I’ve been told several times that Constantine playing Schoolcraft is a great rivalry. The word rivalry gets thrown around a lot, in fact way too much. Any sort of hard feelings spices up a game but a few ugly words doesn’t make a rivalry does it? So before breaking down this game, I think it would be best to explore what exactly makes a rivalry?
Living in Michigan if someone would ask you to name a rivalry game I would have to imagine a high percentage of people would say Michigan v. Ohio State. The Game has several components that go into making a rivalry, first of which being location of the teams. Michigan shares a border with Ohio that has already been a point of conflict. It is so close that the famed old coach Woody Hayes once risked breaking down on a bus trip saying, “We do NOT pull in and fill up. And I’ll tell you exactly why we don’t. It’s because I don’t buy one (expletive) drop of gas in the state of Michigan! We’ll coast and PUSH this (expletive) car to the Ohio line before I give this state a nickel of my money!” (warning the link takes you to an OSU site). The closeness in proximity works well as a base for most rivalries no matter the level of competition as the town’s/states fans usually allow themselves to be sucked into the intensity of the matchup. Constantine is only a few miles from Schoolcraft and it’s probably the closest town they compete against although that wasn’t always the case. Constantine’s high school is literally minutes from White Pigeon High School and the two schools used to battle on the gridiron for the tomahawk trophy. At the time it was one of the longest running matchups at over eighty games, but because of conference realignment it’s over and Schoolcraft is now the Falcons chief foe. Location equals frequency and you can’t have a rival without playing each other several times. I have an unique dislike for Miami and Jimmy Johnson but I wouldn’t really consider those convicts a real rival of Notre Dame anymore. They just don’t play all that often. Whereas Michigan has played Ohio longer than the NFL has been running. Schoolcraft and Constantine have met sixty eight times which includes the two times they played last year.
Of those many games it’s important to have a little parity in who comes out on top. A matchup that isn’t all square, isn’t a rivalry. There has to be some sort of uncertainty going into the game, upsets and gridlocked battles play up the mystique of the game. Case in point Michigan holds a 58–47–6 record over the people from the south (minus one loss because OSU vacated all wins from 2010). With consistency like that you “throw out the records” when the teams play, because of all the notable upsets that can and will likely occur. Fans of the rivalry will almost always point to Michigan’s upset of the number one ranked Buckeyes in 1969 starting the time period between the two as the ten year war. When the underdog has a chance that’s when magic happens, like last year Constantine beating Schoolcraft in the opening round of the playoffs. Schoolcraft at the time was the undefeated conference champion and surging to end the year having beaten the Falcons 42-24 with a week left in the season. That win for Schoolcraft almost meant knocking their hated rival out of the playoffs for the first time in sixteen years, but Constantine won their final game of the season to make it in as a 5-4 team giving them another shot at Schoolcraft. The game will forever echo in historic lore as Constantine upset the state’s number two ranked Eagles with a field goal in overtime. Fun enough Schoolcraft did the exact same thing to Constantine the year before in 2014, losing their regular season matchup only to win later in the playoffs.
Which bring us to our last point of emphasis in a rivalry, the game needs to matter. Notre Dame plays USC every year as a major rivalry game. They aren’t geographically close nor are they the teams either have played the most (although they are up there). The battle for the jeweled shillelagh is important because the games have often mattered in terms of a national championship. No time span emphasized that more than the years between 1962-1977 “where there were 7 national championships won by either USC or Notre Dame. And in years like ’64 ’70, ’73, ’77 and ‘88 one team ended the national championship hopes of the other.” Constantine and Schoolcraft are often entangled in playoffs and conference championships. They are two of the premier teams this side of the state. The battle of the birds games matter.
So finally onto this weeks matchup. I’ve looked into Constantine earlier this season on this site, but to quickly recap you’ll see a true Wing T team. Find the guard on offense and it’ll help you find the ball; but it’s hard to do with the nature of that offense and in the efficiency at which they run it. Schoolcraft is an option team in the mold of double wing teams or flexbone as they are often called, like Army and Navy (speaking of rivalries that’s my number one bucket list game). In this offense the decisions made by the quarterback run like a checklist, one after the other very quickly. You might see a wing go in motion, don’t let him distract you. This is a time where it’s totally ok to follow the ball and stay with the quarterback. Georgia Tech’s Paul Johnson breaks this play down fantastically here. The main man for the Eagles is Ricky Clark. He is their Keenan Reynolds and like the navy great is a real threat to run the ball. One of the premiere athletes in the area Ricky will score if he gets loose, he is that fast. What’s unique about this guy though is he can throw really well too. I say unique because if you’ve watched Army or Navy, you would know that throwing the ball usually isn’t a forte of triple option teams, but Ricky Clark has an arm. Schoolcraft likes to go double wing double wide and try to force one on one matchups with usually very tall receivers on the outside. As everyone sucks inside to try and stop the run, Ricky with throw one over the top for a big gain. The ability to pass the ball is what made this team so dangerous last year, because they run the option so effectively you can’t really play both with alignment. If this is on the radio a fun game to play would be to count how many times they say “assignment football” because that’s what both teams offenses essentially put you into. Every potential ball carrier for Schoolcraft has to be accounted for and how does a defense do this without risking losing a battle with a big receiver on the outside. Constantine this year has run an old school fifty defense, that will need to respond in a big way after several weeks of ineptitude. To be quite honest Constantine has been winning shootouts, because of their struggling D. Also defensively watch the purple and gold load the box to gear up for the run. Usually teams facing Constantine will man up the tight ends and put everyone else up close in order to stop the cloud of dust from moving their way. So far this season with the exception of a few games the dust has rolled irregardless of how many people are around the line of scrimmage.
Before the game I’m going to Bud’s Burgers in Schoolcraft. If you’ve never been you’re missing out on a seriously good burger joint. I’ve been here several times and I’ve never had a bad burger. If you’re feeling feisty get the garbage burger and prepare to undo the button on your pants. I’ll leave you with one more Michigan v. OSU video and this thought: rivalries are built on memories and traditions. Make Friday nights in your home town a family tradition and you’ll forever be rewarded. I’ve got my fingers crossed this will be another prized game I’ll talk about for years to come.