1st & Goal: Week 5 in Review

September 28, 2020

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Sometimes it doesn’t take long to recognize a team is very good.

We’re only two weeks into this abbreviated Michigan high school football season. But we’ve seen enough to know a few things already about likely title contenders.

Take East Lansing and Adrian Lenawee Christian, which defeated reigning MHSAA Finals champions (River Rouge and Colon, respectively) this weekend. Three more teams that finished runners-up in 2019 fell, with Northville, Hastings and Muskegon Mona Shores (see photo above) among those enjoying celebrations.

Those are just five of the victors noted below in our weekly look at results that popped off the page from every region of the state.

Bay & Thumb

HEADLINER Flint Beecher 27, Flint Hamady 21 This was big for Beecher for two major reasons of likely similar importance. The Bucs (2-0) had lost three straight to rival Hamady (1-1). This win also puts them in prime position to win the Genesee Area Conference title. And to top it off, it was only Hamady’s second regular-season loss since the start of 2017. See highlights below from WJRT. 

Watch list Sandusky 42, Harbor Beach 30 Last week we recognized Harbor Beach for edging Ubly, but this week it’s Sandusky (2-0) for breaking a four-game losing streak to the Pirates (1-1) and grabbing early momentum in the Greater Thumb Conference East.

Remember this one Frankenmuth 35, Saginaw Swan Valley 6 Not only the did the Eagles (2-0) avenge their 2019 playoff loss, but they have now outscored their anticipated two toughest regular-season opponents by a combined 76-9.

More shoutouts Swartz Creek 14, Linden 7 The Dragons (1-1) equaled last season’s win total in one night and avenged their 37-0 loss to Linden (1-1) from last fall. Croswell-Lexington 36, Richmond 0 The Pioneers (2-0) broke an eight-game losing streak against the Blue Devils (0-2).

Greater Detroit

HEADLINER Sterling Heights Stevenson 12, Macomb Dakota 7 While winning their first two games by just a combined nine points, Stevenson (2-0) has had a more noteworthy start than all but a few teams statewide after also defeating Utica Eisenhower in Week 1. The Macomb Area Conference Red got even stronger this year with the addition of Grosse Pointe South, and Stevenson is working its way toward the front of the line. Click for more from the Macomb Daily and see highlights below from State Champs Sports Network.

Watch list Belleville 69, Dearborn Fordson 0 The last two matchups between these teams were decided by a combined four points – so now we have another reason to be plugged in to the Tigers (2-0) as they work this season to take the next step after two straight Division 1 Semifinal appearances.

Remember this one Northville 24, Brighton 14 After being shut out by Brighton (1-1) the last two seasons by a combined 55-0, the Mustangs (1-1) bounced back to down the reigning Division 1 runner-up.

More shoutouts Center Line 8, Clawson 7 The Panthers (2-0) have doubled their wins from a year ago, and in this one edged the reigning Macomb Area Conference champion. Riverview 24, Milan 12 The Pirates also avenged a 2019 loss to move to 2-0, doubling up last season’s Huron League title winner.


HEADLINER East Lansing 21, River Rouge 6 The Trojans (2-0) announced themselves as deserving of serious attention in Division 2 with an impressive win over the reigning Division 3 champion. The Panthers (1-1) hadn’t been held to single-digit scoring since their 2018 playoff loss to Detroit Martin Luther King. Click for more from the Lansing State Journal.

Watch list Harrison 26, Beaverton 21 The Beavers (1-1) had beaten Harrison four straight seasons and are reigning Jack Pine Conference champions, but now will be chasing the Hornets (2-0) for the rest of this fall.

Remember this one Hastings 14, Jackson Lumen Christi 13 The Saxons shouldn’t soon forget it. Lumen (1-1) rarely loses during the regular season; in fact, the Titans rode a 22-game regular-season winning streak into this game and had beaten Hastings (1-1) by an average of 26 points over four straight recent wins.

More shoutouts Ithaca 39, Midland Bullock Creek 34 The reigning Tri-Valley Conference West I co-champs are in different divisions this season, but this had the back-and-forth of a title decider nonetheless. Hartland 62, Plymouth 7 The Eagles (2-0) broke a four-game losing streak against Plymouth (1-1) and after falling 35-13 a year ago.

Northern Lower Peninsula 

HEADLINER Kingsley 36, Ogemaw Heights 14 The Stags (2-0) ran their Northern Michigan Football League Legends winning streak to 12, with all of those wins by 19 or more points. The Falcons (1-1), previously a nonleague opponent, joined the Legends this season. Click for more from the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

Watch list Houghton Lake 32, Lake City 14 The Bobcats (2-0) have now won eight of nine league games since moving into the Highland Conference at the start of the 2019 season. 

Remember this one Frankfort 40, St. Ignace 12 Both had opened the season with defeats, but Frankfort got a nice rebound against a Saints team that made the playoffs last season. 

More shoutouts Benzie Central 34, Cheboygan 14 Cheboygan had won all five meetings over the last decade, including 44-0 a year ago. Harbor Springs 30, East Jordan 8 The Rams (2-0) have opened by outscoring their first two opponents by a combined 79-8.

Southeast & Border

HEADLINER Reading 52, Breckenridge 20 If this was any indication, two-time reigning Division 8 champion Reading (2-0) isn’t leaving the elite any time soon. The 52 points represent the most Breckenridge (1-1) has given up since Week 4 of 2015. The Rangers have won 15 straight. Click for more from the Hillsdale Daily News. 

