1st & Goal: Week 9 in Review

October 26, 2020

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Whether it’s 6-0, 0-6, or somewhere in between, your local football team deserves our admiration for a job well done this fall.

We started late, after not knowing if we’d play at all, and amid a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic. And regardless of the wins and losses on the field, every team contributed to a figure worth celebrating – every week of this abbreviated regular season, at least 96 percent of varsity teams were cleared to play, a credit to the work done by players, coaches, administrators and families statewide to ensure that continued opportunity.

Of course, there were other memorable numbers established this weekend on the field – perhaps none more incredible than Bridgman’s record 47-point comeback highlighted in our 8-player review.

Bay & Thumb

HEADLINER Midland 32, Midland Dow 6 The Chemics (6-0) nearly reversed last season’s 42-7 loss to Dow, in doing so clinching an outright Saginaw Valley League Blue title and their first perfect regular season since 2012. Midland held the Chargers (4-2) scoreless until the fourth quarter. With wins by both this week, they would meet again in a Division 2 District Semifinal. Click for more from the Midland Daily News and see highlights below from WJRT.

Watch list Grand Blanc 14, Saline 13 The Bobcats (5-1) finished runners-up in the SVL Red, but added to their intriguing playoff potential by handing Saline (5-1) its first loss.

Remember this one Davison 37, Lapeer 6 The Cardinals’ first regular-season win over Lapeer (3-3) since 2017 sealed the SVL Red championship. Davison (6-0) hosts Lapeer this week in Division 1 and has beaten the Lightning in the playoffs two of the last three seasons.

More shoutouts Fenton 33, Ortonville Brandon 21 The Tigers (6-0) remain undefeated after handing Brandon (5-1) its first defeat in this matchup of Flint Metro League divisional champions. Imlay City 28, Almont 14 The Spartans (4-2) defeated the reigning Division 5 runner-up Pirates (2-2) for the first time since 2008 and after losing 56-7 a year ago.

Greater Detroit

HEADLINER Macomb Dakota 42, Traverse City Central 16 The Cougars (5-1) are surging heading into the Division 1 playoffs, adding this win over Big North Conference champion Central to its shared Macomb Area Conference Red title. Dakota scored its season high and held the Trojans (5-1) to 36 points below their season average. Click for more from MLive-Detroit and see highlights below from State Champs Sports Network.

Watch list Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice 23, Detroit Country Day 13 The Warriors (5-1) are on a roll heading into the Division 3 playoffs after handing Country Day (3-2) its first on-field loss of the fall.

Remember this one New Boston Huron 34, Dearborn Heights Crestwood 0 After tying for second in the Huron League, the Chiefs (5-1) are rolling into the Division 3 bracket as well after handing Western Wayne Athletic Conference champion Crestwood (5-1) its first defeat.

More shoutouts Rochester Hills Stoney Creek 40, Birmingham Groves 14 The Cougars (6-0) capped their first undefeated regular season by clinching the outright Oakland Activities Association White title against annual contender Groves (3-3). Detroit Catholic Central 45, Detroit Loyola 14 The Shamrocks (6-0) added the Prep Bowl Bishop championship to their Catholic League Central title, handing AA champ Loyola (5-1) its first loss.


HEADLINER Mason 40, Williamston 10 The Capital Area Activities Conference Red title came down to these two undefeated teams, and more specifically to Mason’s offense vs. Williamston’s defense. The Bulldogs (6-0) prevailed to repeat as champs, scoring nearly half of the points Williamston has given up all season while also holding the Hornets (5-1) to their season low. Click for more from the Lansing State Journal and see highlights below from WLNS.

Watch list Lansing Catholic 28, Pewamo-Westphalia 13 The Cougars (4-2) haven’t grabbed as much attention as usual this season, but consider their losses were to teams that are a combined 11-1 – and that they are headed to the playoffs having ended P-W’s 19-game winning streak.

