1st & Goal: Week 4 in Review

September 22, 2020

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

High school football returned to communities all over Michigan this past weekend. Everything from mask requirements to spectator limits made games look different.

But by the end of Saturday, much more felt closer to normal as nearly 600 teams took the field.

We’re still running a little behind, but catching up quickly with our “Week 4” review briefly detailing some of the results that could end up mattering most as we quickly roll through this abbreviated regular season.

We again split the state into regions and 8-player, with links to coverage and available video highlights included if tweeted by statewide media.

Bay & Thumb

HEADLINER Frankenmuth 41, Freeland 3 Both won nine games last season and would be part of the Tri-Valley Conference Central together again this fall, but that division was split into two smaller ones for the abbreviated schedule. The Eagles got off to a fast start rolling up 312 yards rushing and holding the Falcons to only 144 yards total. Click for more from the Saginaw News.

Watch list Harbor Beach 16 Ubly 14 Harbor Beach claimed last year’s Greater Thumb Conference East title by a win over Ubly, and finds itself quickly leading the way again thanks to a late go-ahead 2-point conversion.

Remember this one Beaverton 6, Sanford Meridian 0 The Beavers started their Jack Pine Conference repeat campaign by defeating another major challenger in Meridian – and Beaverton doesn’t play last year’s runner-up Clare this season as that game previously had been scheduled for Week 3.

More shoutouts Linden 35, Flushing 21 The Eagles are coming off two straight 4-5 finishes, both of which began with losses to Flushing. Davison 48, Flint Powers Catholic 0 These teams combined for 22 wins last season, but Davison won the matchup this weekend by this score for the second straight year.  

Greater Detroit

HEADLINER Detroit Cass Tech 34, Detroit Martin Luther King 26 It’s tough to think of a better season start for the Technicians than avenging last year’s 47-7 loss to their biggest rival. But this might just be round one again this fall. These two very well could meet in the Detroit Public School League championship game in four weeks. Click for more from the Detroit News and see highlights below from State Champs Sports Network.

Watch list Macomb Dakota 29, Clinton Township Chippewa Valley 20 Dakota already had avenged last season’s 27-21 loss to eventual Macomb Area Conference Red champion Chippewa Valley, defeating the Big Reds 34-13 in a playoff opener. But this win makes the Cougars possible league favorites.

Remember this one Armada 24, Richmond 23 The Tigers are playing for their first winning season since 2012, and breaking a nine-game losing streak against Richmond is a great way to start.

More shoutouts West Bloomfield 39, Oak Park 0 These two Oakland Activities Association 2019 division champions are playing in the same OAA Red this fall. Orchard Lake St. Mary’s 28, Walled Lake Western 7 The Eaglets opened with an impressive win over a Western team that fell a one-point loss to the eventual champion short from playing at Ford Field in 2019.


HEADLINER DeWitt 37, Portland 3 After Portland’s 29-27 win in this matchup was one of the most memorable games in the Lansing area for 2019, DeWitt made one of the loudest impressions statewide to start 2020. Both programs have averaged double-digit wins over the last five seasons. Click for more from the Lansing State Journal.

Watch list Williamston 22, Fowlerville 6 Both were among four teams from the Capital Area Activities Conference Red to make the playoffs last season, and Williamston likely jumps in among the league title contenders with this win.

Remember this one Grand Ledge 34, St. Johns 17 The Comets won just two games a year ago, but opened with a win over a 2019 playoff team.

More shoutouts Saranac 35, Fulton 6 Saranac is halfway to last year’s win total after avenging a 29-point loss to the Pirates. Ithaca 47, Saginaw Nouvel 27 This was a major win for the Yellowjackets as both 2019 playoff teams are now part of the same division of the TVC West.

Northern Lower Peninsula

HEADLINER Traverse City Central 53, Traverse City West 13 This was the largest margin of victory in this rivalry game ever, after West split off from the former Traverse City High School in 1997. The Trojans have won two straight in the series. Click for more from the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

Watch list McBain 30, Lake City 0 The Ramblers had lost five straight to Lake City, but look immediately like a contender in the Highland Conference.

Remember this one Charlevoix 58, Frankfort 14 The Red Rayders enjoyed one of the state’s most impressive turnarounds last season, and the momentum seems to be continuing as they scored their most points in a game since 2014.

More shoutouts East Jordan 14, Elk Rapids 6 The Red Devils had lost 12 straight to the Elks and hadn’t won a season opener since 2016. Harbor Springs 49, St. Ignace 0 These two were both playoff teams last season, when Harbor Springs won their matchup only 16-0.

Southwest Corridor

HEADLINER Sturgis 25, Three Rivers 21 The Trojans have won just one game each of the last two seasons, but former star quarterback Chance Stewart has them off to a great start in 2020. This win in his head coaching debut was the program’s first over Three Rivers since 2015, the last time Sturgis finished a season with a winning record. Click for more including video from JoeInsider.com.

Watch list Schoolcraft 49, Constantine 14 The Eagles ran their winning streak to eight over rival Constantine, but both still have league title hopes in separate divisions after sharing a championship a year ago while playing in the same Southwestern Athletic Conference Lakeshore.

