The area’s most dynamic rusher might not play another down this season. Constantine junior halfback/linebacker Justin Hull was scheduled to have an MRI on his right knee Tuesday night in Kalamazoo, according to head coach Shawn Griffith, and will be out at least for Friday’s regular season finale at home versus 7-1 Battle Creek Pennfield.
It’s a big setback for a Constantine crew searching for its sixth win of the season and a playoff berth after consecutive trips to Ford Field and the Division 6 state finals (both times runner-up to Ithaca).
Hull, a junior approaching 1,400 yards, injured his knee on the final play of the first half of last week’s 28-14 loss at Olivet. He nearly scored on the 30-yard gain.
“We can’t see [on film] where he twisted it, but he came down awkward on it and was complaining that it hurt,” Griffith said Tuesday evening. “He didn’t play the whole second half. He won’t play this weekend no matter what.”
“It’s killing me not being able to be there for my family in possibly their last football battle,” Hull said late Tuesday night. “They seem very down, but I’m still there for them. I’m just one of their biggest fans now.”
All the Falcons can do is move forward without Hull, who eclipsed 1,000 yards in the first four outings this fall along with 14 touchdowns. It’s a loss this group is equipped to handle far better than other programs.
“That’s what we normally do,” Griffith said. “To be honest, that’s what I love about this offense. There isn’t any one guy … last year we lost a pretty good one (rules violation) going into the state semifinal game and Justin himself stepped up and had two big games — the semifinal game and the final game.”
As a sophomore reserve in 2012, Hull posted a combined 353 and two touchdowns in those two pressure-packed contests. He made significant contributions on the defensive side of the ball as well, another void the Falcons must fill.
“We’ve got to have another guy step up,” Griffith said. “That’s the way it is in football. Everyone is going to have injuries. You hate to see if for Justin, which is what you hate. You realize you only get to play this game so much. He was having a good year for us and is obviously a very talented player. But you move on.
“We do have some other talented runners. It’s not like the shelf is bare here.”
Senior fullback Andres Montoya is close to 900 rushing yards and sophomore quarterback Matt Hasbrouck is just shy of 800. Still, Hull was on pace to possibly do something special at a school that’s had plenty of efficient ball carriers over the decades.
In Griffith’s first year as an assistant with the Falcons in 1992, Brian Stears rushed for over 1,500 yards in a nine-game season. Had Hull stayed healthy, and with potentially another playoff game or two, 2,000 might have been within reach.
“Once again, a lot of times, that is more of a sign of what we have up front,” Griffith said of the offensive line’s unheralded contribution. “We win or lose games with our front people, not necessarily with the guys in the backfield. But Justin is one of those rare breeds that does make a difference because he can break tackles and has the speed to take it all the way.”
According to the math right now, Constantine has a real shot of slipping into the postseason even if it loses to Pennfield Friday, Griffith said. Obviously, the goal is to take chance out of the equation.