HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL
By Jef Rietsma
South County News contributor
SCHOOLCRAFT – Schoolcraft varsity football team’s pursuit of a Kalamazoo Valley Athletic Association title passed a major test and remains intact following a 37-28 win over league nemesis Constantine Sept. 6.
The back-and-forth affair was poised to come down to a white-knuckle, “last team to have the ball could be the winner,” ending. But the Eagles’ stifling secondary took advantage of an exhausted Constantine offense in the fourth quarter to secure the win.
“We kind of made plays at the end of the game, a big pass and we mixed it up enough to get them off balance,” coach Terry Haas said. “Our defense really hung in there and made some big plays and big stops at the end to hold on to the win.”
The victory puts the Eagles at 2-0 and serves revenge on the opponent that dealt Schoolcraft its only loss of the season a year ago: a 40-27 defeat in the second round of the playoffs.
Haas said his team and its fans had good reason to engage in what developed into to a raucous, on-field celebration.
“We’ll certainly enjoy this one, then move on,” Haas said. “Right now, we don’t care about whether or not we’ll see Constantine in the playoffs, we’re just going to enjoy this one and keep our focus on a league championship.”
Prognosticators who forecasted a close game were on target for three quarters. Schoolcraft took a 14-8, first-quarter lead, thanks to a crucial fourth-down conversion during its second possession of the game and a turnover during a later series.
After giving up a 97-yard touchdown run to Constantine’s sophomore quarterback Matt Hasbrouck and falling into an 8-0 hole, the Eagles mounted a nine-play, 62-yard drive to cut the deficit to 8-6. The series was highlighted by a 25-yard pass play to Trevor Stoddard and capped by a 6-yard run by senior Charlie Schultz.
Senior Brennan Vaughn later helped put the Eagles on top, as he recovered a Constantine fumble and ran 66 yards to the Falcons’ 10-yard line. Two plays later, a pitch to Schultz from four yards out – coupled with a 2-point conversion pass to Stoddard – resulted in the home team’s six-point lead.
Schoolcraft broke a 14-14, second-quarter tie on a series of just four plays, covering 67 yards. Senior Cody Mikel created his own highlight reel, with runs of 25 and 31 yards to make it a 21-14 game.
A third-quarter possession covered 65 yards in four plays for Schoolcraft, which saw senior quarterback Tom Hurst score on an eight-yard run. Hurst then connected on a pass to Nick Cakmakci for the two-point conversion and a 29-21 margin at the 7:27mark.
Schoolcraft would not relinquish its lead, and it put the game out of reach with a short pass play to Vaughn, whose speed turned it into a 47-yard pass play for a touchdown. Senior Blake Zemek’s run for the two points concluded the game’s scoring. The series was set up by a Vaughn fumble recovery on a muffed center-to-quarterback exchange near midfield.
Haas conceded going for the two-point conversion on what would be his team’s final score of the night was a gamble.
“They were offsides, so we had a yard and a half to go and we figured if we could get up nine, it’s a two-score game and that makes a different mentality in the offense, especially when there’s under four minute to go,” Haas said. “Then they have to throw the ball and that’s not their nature. It’s a gamble, for sure, but you play the game to win and that’s what we tried to do.”
His counterpart, Shawm Griffith, said all things considered, he was surprised to head to the locker room at the half with a lead.
“We’re a young team and it showed tonight,” he said. “We came out and we were tired. I can honestly say that might be the first time in 20-odd years of coaching football at Constantine that I’ve looked out and seen a tired football team … especially in that second half.”
The Eagles amassed 219 total yards on the ground, led by Mikel with 83 and Cakmakci with 55. Meanwhile, Vaughn (48), Stoddard (25) and Cakmakci (13) accounted for the all 86 receiving yards in seven attempts by Hurst.
Schoolcraft hits the road Friday to Olivet, where the Eagles hope to continue their unbeaten season.