Constantine Comeback Gets Running Start
By Wes Morgan
Special for MHSAA.com
September 6, 2018
Shawn Griffith is fully aware of the fact he’s now coached fathers and sons, uncles and nephews during his tenure at Constantine High School.
That doesn’t make him old, he says; it just means he’s “seasoned.”
It also means he’s now been around long enough to experience both the highs and lows of coaching. Traditionally one of the state’s small-school powerhouses, Constantine lost its way in 2017 with a 3-6 record — Griffith’s first losing season since taking over the program in 2007 and the school’s first sub-.500 season in 26 years.
With a pair of Division 6 championship game appearances (2011 and 2012) and a 114-36 overall record to his credit, last autumn’s fall from grace, though somewhat expected, he said, was a reminder that high school sports still have a cyclical nature.
Attrition, inexperience, lower participation numbers, defensive struggles and fractured team chemistry all attributed to the disappointing season. Still, the Falcons were four points away from five wins, which likely would have been enough to qualify for the playoffs. With a 5-4 regular-season record back in 2013, Constantine went on to advance to the Regional Finals, underscoring Griffith’s mantra of improving each week and what can be accomplished by doing so.
“We knew last year we were going to go through some growing pains,” Griffith said. “I think the 3-6 thing really helped these guys focus in the offseason, and they have done a great job coming together.”
Now the Falcons, 2-0 this year after blowout victories against Gobles (56-0) and Quincy (42-7), are out to reclaim their seat at the table, with expectations just as high as they’ve always been. A few players only need to look at their family trees to be reminded of what’s possible.
Senior fullback Brendon Schragg in particular has a bloodline that traces back to the most memorable year in Constantine football history, as his uncles literally carried the Falcons to their only MHSAA football championship.
With Griffith then serving as offensive coordinator in 2004 — just the second season after he transitioned the offense from an I-Formation to the Wing-T — senior twins Jim and Mike Schragg lined up in the backfield for the Falcons and combined for nearly 3,800 rushing yards, fueling the team’s title run and 13-1 record.
Mike Schragg, a tailback, rushed for more than 100 yards in the championship game against Suttons Bay, a 34-13 Constantine victory. But it was fullback Jim Schragg’s legendary effort that put him atop the MHSAA record book list for yards in a Final after he went for 307, including an 89-yard run.
“We were loaded with backs,” Jim Schragg said. “It’s a fun offense to run. Some parents get ticked off that we don’t throw it enough, but you have three bad things that can happen with a pass and not too many bad things can happen with a run.
“It’s cool to have your name there with the record and all that. But the state championship is more important to me than the record and running for over 300 yards. The state finals was the whole goal for our senior class. It was state championship or bust. That was what every single kid played for on that team.”
Some things haven’t changed. Though going from a three-win season to a state title is extremely unlikely, Brendon Schragg and his teammates believe they can put together a pretty special year.
“They were superstars to me,” Schragg, who rushed for 575 yards and five touchdowns as a junior, said of his uncles. “I always had the dream that if you go to state, I want to go to state. That’s been a goal since I was 4 years old.
“In my opinion, come Week 5 when we start our (Southwestern Athletic Conference) games, I think we are going to come out and compete. There isn’t a doubt in my mind we can’t win a league title. I ask myself a question every day, ‘Why not us?’”
Brendon Schragg is a three-year starter and one of three returning backs this season. The Falcons haven’t needed complete games out of the trio in the victories so far this year, but Schragg has 145 yards and two TDs on 14 carries. He and teammates Hunter Lindbert and Josh Lawson will probably split the load the rest of the season. Lindbert has compiled 188 yards and 4 TDs on 14 carries, and Lawson has 235 yards and two TDs on 18 carries.
Of course, none of it would be possible without the big guys up front.
“We’re just more physical in the trenches this year,” Schragg said of linemen such as Trenton Stears, Marquise Wykle, Matt Hutton and Austin Loose. “Hutton, our center, both his uncles played on the state championship team, believe it or not.”
