1st & Goal: Week 8 In Review

October 20, 2020

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Even with a shortened regular season, football teams across Michigan are equaling past accomplishments or at least making better on their performances of a year ago.

Many of our notes this week highlight the crowning, at least partially in some cases, of a league champion. But those other little successes – like surpassing last season’s win total, or ending a losing streak – also make every week memorable, with many more teams seeing the fruits of work and patience during an otherwise unpredictable fall.

Below is our look at many who found reasons to celebrate during Week 8.

Bay & Thumb

HEADLINER Hemlock 12, Millington 6 Defense reigned as Hemlock (5-0) clinched the Tri-Valley Conference West championship – its first league title since 2012. Millington (4-1) continued to shine defensively, with its average points given up per game rising just a few tenths to 10.6 this season. But Hemlock’s defense was a score stronger, lowering its average points allowed this fall to 14.6 per game. Click for more from the Saginaw News and see highlights below from WJRT.

Watch list Marine City 24, Marysville 21 The Mariners (5-0) finished a perfect run through the  Macomb Area Conference Silver for the second-straight season, while extending their winning streak over Marysville (4-1) to four.

Remember this one Harbor Beach 42, Marlette 20 The Pirates (3-2) will finish second in the Greater Thumb Conference East but made sure only Sandusky will finish first by handing the Red Raiders (3-2) their only league loss of an abbreviated schedule.

More shoutouts Almont 28, Richmond 25 (OT) For the first time in a long time, these two aren’t really in the mix in the Blue Water Area Conference – but the rivalry remains notable as Almont (2-1) extended its winning streak to four.  Bad Axe 26, Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port Laker 6 With Bad Axe (4-1) and Cass City not facing off this season – that game was among those canceled early on – this win cemented a shared GTC East championship for both.

Greater Detroit

HEADLINER Sterling Heights Stevenson 42, Grosse Pointe South 35 At the end of one of the most intriguing league races of this shortened season, Sterling Heights Stevenson finished tied for first with Macomb Dakota, thanks to this win that sent Grosse Pointe South (3-2) into third place. The Titans (4-1) continued a rise that began with last season’s run to the Division 1 Semifinals after they had finished only 1-4 in the Red last fall. Click for more from the Macomb Daily.

Watch list Detroit Cass Tech 41, Detroit Martin Luther King 19 After defeating King (3-2) by eight in their season opener, the Technicians (5-0) more than doubled that during this Detroit Public School League 1-2 championship game – a great sign with the postseason approaching.

Remember this one Clarkston Everest Collegiate 41, Royal Oak Shrine 7 This was the third time in five seasons these two decided the Detroit Catholic League Intersectional 2 championship, and the Mountaineers (5-0) are a win away from a second-straight undefeated regular season.

More shoutouts Dearborn Heights Crestwood 21, Garden City 12 After a down 2019, Crestwood (5-0) clinched its second Western Wayne Athletic Conference championship in three seasons. Canton 49, Hartland 28 The Chiefs (5-0) clinched the Kensington Lakes Activities Association West title outright and can finish a perfect league run against reigning champ Plymouth.


HEADLINER Mount Pleasant 21, Midland Dow 0 The Oilers (4-1) threw a wrench into an anticipated Saginaw Valley League Blue championship decider this week between Dow and Midland High. Mount Pleasant earned itself a chance at a shared championship instead, if the Chargers (4-1) are able to hand the Chemics their first loss Friday. Click for more from the Mount Pleasant Morning Sun.

Watch list Holt 26, Portage Northern 0 The weekend’s biggest upset statewide saw the Rams (2-2) shut down Portage Northern (4-1), not only handing the Huskies their first defeat but holding them scoreless for the first time since 2014.

Remember this one Pewamo-Westphalia 30, Fowler 7 Although the Central Michigan Athletic Conference decided to not award a league champion because of the shortened schedule, the Pirates (5-0) still ran their league winning streak to 39 and run against Fowler (4-1) to six straight since the Eagles handed them that last CMAC loss in 2014.

More shoutouts New Lothrop 49, Durand 6 The Hornets (5-0) clinched another Mid-Michigan Activities Conference title by handing Durand (4-1) its first defeat. Williamston 17, Olivet 6 The Hornets (5-0) prepped for their Capital Area Activities Conference Red decider this week by handing Olivet (4-1) its first loss.

Northern Lower Peninsula

HEADLINER McBain 23, Beal City 19 The Ramblers (5-0) locked up their first Highland Conference title since 2015 with their fourth-straight win over the Aggies (4-1), who also entered the evening unbeaten. McBain is one of 11 undefeated teams left in Division 7.  See below for highlights from MI Sports Now.

Watch list Kingsley 40, Sault Ste. Marie 6 With a game to play, the Northern Michigan Football Conference Legends has belonged firmly to the Stags (5-0), who clinched a second-straight title by handing second-place Sault Ste. Marie (3-2) its first league loss.

Remember this one Traverse City West 45, Cadillac 27 These teams finished second and third, respectively, in the Big North Conference, and West (4-1) continued its string of four-straight 40-plus point offensive efforts since losing to eventual champion Traverse City Central in the season opener.

More shoutouts Traverse City St. Francis 35, Ogemaw Heights 14 The Gladiators (3-2) continued to establish solid footing in advance of the Division 7 playoffs with a win over Division 5 Ogemaw Heights (3-2). Maple City Glen Lake 18, Benzie Central 0 The Lakers (4-1) posted their second shutout of the season and are giving up only 6.6 points per game.

