1st & Goal: 2023 Week 7 Review

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

October 9, 2023

Fall showed up in a roar for Week 7, drenching fields almost everywhere as 300 games played on.

MI Student AidBut the rain couldn’t put a damper on several league title celebrations all over the state.

Of 88 varsity football conferences in Michigan, 60 have at least one guaranteed champion with two more weeks of regular-season games to play – and those historic victories make up most of the highlights below.

Bay & Thumb

HEADLINER Frankenmuth 38, Freeland 13 Frankenmuth (6-1) secured a share of a 12th-consecutive league championship, clinching in the Tri-Valley Conference Red in this meeting of co-leaders heading into the evening. The Eagles have won 59 straight league games dating to 2014, and all five against the Falcons (6-1) since they began playing in the same division. Click for more from the Saginaw News.

Watch list Cass City 26, Elton-Pigeon-Bay Port Laker 12 With the Greater Thumb Conference set to merge with the North Central Thumb League next school year, Cass City (6-1) earned the final championship in the GTC West as Laker (4-3) also was tied for first entering the evening. (Ubly defeated Sandusky 39-8 to finish a perfect run through the GTC East.)

On the move Chesaning 29, Durand 12 Chesaning (6-1) clinched a share of the Mid-Michigan Activities Conference title, defeating the 2022 champ and with seventh-place Otisville-LakeVille left on the league schedule. Ithaca 26, Saginaw Michigan Lutheran Seminary 7 The Yellowjackets (7-0) also clinched the outright championship in the TVC White by claiming this winner-takes-all meeting with MLS (5-2). Fenton 27, Flushing 8 Fenton (6-1) finished an outright championship in the Flint Metro League Stripes, its fifth-straight league title and first outright since 2020.

Greater Detroit

HEADLINER Lake Orion 42, Clarkston 21 With its first win over Clarkston since 2019, Lake Orion clinched its first league title since those two teams shared the Oakland Activities Association Red championship in 2011. They entered this league finale tied for first, so the Dragons’ also won this time outright and improved to 7-0 while holding down the No. 3 spot in Division 1 playoff-points average. Clarkston is 4-3 but No. 15 on the list in part because of its difficult schedule playing in one of the state’s most competitive leagues. Click for more from the Oakland Press.

Watch list Clinton Township Chippewa Valley 45, Romeo 12; Utica Eisenhower 31, Macomb Dakota 0 There’s no way to split these up; Chippewa Valley (5-2) and Eisenhower (6-1) clinched a shared Macomb Area Conference Red championship by winning on a night when all four contenders entered tied for first place.

On the move Walled Lake Western 28, Milford 20 Western (7-0) claimed a share of a second-straight Lakes Valley Conference title, with Milford (5-2) and Waterford Mott one game behind and the Warriors needing to defeat seventh-place Walled Lake Central in two weeks to clinch it outright. Grosse Pointe South 27, St. Clair Shores Lakeview 0 Another winner-take-all in the MAC White went to GPS (6-1), which has won all 10 of its games in this division since making the switch a year ago and handed Lakeview (5-2) its first shutout since 2021. Birmingham Seaholm 20, Auburn Hills Avondale 0 Seaholm (6-1) owns a share of the OAA Blue title and dealt this first loss to Avondale (6-1), which has clinched a share in the OAA Gold. Pontiac Notre Dame Prep 56, Gladwin 21 This was one of few meetings left of undefeated teams this fall, and Notre Dame Prep (6-0) continued its surge by posting 56 points for the third time this season and against a defense that had given up only 90 total during Gladwin’s 6-0 start.


HEADLINER Hastings 20, Parma Western 19 There are still two weeks of Interstate 8 Athletic Conference games to play, but Hastings (5-2) is a major step closer to a fourth-straight championship. The Saxons stopped Western (6-1) on a late two-point try to win and moved into first place alone with a chance to clinch this week against Jackson Northwest. See below for more from FOX 17.

Watch list Perry 14, Stockbridge 13 Perry is drawing close to making history. The Ramblers (5-2) are seeking their first playoff berth (not counting 2020, when almost all teams qualified because of COVID-related adjustments) and are tied for No. 15 in Division 7 playoff-point average with a matchup against Division 5 Lake Odessa Lakewood this week.  

On the move Fowler 54, Frankfort 0 Fowler (6-1) sits No. 10 in Division 8 playoff-points average after handing Frankfort (6-1) its first defeat. Portland 35, Charlotte 8 Portland (7-0) will play Lansing Sexton this week for the Capital Area Activities Conference White title after turning back this challenge from the third-place Orioles (5-2). Williamston 20, Haslett 7 Williamston (5-2) sits No. 7 in Division 5 playoff-points average with its only losses to Division 3 teams and this win over the Vikings (4-3) among five over opponents from Divisions 3 or 4.