Remember this one Clare 26, Sanford Meridian 20 The Pioneers’ only single-digit regular-season game decided the Jack Pine Conference title, as Clare (6-0) earned it outright and denied Meridian (4-2) a chance to share.

More shoutouts DeWitt 43, Stevensville Lakeshore 6 The Panthers (5-0) have been on a tear from the start, holding five opponents to six or fewer points and putting up 43 against a Lakeshore defense that was giving up only 10 per game. Olivet 61, Stockbridge 12 The Eagles (5-1) bounced back from their lone defeat to close out their fourth-straight Greater Lansing Activities Conference title.

Northern Lower Peninsula

HEADLINER Charlevoix 19, Maple City Glen Lake 8 Playing the Lakers (4-2) for the Northern Michigan Football Conference Leaders championship for the second year in a row, the Red Rayders claimed their first league title in football since 2000. The win also gave Charlevoix (6-0) its first perfect regular season since 1977, according to Michigan-football.com. Click for more from the Petoskey News-Review and see highlights below from MI Sports Now.

Watch list Johannesburg-Lewiston 60, Harbor Springs 29 The Cardinals (6-0) locked up their third-straight NMFC Legacy title and second-straight undefeated regular season by doubling up second-place Harbor Springs (3-3).

Remember this one Oscoda 24, Houghton Lake 6 The Owls (6-0) faced their toughest challenge this fall and answered it well, giving up their first points of the season but still holding Houghton Lake (4-2) to nearly 30 below their average.

More shoutouts Kingsley 36, Benzie Central 20 The Stags (6-0) closed out a second-straight NMFC Legends championship with their 20th-straight regular-season victory. Traverse City St. Francis 21, Jackson Lumen Christi 20 While reigning Division 7 runner-up Lumen (2-4) has had a tough run, this could end up a telling result as both head into the same division again and with St. Francis (4-2) a second seed while pursuing a seventh-straight District title.

Southeast & Border

HEADLINER Addison 56, Grass Lake 22 The Panthers (6-0) finished a second-straight perfect run through their Cascades Conference schedule and first undefeated regular season since 2006 while keeping Grass Lake (4-2) from earning a share of the championship. Addison has won three of its last four against the Warriors. Click for more from the Adrian Daily Telegram.

Watch list Chelsea 26, Monroe 17 The Bulldogs (6-0) finished a second-straight undefeated regular season with Monroe (4-2) their fifth opponent that finished .500 or better this fall.

Remember this one Clinton 21, Hillsdale 14 The Lenawee County Athletic Association title went to Blissfield, but Clinton (5-1) in its first season in the league won this matchup for second place, with the Hornets (4-2) ending in third.

More shoutouts Erie Mason 56, Pittsford 0 The Eagles (6-0) finished their first perfect regular season since 2003, and after last winning more than two games in a season in 2005. Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central 49, Detroit Southeastern 34 The Falcons (4-2) earned their most impressive win, handing Detroit Public School League 4 champion Southeastern (5-1) its only defeat.

Southwest Corridor

HEADLINER Buchanan 20, Niles Brandywine 6 The list of accomplishments is growing for the Bucks (6-0) – they won the Berrien-Cass-St. Joseph Conference title outright, with their first perfect regular season since 2015, and after winning a combined five games over the last three seasons. Brandywine (3-3) had won the last three meetings between these teams, and two straight league titles. Click for more from the Niles Daily Star.

Watch list Constantine 70, Coloma 32 The Falcons (5-1) finished a perfect run through the Southwestern Athletic Conference Lakeshore and earned the second seed in their Division 6 District opposite Buchanan.

Remember this one St. Joseph 22, Battle Creek Lakeview 14 There wasn’t a Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference title on the line this time, but there very well could be next time and St. Joseph (5-1) will enter that game with two wins in its last three matchups with Lakeview (4-2).

