1st & Goal: 2023 Week 8 Review

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

October 16, 2023

The sun is setting  and lately, a ton of rain has been falling on the 2023 football regular season. 

MI Student AidWeek 8 saw most of the rest of the remaining league championships decided, and tons of movement up and down the list of potential playoff qualifiers as 20 teams moved into (and 20 out of) the possible field of 288.

Several more teams moved up and down their respective division lists, nearly as important as projections of which teams will be going where and which will be hosting playoff games begin to fly with more frequency this week and we draw closer to Sunday's 6 p.m. "Selection Sunday Show" on Bally Sports Detroit Extra.

Below is our latest look at the most recent results that caused notable shifts in the landscape.

Bay & Thumb

HEADLINER Davison 35, Grand Blanc 21 Davison clinched a share of the Saginaw Valley League Red championship, moved to 8-0 overall this season and jumped three spots back to No. 3 on the Division 1 playoff-points average list. That’s a strong haul from a third-straight win over the Cardinals’ biggest rival, but their regular-season work isn’t done yet. Grand Blanc (5-3) still could end up with a share of the Red title if Lapeer is able to catch Davison this week. Click for more from WJRT.

Watch list Ubly 42, Cass City 8 After reaching Ford Field two of the last three season, Ubly (8-0) appears locked in for another run. The Bearcats won this matchup of Greater Thumb Conference division champions to jump to a season-best No. 3 on the Division 8 playoff-points average list. Cass City (6-2) remains firmly in the middle of the Division 7 list.

On the move Harbor Beach 18, Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port Laker 6 Its only loss to Ubly, Harbor Beach (7-1) further set itself up for a possible playoff rematch with this win over the Division 7 hopeful Lakers (4-4). Midland 41, Lapeer 24 Midland (5-3) has been a mainstay on the Division 2 playoff-points average list but firmed up its position with its best win this season, as Lapeer also is 5-3. Saginaw Swan Valley 14, Birch Run 10 A three-game winning streak has Swan Valley (5-3) up to No. 18 on the Division 5 playoff-points average list after sitting just outside the top 32 after Week 3. Birch Run (5-3) remains No. 4 on the same list.

Greater Detroit

HEADLINER Detroit Cass Tech 24, Detroit Martin Luther King 23 Cass Tech (6-2) finished a season sweep of its rival to complete a Detroit Public School League Blue championship. Five of the last six meetings between these PSL powers have been decided by seven points or fewer, and Corey Sadler Jr. was a difference maker in several ways as the Technicians firmed up their position in the Division 1 playoff field. King (4-4), meanwhile, moved up in Division 3 as well. Click for more from the Detroit Free Press.

Watch list Gibraltar Carlson 20, Allen Park 18 Carlson (7-1) has guaranteed itself at least a share of the Downriver League championship for the third straight season and can claim it outright for the first time during this streak this week against Lincoln Park. In handing Allen Park (7-1) its only loss, the Marauders capitalized with a five-position boost to No. 2 on the Division 2 playoff-points average list.

On the move Detroit Denby 29, Detroit Central 28 Denby (8-0) played by far its closest game of an otherwise dominating run to earn the PSL Blue championship. Central (4-4), which also lost to Denby 38-24 in Week 4, is one of only two opponents to score on Denby this fall. Northville 28, Novi 14 The winner-take-all for the Kensington Lakes Activities Association East title went to Northville (8-0), which continued its ascension after finishing second in the league a year ago and 3-6 in 2021. Novi (6-2), similarly, has guaranteed its best finish since 2016. West Bloomfield 31, Southfield Arts & Technology 20 In handing the Warriors (7-1) their only loss, West Bloomfield was able to nearly switch spots with A&T on the Division 1 playoff-points average list – the Lakers moved from No. 11 to 7, and Southfield moved from No. 4 to 11.\


HEADLINER Mason 30, Walled Lake Western 7 Walled Lake Western was top-ranked and Mason tied with Zeeland West for No. 2 in last week’s Division 3 coaches poll, but Mason (8-0) didn’t allow a point after the first quarter while its offensive stars found their footing including senior running back AJ Martel a week after setting the school’s career rushing record. Walled Lake Western (7-1) remains No. 1 on the Division 3 playoff-points average list, with Mason No. 4 but with another chance to gain this week against Fenton. Click for more from WILX.

Watch list Corunna 57, Fenton 7 In commanding fashion, Corunna (8-0) won the Flint Metro League championship game and put itself in position to play for a first perfect regular season since 2002. Fenton (6-2), as noted above, will face another undefeated team in its regular-season finale in Mason.