Northern Lower Peninsula

HEADLINER Ogemaw Heights 35, Kingsley 12 For the first time since 2009, Ogemaw Heights (6-1) is a league champion after claiming a winner-takes-all matchup for the Northern Michigan Football League Legends title. Kingsley (5-2) had averaged 50 points per game entering the weekend, but the Falcons’ defense continued a run of success that’s seen them allow only 38 points total over the last five games. Click for more from MI Sports Now.

Watch list Benzie Central 46, Oscoda 14 Benzie remains on the rise, and by moving to 4-3 equaled its win total from a year ago – when it qualified for the playoffs at 3-6 – while holding nicely at No. 21 in Division 7 playoff-points average. Oscoda fell to 3-4 but has some opportunities to climb over the final two regular-season games.

On the move Grayling 46, Kalkaska 6 Grayling (4-3) kept its playoff hopes alive and sits No. 24 on the Division 6 playoff-points list after sending Kalkaska to 3-4 and No. 42. Maple City Glen Lake 47, Johannesburg-Lewiston 8 The Lakers (4-3) added to their playoff candidacy and sit No. 22 in Division 8 playoff-points average while Johannesburg-Lewiston (2-4) is No. 45. Cadillac 28, Richland Gull Lake 7 Cadillac (4-3) bounced back from two straight losses to get a needed boost up to No. 29 on the Division 3 playoff-points list, while Gull Lake (4-3) sits just outside the field at No. 33.

Southeast & Border

HEADLINER Napoleon 44, Michigan Center 34 Despite receiving one of its toughest challenges this fall – and trailing at halftime – Napoleon (7-0) emerged with a share of the Cascades Conference East championship and an opportunity to clinch it outright this week against sixth-place East Jackson. The Pirates have won 20 of their last 21 games and scored the most points Michigan Center (5-2) had allowed since Week 1 of 2022. Click for more from the Jackson Citizen Patriot.

Watch list Chelsea 21, Jackson 14 Chelsea (6-1) withstood its closest Southeastern Conference East matchup to finish an outright title run with Jackson (4-3) pushing for a shared championship.

On the move Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central 27, Flat Rock 18 St. Mary (3-4) was able to jump from No. 22 to No. 9 in Division 7 playoff-point average with this win, and also juggled the Huron League title race a bit by dropping Flat Rock (5-2) out of a tie for first. Addison 42, Hanover-Horton 8 Addison (7-0) completed its Cascades Conference West schedule with an outright championship, the Panthers’ fourth league title in five seasons. Saline 31, Ypsilanti Lincoln 0 Saline (7-0) is another long-running league champion back on top, clinching a share in the SEC Red after missing out a year ago.

Southwest Corridor

HEADLINER Portage Central 32, Portage Northern 22 Central took back the upper hand in this annual rivalry game after losing by three points a year ago, and also took over first place alone in the Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference. Both teams are 6-1 overall, and Northern will be rooting hard for Kalamazoo Central this week and Stevensville Lakeshore next as the Huskies hope for some help to still claim a league title share. Click for more from the Kalamazoo Gazette.

Watch list Lawton 29, Schoolcraft 22 Lawton (6-1) set itself up to face undefeated Saugatuck this week for the Southwestern Athletic Conference Valley title with Schoolcraft (5-2) hanging on to hope for a shared championship with Saugatuck on its schedule for Week 9.

On the move Constantine 27, Kalamazoo United 7 Constantine (6-1) also will play for a league title this week, against South Haven, in the SAC Lakeshore and with Kalamazoo United (4-3) hoping for similar maneuvering as Schoolcraft as it gets South Haven in Week 9. Parchment 32, Allegan 14 The Panthers (4-3) just missed the playoffs last season at 5-4 but kept their hopes sparked this fall by ending a three-game losing streak and jumping from No. 35 to 28 in the Division 6 playoff-points list while sending Allegan (4-3) down to a tie for No. 32 in Division 5. St. Joseph 35, Stevensville Lakeshore 0 St. Joseph (4-3) vaulted to No. 19 in Division 3 playoff-points average in breaking a two-game losing streak, and also knocked Lakeshore (5-2) out of a tie for first in the SMAC.

(Middle) Marquette's Jacob MacPhee (1) catches a pass from quarterback Jaxon Jurmu.