Watch list Blissfield 31, Hillsdale 14 The Royals (2-0) are tied for the early lead in the Lenawee County Athletic Association after last year’s seven-point Hillsdale win in this matchup eventually led to the Hornets’ outright title.

Remember this one Clinton 54, Brooklyn Columbia Central 6 Clinton (2-0) is a new addition to the LCAA and immediately should impact the league title race – with Blissfield up this week.

More shoutouts Monroe 42, Jackson 14 The Trojans, winners of just three games a year ago, moved to 2-0 with a second victory over a team that finished above .500 last season. Ann Arbor Skyline 23, Ann Arbor Pioneer 7 Ann Arbor’s three public high schools opted to begin with Week 5, and Skyline began with equaling last season’s win total by avenging a 2019 defeat.

Southwest Corridor

HEADLINER Coldwater 24, Marshall 16 After two weeks, Coldwater is one of two teams (with Parma Western) still unbeaten from what’s quickly looking like a highly-competitive Interstate 8 Athletic Conference. Marshall might be one of the best 0-2 teams in the state after also falling to Lumen Christi by just a point in Week 4. Click for more from the Coldwater Daily Reporter.

Watch list Centreville 14, White Pigeon 8 The Bulldogs lost three Southwest 10 Conference games by a combined 24 points last season. This avenged one, and the other two opponents – Cassopolis then Mendon – are up next.

Remember this one Comstock 12, Berrien Springs 6 The Colts (1-1) broke a five-game losing streak against Berrien Springs and after losing 30-0 a year ago.

More shoutouts Vicksburg 43, Three Rivers 0 After a rough start Week 4 against Edwardsburg, Vicksburg (1-1) bounced back with a big win. Battle Creek Lakeview 6, Portage Central 0 The Spartans ran their regular-season winning streak to 11 with this their closest win of the run.

Upper Peninsula

HEADLINER Sault Ste. Marie 22, Marquette 16 The Blue Devils backed up the impressiveness their Week 4 opening win over Traverse City St. Francis with another that may have solidified them as the Upper Peninsula’s best this fall. Sault Ste. Marie (2-0) had lost four straight to Marquette (1-1), including 31-0 a year ago. Click for more from the Sault Ste. Marie Evening News.

Watch list Gladstone 22, Negaunee 20 The Braves (1-0) didn’t open until this weekend, but started out with a win over a traditional power and after falling behind early.

Remember this one Menominee 42, Marinette, Wis., 8 We always note this rivalry series that goes back to 1894 and that Menominee now leads 56-51-7.

More shoutouts West Iron County 16, L’Anse 7 Two games in, West Iron (2-0) has given up a combined 13 points. Iron Mountain 42, Bark River-Harris 6 The Mountaineers (2-0) ran their regular-season winning streak to 14 with this one over a 2019 playoff qualifier.

West Michigan

HEADLINER Muskegon Mona Shores 21, Muskegon 14 There are only a handful of matchups in Michigan these days that can contend with this one to be called the state’s best rivalry game. This latest chapter backs that up. After falling to the Big Reds 53-0 a year ago and going on to win the Division 2 championship, Mona Shores (2-0) this time beat Muskegon (1-1) – last season’s Division 3 runner-up – for the first time since 2015. Click for more from the Muskegon Chronicle.

Watch list Montague 42, Muskegon Oakridge 6 This also belongs high on the statewide rivalry list, with this big win coming off two seasons where the matchups were decided by a combined three points. 

Remember this one Byron Center 41, Grand Rapids Christian 6 The new-look Ottawa-Kent Conference White is impressive, and defeating last year’s Gold champ big could be a sign reigning Green champ Byron Center is ready to be in the mix again.

More shoutouts Hudsonville Unity Christian 39, Grand Rapids West Catholic 21 Unity (2-0) seems like a strong pick to emerge as a power in the new O-K Blue, and if tradition holds this win could mean even more in a few weeks. Manistee 34, Muskegon Orchard View 20 The 2018 Lakes 8 Athletic Conference champ avenged last season’s 58-7 defeat to the eventual 2019 title winner.


HEADLINER Adrian Lenawee Christian 24, Colon 6 Make way for the Cougars (2-0). Lenawee, in its first season of 8-player, broke reigning Division 1 champion Colon’s 14-game winning streak and dealt the Magi (1-1) only their third loss as an 8-player program (against 24 wins). Click for more from the Adrian Daily Telegram. 

Watch list Whittemore-Prescott 66, Mio 16 A late add to 8-player this fall, Whittemore-Prescott has scored a combined 114 points during its 2-0 start.

Remember this one Martin 39, Bridgman 12 Last season’s Martin win in this matchup ultimately decided the Southwest Michigan 8-Man Football League title.

More shoutouts Pickford 20, Cedarville 0 The Panthers (2-0) appear on their way again after a fifth-straight win over the Trojans (1-1). Hale 14, Hillman 12 After falling just shy 54-42 against the Tigers last season, Hale scored just enough and rebounded after a season-opening loss.

PHOTO: Muskegon Mona Shores avenged its 2019 loss to Muskegon on Friday with a 21-14 victory. (Photo by Tim Reilly.)

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.)