On the move Portland 41, Lansing Sexton 0 In another dominating performance, Portland (8-0) won this winner-take-all for the Capital Area Activities Conference White championship, stopping Sexton (7-1) and an offense that was averaging 37 points per game. Mount Pleasant 42, Midland Dow 7 After a big Week 1 loss to Saginaw Heritage, Mount Pleasant may have faded from the championship focus a bit – but the Oilers are back in a big way, having clinched the SVL Blue title outright and sitting in the No. 3 spot on the Division 3 playoff-points average list for the second-straight week after putting Dow (4-4) back outside the field at No. 34 in Division 2. Hastings 51, Jackson Northwest 14 Despite a 1-2 start in nonleague play, Hastings (6-2) also has bounced back in a big way and with this win clinched the Interstate 8 Athletic Conference title while moving to No. 8 on the Division 4 playoff-points average list.

Davison defenders swarm during their win over Grand Blanc.

Northern Lower Peninsula

HEADLINER Gaylord 24, Jackson Lumen Christi 21 During a stunning season for Gaylord (8-0), and a weekend with plenty of stunners statewide, the Blue Devils made another headline by remaining undefeated while handing Lumen Christi (7-1) its only loss. The reigning Division 7 champion Titans had won 18 straight games going back to September 2022. Click for more from the Petoskey News-Review.

Watch list East Jordan 38, Frankfort 36 This was similarly massive among the small schools up north, as East Jordan (7-1) scored during the closing seconds to take a winner-take-all and its second Northern Michigan Football Conference Legacy title over the last three seasons. Frankfort (6-2) finished second for the third consecutive season.

On the move Benzie Central 28, Maple City Glen Lake 14 A third-straight win sent Benzie (5-3) up six spots on the Division 7 playoff-points average list to No. 15 and Glen Lake (4-4) down seven spots to No. 29 in Division 8. Petoskey 27, Sault Ste. Marie 7 With another tough opponent in Clare this week, there was some added urgency in this matchup for Petoskey – and the Northmen (5-3) jumped eight spots on the Division 3 playoff-points average list to No. 24 while Sault Ste. Marie (5-3) fell six spots in Division 4 to No. 32. Boyne City 28, Oscoda 0 Despite still falling one spot on the Division 6 list to No. 27, Boyne City (4-4) also connected on a must-win as it seeks to reach the playoffs for the 10th time in 12 seasons.

Southeast & Border

HEADLINER Dundee 22, Hudson 16 (OT) After losing to Hudson the last three years by 14, 28 and then 29 points last fall, respectively, Dundee took its opportunity to impact this week’s Lenawee County Athletic Association championship decider between Hudson and Clinton, with Hudson (7-1) now needing a win to share the title instead of winning it outright. More importantly, the Vikings (5-3) also jumped two spots into No. 32 on the Division 5 playoff-points average list. Click for more from the Monroe News. 

Watch list Ann Arbor Pioneer 40, Ann Arbor Huron 38 Pioneer, 5-3 this fall after going a combined 2-22 over the last three seasons, had lost three straight to Huron (4-4) including 57-0 a year ago. Thanks to this win, Pioneer also jumped five spots to No. 20 on the Division 1 playoff-points average list.

On the move Chelsea 17, Trenton 14 (OT) Myles Bieber made three field goals for Chelsea (7-1), including one to tie the score with 34 seconds left in regulation and then the game-winner in overtime after Trenton (4-4) threw an interception. Michigan Center 42, Manchester 27 After its league title chances all but ended with a Week 7 loss to Napoleon, Michigan Center (6-2) bounced back to secure second place and move to No. 17 on the Division 6 playoff-points average list while Manchester (6-2) is No. 12 in Division 7. Ottawa Lake Whiteford 45, Union City 7 Whiteford (8-0) won a matchup of league champions and maintained its top spot on the Division 8 playoff-points average list while Union City (6-2) fell to No. 15 on the Division 7 tracker.

Southwest Corridor

HEADLINER Lawton 21, Saugatuck 0 By handing Schoolcraft and Saugatuck (7-1) their only league losses over the last two weeks, Lawton (7-1) secured the Southwestern Athletic Conference Valley championship for the third straight season. Caleb Mallory had two of the Lawton scores, and the Blue Devils stopped a Saugatuck offense averaging 37.3 points per game. See below for more from WZZM.

Watch list Constantine 20, South Haven 0 Constantine (7-1) pushed its SAC Lakeshore winning streak to 20 and its championship streak to five straight with its second shutout in four league games. The Falcons earned a share and can clinch the title outright this week against Parchment, with South Haven (5-3) and Kalamazoo United a game back and hoping for an upset while they also face off.

On the move Berrien Springs 38, Benton Harbor 14 After finishing runner-up last season, Berrien Springs finished an outright championship in the Lakeland Conference and moved up four spots to No. 23 on the Division 5 playoff-points average list. Edwardsburg 34, Vicksburg 20 The Eddies bounced back from two straight losses to keep their playoff hopes alive as they attempt to extend their streak to 14 straight postseasons. After falling out of the top 32 on the Division 4 playoff-points average list in Week 7, the Eddies moved back to No. 30 while Vicksburg fell from No. 30 to 35. Portage Northern 38, Stevensville Lakeshore 17 Coming off a tough loss to rival Portage Central, Northern (7-1) climbed back up the Division 2 playoff-points average list to No. 9, while Lakeshore fell to No. 16 on the Division 3 tracker.