Upper Peninsula

HEADLINER Negaunee 47, Menominee 20 The reigning champion in the Western Peninsula Athletic Conference Copper is back in the title hunt. After starting out a step behind with a loss to Gladstone in a Week 2 league opener, Negaunee (6-1) has made it all the way back and can clinch a share of the Copper championship this week against Houghton – while Menominee (6-1) and Kingsford also will play for a guaranteed share of the title. Click for more from Upper Michigan’s Source.

Watch list Marquette 21, Petoskey 20 Marquette (4-2) opened this season 1-2, then didn’t have a Week 4 game, but is 3-0 since with a chance at a share of the Big North Conference title (if Sault Ste. Marie defeats leader Gaylord in Week 9) and the No. 24 spot on the Division 3 playoff-points average list – while Petoskey (4-3) is holding on at No. 32.

On the move Gladstone 31, Houghton 8 Gladstone (5-2) is officially out of the Copper title hunt, but steady at No. 9 on the Division 6 playoff-points average list with opportunities to climb. Sault Ste. Marie 21, Alpena 6 After missing the playoffs last season at 6-3, Sault Ste. Marie (5-2) is sitting at No. 26 on the Division 4 playoff-points list and with two substantial chances to move up. Manistique 19, Lakeview 8 Manistique (4-3) moved up from No. 38 to 36 on the Division 7 playoff-points list but will work to reach the top 32 with two more playoff hopefuls on the schedule to finish the regular season.

West Michigan

HEADLINER Big Rapids 35, Howard City Tri County 6 After forcing a three-team shared championship in the Central State Activities Association last season, Big Rapids (6-1) will reign alone this fall thanks to this win that secured an outright title. The Cardinals won their six league games this season by an average of 24 ppg. Tri County is 6-1 and still can equal last season’s win total with one more. Click for more from the Big Rapids Pioneer.

Watch list Grandville 38, Caledonia 34 Grandville (6-1) will play Rockford this week for a share of the Ottawa-Kent Conference Red title after quarterback Cash Ruff put the Bulldogs on his shoulders (and legs) during the fourth quarter. He ran for the winning points during the final seconds as Grandville avenged two losses last season to the Fighting Scots (5-2).

On the move Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern 23, Lowell 20 In an O-K White filled with contenders, FHN (5-2) quietly has joined them and with this win guaranteed its best record since 2018 with a chance to break up the title race even more after taking the Red Arrows (5-2) out of a four-way tie for first. Muskegon 22, Zeeland West 16 The O-K Green is down to just one leader at the top as the Big Reds (5-2) have a game on West (6-1) and Muskegon Mona Shores and only sixth-place Grand Rapids Union and seventh-place Wyoming left on the schedule. Grand Rapids West Catholic 56, Allendale 6 West Catholic (7-0) claimed a share of the O-K Blue title with two games to play as Allendale (5-2), Coopersville and Spring Lake all are tied for second at 3-2 in league play.


HEADLINER Climax-Scotts 58, Mendon 28 After two runner-up league finishes over the last four seasons, including last fall, Climax-Scotts is a champion with this win clinching a share of the Southern Central Athletic Association West title. Mendon (5-2) led by as many as 12 points into the final minute of the first half, but the Panthers (7-0) scored the final six touchdowns to come back and pull away. Click for more from the Kalamazoo Gazette.

Watch list Morrice 44, Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart 13 With one league game left for six of its seven teams, the Mid-State Activities Conference Red has three in first place – Morrice (5-2) creating the jam by handing Sacred Heart (6-1) this defeat. The Orioles, Irish and Portland St. Patrick all are 4-1 in the division, and all play teams in the bottom three of the standings this week.

On the move Alcona 42, Au Gres-Sims 12 Alcona (6-1) plays Rogers City this week for the North Star League Big Dipper title and should have plenty of momentum after handing a first loss to Little Dipper leader Au Gres (6-1). Marcellus 52, Grandville Calvin Christian 0 Marcellus (6-1) dominated the Southwest Michigan 8-Man Football League Red, opening with a 51-18 win over Lawrence, getting a forfeit from Bloomingdale and then defeating second-place Bangor and third-place Calvin Christian (4-3) by a combined 99-0 over the last two weeks. Carson City-Crystal 26, Blanchard Montabella 22 In its first year as part of an 8-player league, Carson City-Crystal (7-0) is a champion with this clinching a share of the MSAC Blue title as Montabella (4-3) moved into a tie for third.

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PHOTOS (Top) Grand Rapids Catholic Central breaks away for a 49-14 win over Ada Forest Hills Eastern. (Middle) Marquette's Jacob MacPhee (1) catches a pass from quarterback Jaxon Jurmu. (Top photo by Michigan Sports Photo. Middle photo by Cara Kamps.)

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.)