakeview in Week 1 and Central on Friday. Harper Creek had lost to the Bearcats 34-0 a year ago.

On the move Richland Gull Lake 7, Vicksburg 6 The Blue Devils are 2-0 for the first time since 2007 and after winning three games total last season, when they fell 28-6 to playoff regular Vicksburg (0-2). Paw Paw 42, Berrien Springs 6 The Red Wolves (2-0) added to their impressive opening victory over Big Rapids with another over the annually playoff-qualifying Shamrocks (0-2). Kalamazoo Central 47, Sturgis 34 The Maroon Giants’ opener ended up cancelled due to weather, but they made their late start sweet with this first win since Week 7 of 2021 – and against a 2022 playoff qualifier in the Trojans (1-1).

Upper Peninsula

HEADLINER Gladstone 42, Negaunee 14 Gladstone (2-0) is coming off its best season in more than a decade, but it still included losses to Negaunee (1-1) during the regular season and Regional Finals. This was a first step toward avenging all of that, and with some new significance – Gladstone joined reigning champion (and Division 6 runner-up) Negaunee in the Western Peninsula Athletic Conference Copper this season. Click for more from RRN Sports.

Watch list Iron Mountain 40, Bark River-Harris 0 The Mountaineers (2-0) are another team running at full steam with a pair of wins over 2022 playoff teams, but with an interesting September coming up as they moved into the WPAC Iron this fall after regularly contending in the Copper over the last five seasons.

On the move Sault Ste. Marie 26, Cheboygan 0 For the fifth season in a row, the Blue Devils have started 2-0 – and for the second time in three seasons, they’ve opened with two shutouts. Calumet 42, Ishpeming Westwood 22 The Copper Kings picked up nice momentum following an opening loss to Escanaba by getting to 1-0 in the WPAC Copper with Negaunee up next. Kingsford 34, Houghton 0 The Flivvers also are unscored upon after two games, with Gladstone a major test next.

West Michigan

HEADLINER Rockford 31, Muskegon Mona Shores 8 The Rams (2-0) followed up an impressive opening win over Muskegon High with another stunning performance, holding Mona Shores (1-1) scoreless until the final minutes of the fourth quarter. This was just a four-point game a year ago, but Rockford now heads into Ottawa-Kent Conference Red play with a combined 58-15 margin over its first two. Click for more from the Grand Rapids Press.

Watch list East Grand Rapids 23, Grand Rapids South Christian 21 The Pioneers (2-0) are coming off two straight sub-.500 seasons, but that rarity could be moving into distant memory as they followed up a shutout of Cedar Springs by downing the reigning Division 4 champion Sailors (1-1) with the game-winner on the final play.

On the move Grand Rapids Catholic Central 38, River Rouge 6 Both are being talked about already in the championship mix, making this victory even more notable as GRCC moved to 1-1 and Rouge to 0-2. North Muskegon 41, Muskegon Catholic Central 21 The Norsemen (2-0) are one of the stories of the first two weeks, following an opening win over Pewamo-Westphalia by avenging last year’s only regular-season loss in sending the Crusaders to 0-2. Hudsonville Unity Christian 33, Muskegon Oakridge 21 These Crusaders (1-1) opened with a pair of contenders from the West Michigan Conference Lakes and followed Week 1 loss to Whitehall with an impressive victory over a 10-win team from a year ago.


HEADLINER Newberry 16, Munising 6 Newberry’s only losses of the 2022 season were to Munising in Week 2 and again in a Division 1 Regional Final. But along with avenging those, this victory should provide plenty of momentum as Newberry heads into this week’s matchup with Rudyard, the only other opponent to come within single digits last season.

Watch list St. Ignace 46, Pellston 6 The Saints (2-0) appear to be adjusting to 8-player quickly as they increased their margin over their first two victories to a combined 96-12.

On the move Posen 56, Rogers City 14 The Vikings (2-0) handed the Hurons just their second regular-season defeat over the last three and now have reached 50 points in both games this fall. Indian River Inland Lakes 54, Lake Linden-Hubbell 46 The Bulldogs (2-0) got a late start as well after their Week 1 game was forfeited, but they started it memorably by edging a Lakes team coming off its second-straight seven-win season. Mendon 58, Colon 30 After winning last year’s Division 2 Regional Final meeting with the Magi by only two points, Mendon broke free with Jack McCaw and Owen Gorham both going over 100 yards rushing and combining for five touchdowns.

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PHOTOS (Top) Marquette's Tucker Welch (4) finds a big hole and scores Marquette's first touchdown of its 49-0 win over Alpena. (Middle) Remus Chippewa Hills improved to 2-0 with a 43-13 win over Grant. (Top photo by Cara Kamps; middle photo by 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.)