By Jef Rietsma
In a back-and-forth game that featured big plays on offense and even bigger plays on defense, a turning point in the Nov. 1 pre-district matchup between Schoolcraft and Constantine boiled down to a single incident on special teams.
With the score tied at 28, Schoolcraft was forced to punt on fourth down early in the fourth quarter. Constantine was poised to let the ball come to rest, but officials ruled a Falcon player touched it, making it a live ball on which a Schoolcraft player had fallen.
Officials huddled and held a lengthy discussion before ruling the ball, indeed, was live and Schoolcraft would maintain possession. On the next play, quarterback Ricky Clark dashed 20 yards for what would be the game-winning touchdown.
While Constantine head coach Shawn Griffith nearly exploded in animatedly telling the referee his player was blocked into the ball – a move that would have negated the live ball ruling – Schoolcraft coach Terry Haas saw the play differently.
“Their return guys didn’t go for the ball, but a guy came in and he was trying to block our guy, and hit (the Constantine player’s) leg and bounced off his leg; then our guys covered it up,” Haas said. “I know Shawn went ballistic, but his guy is doing the blocking, so it doesn’t matter anyway, not in high school.”
In the end, Schoolcraft earned revenge against a team that handed it one of its three regular-season losses, and left Constantine with a 42-28 come-from-behind win.
While the game-defining play was a critical moment, it did not overshadow a stellar offensive clinic by Clark and two of the biggest sacks Chadd Marks will ever have in his high school prep career.
Clark ran for two touchdowns and passed for another two to account for the majority of Schoolcraft’s points. In all, Clark led the team with 102 yards rushing and completed six of 16 pass attempts for 73 yards in the air.
Afterward, a humble Clark said the playoffs have a way of bringing out the best in Schoolcraft.
“We had a big win versus Reed City a week ago, so that helped with our momentum,” Clark said, noting Reed City was a one-loss team before bowing to Schoolcraft the week before.
Marks, meanwhile, secured Schoolcraft’s lead with a sack of Constantine’s Matt Hasbrouck on fourth and 12 with less than three minutes to play. Marks struck again on Constantine’s final possession of the game, sacking Hasbrouck once more for a big loss one play before Zac Sharp picked off a Hasbrouck pass with 33 seconds to play.
“Quite amazing, but we believed all along we would win,” Marks said.
Haas said it did not surprise him that Marks stepped up at a time when Schoolcraft needed a big defensive play.
“Chadd has a motor when he wants to use it and he did today,” Haas said. “He did a great job because he’s one of our guys who plays both offense and defense, so he spends a lot of time on the field.”
Schoolcraft opened the scoring with a 10-yard reception by Zac Sharp. Down 14-7 in the second quarter, the Eagles made a defensive touchdown on a fumble recovery for 19 yards by Sam Rice.
In the third quarter, Schoolcraft tied the game at 21 on a 15-yard reception by Sam Rice, then tied it again at 28 with a 15-yard, pinball-like run by Clark.
Schoolcraft finished the scoring with Clark’s run after the scrutinized play involving Constantine’s receiving team, and then a 9-yard run by Sharp with just over a minute to play.
The Eagles continue their season with a district title on the line against Watervliet. Schoolcraft topped Watervliet, 28-26, in last year’s District contest.