Part of Griffith’s job is to both encourage his players to shoot for the moon and to make sure they also have their feet firmly planted on the ground. He certainly understands there are challenges ahead with teams like Kalamazoo United, Watervliet and Schoolcraft.
“We look a lot better,” he said. “But we’re certainly not naïve; we see some pretty darn good football teams on our schedule here coming up. I think our guys have done a real good job of not blowing this out of proportion. It is what it is; it’s a good start. They have done a good job of concentrating and preparing week to week.”
Wes Morgan has reported for the Kalamazoo Gazette, ESPN and ESPNChicago.com, 247Sports and Blue & Gold Illustrated over the last 12 years and is the publisher of JoeInsider.com. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Berrien, Cass, St. Joseph and Branch counties.
PHOTOS: (Top) Constantine defensive players motion for a turnover during their win over Gobles in Week 1. (Middle) Brendon Schragg, far left, breaks through the Gobles defense. (Photos courtesy of JoeInsider.com.)
Mendon 8-Player Championship Game Run Paced by Record-Setting Rushing
By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor
May 26, 2023
Mendon’s run to the Division 2 Final last fall included some of the strongest rushing performances over the history of 8-player football.
The Hornets ran for 4,317 yards, second-most all-time, on the second-most attempts (520) and with a record-setting 682 yards Oct. 14 against Marcellus. Mendon also set the record for total offense with 692 total in that game, and made the single-season touchdowns list with 76 including 66 rushing (also second on that list).
Junior Jack McCaw made the single-season scoring list with 212 points, most coming on 29 touchdowns, and Evan Lukeman made the single-game rushing list with 401 yards against Marcellus. Mendon’s defense also earned praise, twice making the fewest-first-downs-allowed list with a low of three.
See below for more recent additions to the 8-player portion of the football record book:
Athens’ Landon Bennett earned a pair of record book entries after reaching the end zone seven times during his team’s 72-0 win over Burr Oak on Sept. 8. His seven scores are tied for third-most in 8-player history and included three rushing, three on punt returns and one on an interception return. The three punt return touchdowns are a record. Bennett is a junior.
On the night Powers North Central broke its 8-player record for consecutive wins, claiming its 28th straight, senior Luke Gorzinski tied Jets great Jason Whitens for the record for interception touchdowns in a game with two, scoring on returns during the second and fourth quarters. Gorzinski has signed with Michigan Tech, and North Central’s winning streak is 37 games and counting.
A pair of Atlanta offensive playmakers and a top defensive lineman earned a total of seven entries in the record book for achievements last fall. Senior quarterback Tyler Currie threw for 30 touchdowns over eight games, and also made the records for six touchdowns and 419 passing yards against Whittemore-Prescott on Sept. 23; the passing yards are second-most for one 8-player game. Sophomore Landon Galea was added for 263 yards and five of those touchdowns against the Cardinals, and also for 1,418 yards receiving and 23 touchdowns over nine games. Junior teammate Tucker Kendrick made the tackles for loss list with five against Hillman on Oct. 6.
Adrian Lenawee Christian senior Brady McKelvey became the first to make the career extra points list in 8-player football this past fall. He bettered his previous single-season record making 64 of 66 extra-point attempts over 11 games and finishing his two-year varsity career with 123 extra points in 127 tries.
Sam McKissack reached the record book showcasing multiple skills for Crystal Falls Forest Park during the 2021 season – twice for rushing attempts in a game including with a record 59 against Ontonagon that Sept. 10, and then with a record 70-yard punt Oct. 30, 2021, against Lake Linden-Hubbell. Teammate Devon Basirico also made the record book with six fumble recoveries over 11 games that season. As a team, Forest Park was added twice for single-game rushing attempts – including 73 total in that Ontonagon game – and for 424 rushes over 11 games for the season. McKissack and Basirico are seniors this spring.