Southeast & Border

HEADLINER Erie Mason 56, Sand Creek 38 The Eagles’ offense continued to roll as they clinched a share of the Tri-County Conference championship, their first league title since 2003, while handing Sand Creek (4-1) its first defeat. Erie Mason (5-0) now also has as many wins as the last four seasons combined – and with 282 points, needs 48 more to equal how many it scored over nine games a year ago. The Eagles are averaging 56.4 per game. Click for more from the Adrian Daily Telegram.

Watch list Reading 26, Homer 19 The Rangers (4-1) losing to Jonesville in Week 6 was no reason to write them off, as they’ve bounced back to hand Homer (4-1) its first loss. Reading no doubt will root for Homer to take down Jonesville this week to set up a shared Big 8 Conference title.

Remember this one Blissfield 42, Ida 40 The Royals (5-0) earned a share of the Lenawee County Athletic Association title, but only after holding off the Bluestreaks (2-3) after they were tied with less than nine minutes to play.

More shoutouts Michigan Center 42, Manchester 7 The Cardinals (2-1) got one game in this fall before having to take two weeks off, but they’ve won both matchups since returning to the field. Adrian Madison 46, Pittsford 6 The Trojans improved to 4-1, equaling their win total from last season and setting them up for a possible fifth victory – which would give Madison its winningest finish since 2009.

Southwest Corridor

HEADLINER Schoolcraft 45, Lawton 14 The Eagles (4-1) clinched a share of the Southwestern Athletic Conference Valley title, to go with their shared SAC Lakeshore championship from last season, and by defeating the Valley’s 2019 champ. Schoolcraft shut down a Lawton offense that averaged 42.5 points per game during its 4-0 start. Click for more from the Kalamazoo Gazette and see highlights below from FOX 17.

Watch list Constantine 43, Kalamazoo United 28 Last season these two and Schoolcraft shared the Lakeshore title, and this win over the formerly co-leading Titans (4-1) guaranteed the Falcons (4-1) will do at least the same again.

Remember this one Stevensville Lakeshore 13, Battle Creek Lakeview 7 Although the Southwestern Athletic Conference also isn’t awarding a league champion this season, this was a display of the strength among the league’s teams as Lakeshore (4-1) handed Lakeview (4-1) its first defeat.

More shoutouts Battle Creek Harper Creek 50, Marshall 27 The Beavers (3-2) have picked up two straight impressive victories and with one more would have their winningest season since 2017. Coloma 24, Watervliet 16 The Comets (4-1) put themselves in position to force a shared Lakeshore title with Constantine up this week.

Upper Peninsula

HEADLINER Marquette 27, Escanaba 6 To say the Great Northern Conference has navigated twists and turns this fall would be an understatement. But at the end of the league schedule, Marquette (4-1) is champion for the second straight season, and Escanaba (0-2) was able to get back on the field for the first time this year. Click for more from the Marquette Mining Journal.

Watch list Menominee 41, Gladstone 0 Two losses to Marquette have Menominee at 3-2, but in the Maroons’ two wins on the field they’ve averaged 41.5 points.

Remember this one Houghton 15, Negaunee 13 The Gremlins (2-1) have been forced to miss multiple games as well, but on this night were able to break a recent two-game losing streak to the Miners (3-2) and avenge last season’s 35-0 defeat.

More shoutouts West Iron County 20, Gwinn 14 (OT) The Wykons (5-0)  held Gwinn (2-3) scoreless in overtime and then scored on their ensuing set of downs to remain undefeated. Calumet 34, Hancock 18 The Copper Kings (2-2) tuned up for what could be an intriguing regular-season finale this week with Marquette.

West Michigan

HEADLINER Montague 34, Whitehall 31 (2OT) A double-overtime field goal won this game for Montague in one of the state’s longest- running rivalries, giving the Wildcats a 64-48-2 advantage since they began playing in 1921 – and more importantly, a share of another West Michigan Conference championship. Click for more from the Muskegon Chronicle.

Watch list Grand Rapids Catholic Central 28, Ada Forest Hills Eastern 3 The Cougars (5-0) set themselves up to face Grand Rapids South Christian this week for the outright Ottawa-Kent Conference Gold title.

Remember this one Muskegon 15, Zeeland West 14 The Big Reds (4-1) came back from a 14-0 deficit to knock Zeeland West (4-1) out of a tie for first place (with Mona Shores)  in the O-K Green.  

More shoutouts Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern 35, Lowell 22 the Huskies opened 0-2 but have won three straight to equal their win totals of each of the last two seasons. Grand Rapids West Catholic 34, Allendale 12 The Falcons (4-1) held on to second place in the O-K Blue and will now cheer for Allendale (3-2) to defeat league leader Hudsonville Unity Christian this week.


HEADLINER Portland St. Patrick 26, Merrill 22 Both should have championship aspirations, as St. Patrick (5-0) entered this game No. 2 in Division 2 based on playoff-point average, and Merrill (4-1) was tied for No. 2 in Division 1. Click for more from the Lansing State Journal.

Watch list Morrice 57, Kingston 0 The Orioles (5-0) moved into the No. 2 spot alone in Division 1 playoff-point average and have yet to score fewer than 52 points in a game this season while allowing 34 total over five games.

Remember this one Kinde-North Huron 36, Peck 6 The Warriors clinched their second league title in four seasons, this time in the North Central Thumb League Stripes, while improving their scoring margin to a combined 222-12 this fall.

More shoutouts Cedarville 32, Munising 8 The Trojans moved to 4-1 by handing Munising (4-1) its first defeat and locking down an offense formerly averaging 34.5 points per game. Deckerville 56, Genesee 36 The Eagles (4-1) bounced right back from the Week 7 loss to Mayville with another 50-point performance.

PHOTO: Battle Creek Pennfield takes the field at the start of a 49-7 win over Jackson Northwest on Friday. (Photo by Scott Mapes.)

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.)