Spencer Constable showed up for his first Black River football practice in the fall of 2016. Little was known about the sophomore transfer from Keystone other than he had booted a varsity field goal and his father, Justin, played for Pirates coach Al Young in the early 1990s.
What Young and his staff saw was a raw athlete who could jump feet first onto the back fender of Dad’s Ford F350 truck but also a young man without a natural position. They tried Constable at strong safety, outside linebacker, cornerback, running back, wide receiver and even quarterback, almost throwing everything against the wall in the hope something stuck on the double wing-T offense or 3-4 defense.
Outside linebacker was the final destination — a position on offense, where he’s not needed full time, is still a week-by-week adventure — and all Constable has done is make athletic plays as Black River (11-1) heads into the Division V, Region 17 championship game Friday against South Range (12-0) at Northwest.
“I see the ball and go get it, basically,” Constable said bluntly. “I always know where the ball is going, and I’ve always been outside backer my entire life. If they run in front me, I go with them. That’s pretty much it.”
Transferring during high school often is difficult, as there’s little time to make long-lasting relationships while leaving old ones behind. Constable, however, has been a perfect fit with a brutally honest and quick-witted personality that meshes perfectly with Black River’s unique culture of winning games and heavy side dish of slapstick humor.
After practice Tuesday, linebacker Alex Vormelker teased Constable for being second on the team in tackles — behind Vormelker, of course — and Constable instantly snapped back about not giving Vormelker a ride home. Vormelker and safety Garrett Hord, who flanked Constable, let out hearty laughs.
Constable fits in, all right.
“He’s one of those loose cannons. He is. Let’s be honest,” a smiling Young said. “He means well. He’s very misunderstood because sometimes his mischievous personality gets him in a little hot water. Sometimes I get mad at him. He tests me, but he’s one of those kids you’re glad he’s on your side at the end of the day.”
“I liked (Black River) because my dad went here and I knew a bunch of people,” Constable said. “There were a lot of jokes about corn, like having a school building inside a corn field. You hear that a lot. We’re all the same in our humor. We just mess around a lot.”
Standing 5-foot-11 and weighing 145 pounds, Constable looks the part of a free safety with great instincts, solid speed and good hands. At schools with larger enrollments, that’d likely be his position.
Small-school football, especially at Black River with a mad scientist like Young in charge, is different. What defensive coordinator Kyle Clark liked was Constable played much more physically than his listed size indicated yet was athletic enough to cover receivers.
So Constable lined up at outside linebacker, where he functions as a third safety against spread offenses. He’ll blitz quarterbacks, line up as a pseudo end against full-house backfields, set the edge against sweeps, cover slot receivers and even spy wheel routes of the backfield.
The statistics speak to versatility, as Constable has 79 tackles, 12½ for loss (5½ sacks), two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, an interception and two pass breakups. While he “only” had seven tackles and a pass breakup last week against Wickliffe, he almost had two fumble recoveries and helped limit the Blue Devils to 146 yards total offense in Black River’s 44-6 victory.
“Hard-hitting kid, aggressive, he doesn’t stop for anyone,” inside linebacker Trevor Scott said. “He’s pretty smart, and he practices hard every single day. He’s that kid.
“He’s funny and outgoing. He’s not afraid to say what’s on his mind. He came in, coach gave him a spot on the team and he’s done a great job since.”
Constable, who also covers kickoffs, has connected on 21 extra points and sees part-time action at wide receiver, will be a key player this week against South Range. The Raiders feature a spread-option offense led by all-district quarterback Aniello Buzzacco, who has more than 1,000 yards apiece rushing and passing, as well as a physical running back in 5-11, 210-pound, soon-to-be-All-Ohioan Peyton Remish.
Do-everything players who make up for size with speed and intelligence — like Constable — are why the Pirates are confident they keep everything in check.
Positions don’t matter at the end of the day because playmakers do.
And let’s be blunt: Constable is a playmaker.
Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or firstname.lastname@example.org.