CONSTANTINE — After back-to-back runner-up finishes in the Division 6 state finals, the Constantine High School football team returns to the field this season looking to replace a senior class that helped hold the Falcons’ place at the elite table.
Culminating with two clashes with Ithaca at Ford Field, Constantine has won 11 games each of the past two years. The program hasn’t lost more than three games in a season since 2000, when it finished 7-4.
But without any all-conference or all-state players returning in 2013, the Falcons will have to develop players at some key positions if they want to make another deep playoff run. Not to mention the Kalamazoo Valley Association boasts plenty of parody this fall.
Constantine ninth-year head coach Shawn Griffith expects his squad to spar with Schoolcraft, Olivet, Pennfield and Parchment for the KVA championship belt this year.
“Olivet is big and fast, Schoolcraft has a very good fullback and solid O-line, and Pennfield is huge up front as usual,” Griffith explained.
With 31 players on the roster, including a solid base of eight seniors with starting experience, Griffith shouldn’t have much trouble plugging some holes left from graduation. His wing-T offense looks to get plenty of production from junior Justin Hull, who rushed for 600 yards in 2012, highlighted by a 250-yard outing against Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central in last season’s state semifinals.
But it won’t be easy making up for quarterback Tommy Reed, fullback Payton White, running backs Ben Mallo and Jeff Steiner — a quartet that piled up yards on the ground at will.
Senior Nic West takes over at QB for Constantine, which finished third in the KVA last year, an example of just how difficult the league slate is on a yearly basis.
The Falcons are confident Andres Montoya will be a difference-maker at cornerback after two years in a starting role, and will “be key to any defensive success we have,” according to Griffith.
“Justin Hull is a speedster with tremendous offensive potential and will lead the way,” Griffith added.
Coach: Shawn Griffith (82-18 record, 9th year).
2012 records: 11-3 (7-2 KVA, 3rd place).
Key players: Bruce Heslet (Sr., OT), Luhk Mullendore (Sr., TE/LB), Alex Miller (Sr., G/LB), Andres Montoya (Sr., FB/CB), Nic West (Sr., QB/LB), Justin Hull (Jr., RB/LB), Zack Hughes (Sr., G/LB), Chris Shafer (Sr., G/DL), Andrew Cocanower (Sr., NT), Mike Morey (Jr., C), Taylor Reiff (Jr., RB/DB), Zach Sherman (Jr., TE/LB), Eric Petoskey (So., FB/LB), Spencer Tefft (So., RB/LB), Matt Hasbrouck (So., QB/DB).
Aug. 29 DELTON KELLOGG
Sept. 6 at Schoolcraft
Sept. 13 VERMONTVILLE MAPLE VALLEY
Sept. 20 at Parchment
Sept. 27 at Kalamazoo Christian
Oct. 4 KALAMAZOO HACKETT
Oct. 11 GALESBURG-AUGUSTA
Oct. 18 at Olivet
Oct. 25 BATTLE CREEK PENNFIELD