An Otsego rusher charges into the line during a rainy 47-6 win by Paw Paw.

Upper Peninsula

HEADLINER Kingsford 41, Menominee 32 Trailing at halftime, Kingsford (7-1) turned to powerful back Elizin Rouse and followed his historic performance to a share of the Western Peninsula Athletic Conference Copper title in the first season in the league for both teams after previously playing football in the Great Northern Conference. Kingsford is the No. 16 team on the Division 6 playoff-points average list, and Menominee (6-2) fell only to No. 7 in Division 7. Click for more from the Iron Mountain Daily News.

Watch list Bark River-Harris 56, Manistique 14 After falling back as far as No. 38 on the Division 8 playoff-points average list, Bark River-Harris (5-3) has won three straight and is back to No. 26, with Manistique (4-4) still on the bubble in Division 7 at No. 36.

On the move Negaunee 13, Houghton 6 Negaunee (7-1) also secured a share of the Copper title while holding off a potential spoiler in Houghton (2-6). Marquette 28, Cadillac 13 The bounce-back season continued as Marquette (5-2) secured at least second in the Big North Conference with a chance at a league title share if Sault Ste. Marie can catch Gaylord this week. Cadillac (4-4) remains in the postseason running in Division 3 at No. 30 on that playoff-points average list, while Marquette moved up to No. 20. Gladstone 28, Calumet 21 Gladstone (6-2) is back to No. 7 on the Division 6 playoff-points average list, while Calumet (3-5) sits No. 36.

West Michigan

HEADLINER Rockford 34, Grandville 13 Make that five straight Ottawa-Kent Conference Red championships for the Rams (8-0), who clinched a share and can finish an outright title this week against Hudsonville. Grandville (6-2) did give the Rams their closest league game so far, but quarterback Drake Irwin continued to shine with two rushing and two passing touchdowns for Rockford. Click for more from the Grand Rapids Press.

Watch list Grand Rapids Catholic Central 21, Grand Rapids South Christian 12 A year ago it was South Christian (6-2) winning this matchup and eventually the O-K Gold title, but this time GRCC (7-1) took it back and needs only to defeat winless Ottawa Hills this week to finish an outright championship run.

On the move Byron Center 9, East Grand Rapids 0 Six of eight teams in the O-K White remain .500 or better overall, but Byron Center (7-1) is tied at the top with Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central with one league game left for both and East Grand Rapids (6-2) now tied for third. Muskegon Mona Shore 14, Zeeland West 6 Both are left chasing Muskegon in the O-K Green after both falling to the Big Reds, but from a playoffs point of view this was huge as Mona Shores (6-2) moved up six spots to No. 13 on the Division 2 list and Zeeland West (6-2) fell back only three to No. 13 in Division 3. Montague 24, Manistee 22 Montague (4-4) got a big boost as it bounces back from a 2-4 start, as this win vaulted the Wildcats five spots on the Division 6 list for the second week in a row, this time to No. 16. Manistee fell back only three spots to No. 5 with a possible rematch ahead.


HEADLINER Adrian Lenawee Christian 41, Pittsford 0 It’s been this kind of season for Lenawee Christian (8-0), which for the second time in three weeks handed the first loss to a highly-ranked opponent. Pittsford (7-1) had given up only 54 points total over its seven victories, but the Cougars got to 35-0 by halftime of this Southern Central Athletic Association East clincher. Click for more from the Adrian Daily Telegram.

Watch list Bay City All Saints 47, Akron-Fairgrove 6 The winner would claim the North Central Thumb League Stripes title outright, and All Saints did so – with the championship its first since sharing the Greater Thumb Conference West title in 2003. These two flip-flopped on the Division 2 playoff-points average list, with All Saints (7-1) moving to No. 8 and Akron-Fairgrove (6-2) at No. 13.

On the move Norway 32, Powers North Central 26 The Knights (6-2) clinched a share of the Great Lakes Eight Conference West title with this win over the reigning champion Jets (6-2). Pickford 60, Newberry 52 Tommy Storey made the record book multiple times in leading Pickford to this outright clincher in the GLEC East, as Newberry (6-2) fell to third. Alcona 66, Rogers City 0 Alcona (7-1) claimed the North Star League Big Dipper title outright after losing by 16 to finish second to Rogers City (4-4) a year ago.

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PHOTOS (Top) Detroit Cass Tech celebrates during its PSL Gold championship win at Ford Field. (Middle) Davison defenders swarm during their win over Grand Blanc. (Below) An Otsego rusher charges into the line during a rainy 47-6 win by Paw Paw. (Top photo by Olivia B. Photography, middle photo by Terry Lyons, below photo by Gary Shook.) 

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.)