More shoutouts Edwardsburg 60, Paw Paw 6 The Eddies (6-0) completed their third-consecutive undefeated regular season and will be the top seed in their Division 4 District with Paw Paw (4-2) the third. Lawton 19, Saugatuck 2 The Blue Devils locked up second place in the SAC Valley and the second seed in a Division 7 District where they could face league champ Schoolcraft in two weeks.

Upper Peninsula

HEADLINER Marquette 28, Calumet 6 Arguably the most impressive part of Marquette’s performance this fall has been its defense, which is giving up 13 points per game – a full seven points fewer than last year. Calumet (2-3) hadn’t been held to single digits since the 2018 playoffs, but Marquette (5-1) has held its last two opponents to six points apiece. Click for more from the Upbeat. 

Watch list Bark River-Harris 28, L’Anse 0 After an 0-2 start, Bark River-Harris (3-2) won its final three regular-season games and hasn’t given up a point in its last two.

Remember this one Escanaba 20, Gladstone 12 The Eskymos (1-2) bounced back from their first on-field loss with a 10th-straight win over Gladstone (2-3), enough to earn the fifth seed in their Division 4 District.

More shoutouts West Iron County 36, St. Ignace 22 The Wykons (6-0) capped their first perfect regular season since 2013 with their best offensive output of this fall. Sault Ste. Marie 60, Cheboygan 0 The Blue Devils (4-2) secured second place in the NMFC Legends.

West Michigan  

HEADLINER Grand Rapids Catholic Central 28, Grand Rapids South Christian 27 (OT) This was just about all that could be hoped for from a matchup of undefeated teams playing for a league championship. At the end, GRCC (6-0) had clinched its sixth-straight league title, back in the Ottawa-Kent Conference Gold, after winning outright or sharing the Blue championship the last four seasons. Click for more from WOOD TV.

Watch list Muskegon Mona Shores 35, Detroit Martin Luther King 21 This rematch of last season’s Division 2 Final ended with nearly the same score, great news for the reigning champion Sailors (3-3) and not necessarily bad for King (3-3) as it plays in Division 3 this time.

Remember this one Rockford 28, Grandville 8 The Rams (4-0) missed two weeks but came back in time to finish without a loss in the O-K Red while handing Grandville (5-1) its lone league defeat.

More shoutouts Hudsonville Unity Christian 42, Allendale 6 The Crusaders (6-0) finished a perfect run through the O-K Blue with their third single-digit defensive performance of the fall, holding Allendale (3-3) to a season-low points total. East Grand Rapids 12, Byron Center 8 The Pioneers (3-3) handed Byron Center (5-1) its only loss, allowing Forest Hills Central with its win over Lowell to share the O-K White championship with the Bulldogs.


HEADLINER Bridgman 54, Wyoming Tri-unity Christian 53 (OT) The Bees set an MHSAA record – 8 and 11-player – for largest comeback winning this game after trailing by 47 points. With Martin having to forfeit a game to Lawrence, the Bees (5-1) joined the Clippers as one-loss teams atop the final Southwestern Michigan 8-Man Football League standings. Click for more from the St. Joseph Herald-Palladium.

Watch list Portland St. Patrick 52, Burr Oak 19 Handing Burr Oak (5-1) its only loss kept St. Patrick (6-0) undefeated and cemented the Shamrocks as the top seed in the Division 2 Playoffs. 

Remember this one Morrice 58, Deckerville 30 The Orioles (6-0) also are a top seed, in Division 1, but Deckerville (4-2) is a possible Regional Semifinal opponent.

More shoutouts Mayville 48, Kinde North Huron 28 The matchup of North Central Thumb League champions went to the Stars winner as the Wildcats (6-0) handed Stripes champ North Huron its lone loss (5-1). Merrill 38, Indian River Inland Lakes 6 The Vandals (5-1) continue to look like contenders, bouncing back off a four-point loss to St. Patrick by handing Inland Lakes its only defeat.

PHOTO: Addison blockers lead the way for a teammate during Friday's win over Grass Lake. (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.)