Remember this one Battle Creek Pennfield 26, Battle Creek Harper Creek 20 Two good signs: The Panthers matched last season’s win total in the season debut and with their second win in seven tries against Harper Creek since the two joined the Interstate 8 Athletic Conference together.  

More shoutouts Portage Northern 15, Stevensville Lakeshore 12 This has turned into one of the state’s closest annual matchups with now nine of their last 10 matchups decided by eight points or fewer; Northern has won three straight over the Lancers. Mendon 26, White Pigeon 24 The Hornets avenged last season’s two-point loss, especially key in a Southwest 10 Conference that’s down to just five 11-player teams.

Southeast & Border

HEADLINER Adrian Madison 42, Ottawa Lake Whiteford 24 The Trojans, seeking their first winning season since 2009, couldn’t have started better than with their first victory over Whiteford since 1980. The Bobcats had won last year’s matchup 42-14. Click for more from the Adrian Daily Telegram.

Watch list Jackson Lumen Christi 28, Marshall 27 This was arguably the most exciting nail-biter of this week’s openers, with the Titans coming back to score the game-winning points during the final minutes.

Remember this one Hillsdale 28, Hudson 21 For the third time in five seasons, this one was decided by eight points or fewer, as the reigning Lenawee County Athletic Association champion ran its league winning streak to nine.

More shoutouts Chelsea 35, Dexter 12 The Bulldogs retained their streak in this rivalry after a much closer win a year ago. Erie Mason 54, Petersburg Summerfield 21 A capable scorer in 2019 that struggled defensively, Erie Mason opened its tenure in the Tri-County Conference giving up its fewest points in a game since Week 2 of 2016.

Upper Peninsula

HEADLINER Sault Ste. Marie 14, Traverse City St. Francis 7 Many eyes likely were caught by this Blue Devils win, with St. Francis coming off a trip to last year’s Regional Finals and averaging nearly 11 wins per season over the last five. But Sault Ste. Marie quietly has been building toward an attention grabber like this one, going 7-4 a year ago and winning a Division 4 playoff game. Click for more from The Sault Evening News.

Watch list Marquette 41, Menominee 18 This first meeting of two this fall didn’t count toward the Great Northern Conference standings but did send a pretty strong message as Marquette looks to win a third-straight title.

Remember this one Kingsford 17, Calumet 16 The Flivvers moved ahead to stay with 4:35 to play, handing Calumet only its second regular-season loss since 2017.

More shoutouts Houghton 3, Bark River-Harris 0 The Gremlins won their season opener for the first time since 2016 and after earning only two victories all of last season. Negaunee 39, Manistique 8 After just edging the Emeralds by two in 2019, Negaunee was able to stretch the margin this weekend.

West Michigan

HEADLINER Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central 21, Grand Rapids Christian 13 Forest Hills Central, which finished second last season in the Ottawa-Kent Conference White, welcomed reigning O-K Gold champion Grand Rapids Christian back into the league after four seasons away. The Rangers should again be White contenders, especially with reigning champion Cedar Springs among teams that moved to a new-look Gold this fall.  

Watch list Kent City 14, Morley Stanwood 0 The Eagles avenged the loss that decided the Central State Activities Association Silver title in favor of Morley Stanwood a year ago.

Remember this one Rockford 16, Jenison 13 (OT) The Rams are reigning champs in the O-K Red but got an immediate challenge from new league member Jenison, which formerly played in the O-K Black.

More shoutouts Hopkins 43, Muskegon Orchard View 0 The Vikings enjoyed an impressive start against an Orchard View program that was undefeated last regular season. Hudsonville 21, East Kentwood 13 East Kentwood had dismantled what was left of Hudsonville’s league title hopes last season – and the Eagles also broke a three-game losing streak to the Falcons with this avenging.


HEADLINER Vestaburg 28, Onekama 6 After going 0-9 in its final season of 11-player two years ago, Vestaburg improved substantially to 5-3 with the move to 8-player in 2019. But this weekend’s opening win certainly has been its most impressive post-switch, as the Portagers are just two years removed from finishing 8-Player Division 2 runner-up and went 7-4 last fall. Click for more from the Greenville Daily News.

Watch list Posen 52, Mio 22 The Thunderbolts’ undefeated league title run last season included a 20-point win over Posen, but the Vikings opened this fall by earning an upper hand in the North Star League’s first-year 8-player standings.

Remember this one Deckerville 58, New Haven Merritt Academy 17 These two reigning North Central Thumb League division champs are in the same division this fall, and Deckerville made an early statement.

More shoutouts North Adams-Jerome 14, Battle Creek St. Philip 12 The Rams beat the Tigers for the first time in four recent tries and after falling 41-0 last season. Genesee 54, Kingston 28 The Wolves more than flipped last year’s score after losing 52-30 to Kingston in 2019.

PHOTO: Marquette’s Justin Jurmu tries to pull in a pass from quarterback Austin Ridl, with Menominee’s Brady Waara trailing. (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.)