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Constantine defies odds, upsets Schoolcraft 31-28 in Division 6, faces Watervliet next

Football   | Tom Markowski

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When practice began on Aug. 10 Constantine coach Shawn Griffith was a bit concerned. Most coaches are full of optimism that first day. Not Griffith. He had eight seniors and eight juniors show up and Griffith was wondering how he would get through the season let alone concern himself with thoughts of making the playoffs.

Griffith did manage to field a team of 21 but his problems continued. His top running back, Anthony Evilsizor, suffered a separated shoulder in the preseason scrimmage and then quarterback Matt Hasbrouck, a three-year, suffered a leg injury in the season opener.

Constantine started 0-2 and late-season losses to Watervliet and Schoolcraft evened its record at 4-4.

“We played Hartford in the ninth week and we thought we could get in with a win,” Griffith said.

 Constantine defeated Hartford, 21-6, and was playoff bound for the 17th consecutive season.

The bad news is that it had to go to Schoolcraft (9-0), a team that defeated Constantine 42-24.

“That score doesn’t indicate how close a game it was,” Griffith said. “We trailed (28-24) going into the fourth and turned it over on downs in their end. They scored quickly and we got out of our offensive rhythm.”

On Friday Constantine and Schoolcraft were tied at 21-21 at halftime. Schoolcraft went ahead 28-21 and when Constantine failed to convert in the red zone it looked as if its season was over with just four minutes left.

But Constantine held Schoolcraft without a first down and took over near midfield. Constantine scored with a minute to play and Griffith contemplated on going for two points and a possible victory.

“I called time out,” he said. “My gut feeling was to go for the win. When you’re on the road that’s the popular thought. But we talked it over and decided to go for the tie. See, if we missed the two-point conversion that’s the game. If we make it they still have time to score, and Schoolcraft can score quickly.”

Tristian Butler made the tying conversion and he made a 27-yard field goal on the first possession of overtime.

Schoolcraft faced a fourth down and instead of going for the potential tying field goal it went for the win. Evilsizor intercepted in the end zone to give Constantine a 31-28 victory.

The Constantine-Schoolcraft game is one of the best rivalries in the Kalamazoo area. In Griffith’s 11 years as head coach the schools have played 17 times, six times in the playoffs.

The road continues to have its bumps for Constantine. Next up is Watervliet (9-1) in a Division 6 district final. Watervliet defeated Constantine 55-34 this season.