Two ranked teams got a playoff tune-up on Friday night when Division 4 seventh-ranked Pennfield hosted Division 6 third-ranked Constantine.
But it will be the Panthers who go into the postseason on a winning note after beating the Falcons 19-7 in a battle for second place in the Kalamazoo Valley Association.
In a matchup of two wing-T offenses playing under constant rain, Pennfield (8-1) outgained Constantine (7-2) in total rushing yards, 287-166.
“Just a physical game. We knew it was going to be the most physical game we had all year,” said Pennfield head coach Nick Koenigsknecht. “It’s always great to beat Constantine. Last year they were at Ford Field, and they always seem to make a run and peak at the end of the year. So that’s a great challenge for us to on the ninth date to get a win against them.”
The Panthers delivered the first blow, when junior fullback Dominic Arredondo took a handoff up the middle and scampered into the end zone from 55-yards out to help give Pennfield a 7-0 lead just over two minutes into the game.
Constantine would answer on the ensuing drive, going 68 yards in 12 plays, with 6-foot-3, 235-pound fullback Payton White scoring on a 1-yard run.
But Pennfield’s defense bottled up the Falcons’ potent rushing attack the remainder of the game. White led Constantine with 82 yards on 14 carries.
The Panthers took a 13-7 lead into halftime after senior kicker Brayden Bennett connected on field goals of 26 and 21 yards.
Constantine’s first drive of the second half ended on a fourth-and-four on the Pennfield 31 yard line, and that was as close as the Falcons would get to scoring the remainder of the game. Constantine was just 1-of-9 on third down, and 1-of-4 on fourth down conversions.
Pennfield put the game away for good with just over two minutes left in the contest when senior quarterback Hunter Hoogakker scored on a 2-yard touchdown run.
Pennfield was led offensively by Arredondo with 132 yards on 12 carries. Defensively, senior linebacker Sam Duckham had a game-high 14 tackles including a sack. Senior linemen Jared Jacobs and Brandon Babcock and junior linebacker Derek Lipps had nine stops apiece. Junior linebacker Zachery Geno also had a sack.
Pennfield has made the playoffs for 14 straight years. Last season, the Panthers advanced all the way to the regionals where they lost to Grosse Ile. Only one starter returned from that team that finished with a 11-1 record.
“It’s great for our seniors,” Koenigsknecht said. “One starter from last year and they are walking off this field 8-1. Lost a tough one in that one loss last year, so this is a great feeling for them. Great regular season for us, and now we get to look at the playoffs.”