Nikolaus Lewis tied for eighth-most rushing touchdowns in an 8-player game when he reached the end zone six times for Carsonville-Port Sanilac in its win over Caseville on Oct. 7. He’s a senior this spring.
Bridgman has won 24 straight games over the last three seasons, and an exceptional offense – and exceptional offensive star – have played major roles. The Bees were added for 658 total yards in a win over Lawrence last season, that total ranking third all-time, and also 613 yards in a win over Eau Claire. Those included totals of 575 and 547 rushing yards, respectively, and Bridgman was added for 3,598 rushing yards (sixth on the list), 59 rushing touchdowns (fourth) and 76 total touchdowns (seventh). Senior Reid Haskins capped his four-year, 32-game varsity career with 13 record book entries, including for 254 points last season over nine games (tied for fifth all-time) and a record 620 career points, 41 touchdowns last season (fifth) and a record 95 for his career, 2,344 rushing yards last season (third) and a record 5,206 for his career, and 41 rushing touchdowns last season (third) and a record 94 for his career. Senior teammate Tanner Peters made the records three times including for 50 extra points last season (fourth) and 99 over 26 games and three seasons (second on the career list).
Mio's Austin Fox rewrote the 8-player passing record book this past fall, with his 621 yards in a game against Whittemore-Prescott setting a single-game record as he totaled four of the five-highest passing yardage totals. He also set a record with 3,516 over nine games for the season, another record with 289 passing attempts over those nine games and a third record for nine touchdown passes in that game against the Cardinals. His 41 touchdown passes total rank fourth. Teammates Gage Long and Nathan Hurst also earned several record book entries on the receiving end of those passes. Long’s 297 receiving yards against Whittemore-Prescott were tied for third most, and Hurst’s 266 against Alcona rank eighth. Long set a single-season record with 1,739 receiving yards, with Hurst sixth all-time at 1,321, and Long’s 14 receptions against the Cardinals and 70 for the season also rank second on those respective lists. Hurst set a record for longest 8-player kickoff return with a 99-yarder against St. Helen Charlton Heston. All three are seniors.
Peck was one of the first MHSAA 8-player champions, claiming the title in 2013, and Cody Abrego one of the state’s first 8-player stars. The Pirates were added to the MHSAA record book 52 times, and Abrego 14 times individually. Among the most notable entries for the 2015 graduate were for 462 points scored over his two-season career (ranking sixth all-time), 74 career touchdowns (sixth), 2,202 rushing yards in 2013 (fifth) and 35 rushing touchdowns in 2013 (sixth). Current senior Caleb Lentner was one of the stars statewide this past season, and he was added eight times including for 50 points scored in a game (ranking second), 272 points for a season last fall (fifth), eight touchdowns in a game (tied for second), 42 touchdowns in a season (fifth), an 8-player record of 2,694 rushing yards from last season, and 38 rushing touchdowns also last fall (fourth). Others to make the individual lists were Nathan Robar, Caleb Dudley, Steven VanConant, Kyle Abrego and Nathan Neihaus, Dudley for a record 20 career interceptions over two seasons and VanConant for a record 12 tackles for loss in a 2022 game and 36 tackles for loss for the season last fall. The Pirates also are all over the 8-player team record book, including for a record 97 touchdowns in 2013, a record 5,895 yards of total offense that season, 528 carries, 4,346 rushing yards and 73 rushing touchdowns in 2013 (all ranking second); and 24 interceptions in 2014, which ranks second on that list.
Senior quarterback JR Hildebrand was one of the most dynamic players in 8-player football in the fall in leading Martin to the Division 1 title. He had one of his most exciting nights in a playoff opener against Tekonsha, making the single-game touchdown pass list with six in a 68-6 victory.
PHOTO Mendon’s Jack McCaw (21) eludes a tackle during the 8-Player Division 2 Final in November at Northern Michigan University. (Photo by Cara Kamps.)