By Larry Jacobson, JTV Sports
It’s Halloween season, a time to dress up in costume and pretend you’re something that you’re really not – like a werewolf or a zombie or a super hero.
And like a costume, the Constantine Falcons’ pedestrian regular season mark of 5-4 doesn’t reveal who they really are.
The Michigan Center Cardinals know it.
Since 2002 the Falcons have been one of the most successful programs in the state- rolling up an overall record of 117-21 (85%), making the state playoffs each year, advancing to the state championship game at Ford Field four times (including the last two years) and winning it all in 2004.
This year Constantine reloaded and stumbled along the way, losing four regular season games – albeit to four playoff teams. Still, they come in to Saturday’s matchup averaging almost 41 points per game, and remain a very dangerous team.
“It’s a bit of a double edged sword for us,” Michigan Center Coach Troy Allen said. “We are very excited to host a playoff game, but when we found out it would be Constantine coming in that turned it up a notch. We obviously know of their playoff history and we certainly have our work cut out for us.”
Still, putting in the necessary work is not something this Cardinals team has shied away from.
“Every team reaches a peak during the season somewhere along the way,” Allen said. “The goal is to peak at the right time, and I think we’re doing that. We’re playing our best football right now as we go into the playoffs and that’s all I can ask for. This group, and in particular our five senior captains, have really taken the lead on making sure we’ve been ready for each challenge. We have a great blend of kids who work really hard and work really hard together.”
The five senior captains are Drew Dowding; Bruce Linsday; Dylan Zaborowski; Kyle Parker and Presley Kellogg.
“Starting last December I think we had 310 weight room dates open to the kids at 6am and our guys were there for 302 of them,” Allen said. “That shows their dedication to the program and what we’re doing. Coming into the season we figured it would be a three-team race in the Cascades Conference with us, Manchester and Grass Lake, and we’re really proud to be mentioned on the same level with those teams. I have a ton of respect for each school and it’s an honor to be included in that group.”
But now the conference race and the regular season are finished for the year and it’s on to the playoffs. And that means a slugfest with Constantine, a team that’s made it to the state championship game each of the last two years only to lose to mighty Ithaca both times: 42-14 in 2011 and 37-27 last year.
“Against Constantine it’s about defensive discipline and responsibility,” Allen said. “They use a lot of deception and misdirection style plays and our guys have to be disciplined enough to stay in their lanes and handle their own defensive responsibility. They have to trust each other. If we do that, I think we’ll be okay.”
The Halloween season is about deception, too. It’s about dressing up as something you’re not and pretending you’re something other than what you really are.
What the Michigan Center Cardinals are, is a tough, gritty football team led by a group of senior captains that don’t want their season to end. This weekend they’ll take on a 5-4 team that’s every bit as tough as anyone Center has played this season, during the time of year when only the strong survive.