Constantine meets old playoff foe with similar offensive strategy
HILLSDALE — A pair of football playoff rivals with similar offensive styles collide Friday night in Hillsdale with a Division 6, Region 3, District 1 championship hanging in the balance.
Constantine (8-2) visits Hillsdale (10-0) at 7 p.m.
The winner advances to the regional championship on Nov. 15 or Nov. 16 against either Onsted (8-2) or Grass Lake (9-1) from district 2.
Constantine and Hillsdale have met a total of four times, all in the playoffs, with the Falcons winning every one of those matchups, including a 56-14 triumph in the 2013 postseason.
Constantine finished tied for first place at 4-1 with Schoolcraft and Kalamazoo United in the Southwestern Athletic Conference’s Valley Division. The Falcons’ lone two losses this season came to Division 5 playoff qualifier Berrien Springs (26-21) and Division 7 playoff contender Schoolcraft (27-24).
The Falcons have outscored their foes 423-117 this season, including a 58-8 pre-district win last week at previously unbeaten and No. 2-ranked Niles Brandywine.
Constantine is coached by Shawn Griffith, who is 117-44 with 14 playoff appearances in 15 seasons at the helm of the Falcons. Under Griffith, Constantine has earned two state runners-up finishes (2011 and 2012) and reached the semifinals two other times in his tenure.
Hillsdale, which has outscored its opponents 314-160 this season, finished first in the Lenawee County Association with a 7-0 record. The Hornets’ closest game this season came in week five with a 10-6 win over Hudson.
The Hornets are coached by Marc Lemerand who is 150-69 in 21 seasons as head coach at Hillsdale. ;
Under Lemerand, Hillsdale has enjoyed three undefeated season and qualified for the postseason a total of 18 times during his tenure. Hillsdale made the regional finals under Lemerand in 2005 and 2012 and the state semifinals in 2006.
“Offensively, Hillsdale will run the Wing-T. They are very good at what they do and will send multiple backs at you. They also throw the ball more than most T teams,” Griffith said. “Defensively they line up in a 4-4 and their front four are lights out. They are big and athletic up front and have had a great year defensively. They also have a solid kicker and are not afraid to kick for a three pointer when they need to.”
Quarterback Logan Wagler directs Hillsdale’s high-powered offense that’s averaging 31.4 points per game.
“Wagler is a capable passer and also runs the ball for Hillsdale,” Griffith said.
Senior Zach Kornak leads Hillsdale’s ground game at tailback.
Another key player Constantine must be alert for is starting tight end and linebacker Aiden Peterson (5-foot-11, 185 pounds).
“Their defensive front is filled with very good players,” Griffith said.
The keys for Constantine are pretty simple.
“We have to stop the big play and find a way to do something no one else has been able to do against them. And that’s move the ball consistently. As in all playoff games, special teams and turnovers will be key as well,” Griffith said.
Constantine’s head coach was very pleased with what his team was able to do last week as it dismantled Niles Brandywine.
The Falcons’ speed on both sides of the football was a critical factor last week against a talented by slower Niles Brandywine ballclub.
Constantine held Brandywine to a negative 22 yards rushing last week and the Falcons’ deceptive Wing-T offensive formation had the Bobcats wondering on every play where the football was.
The Falcons totaled 430 yards rushing last week behind its experienced offensive line of senior tackle Austin Loose (5-11, 240) and junior tackle Chuck Taylor (6-2, 295), senior guards Logyn Miller (5-10, 180) and Corey King (6-2, 205) and senior center Matthew Hutton (6-2, 300).
Senior Hunter Bacheller filled in for sophomore Caden Hetmansperger at quarterback last week and the Falcons didn’t miss a beat. But Hetmansperger (6-1, 175) is expected to play this week after sitting out last week with a bad bruise to his back.
Bacheller leads Constantine out of the backfield but the Falcons employ a seemingly endless supply of tailbacks themselves.