Gloucester Fishermen Football '07

Battle of the Backs

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Friday, November, 30 By Matt Langone
Sports editor

Gloucester High School senior running back Andrew Fulford has a great amount of respect for Hingham senior running back Chris Constantine.

Of course, it would be difficult not to have respect for the 5-foot-10, 180-pound Harbormen captain. Constantine enters today's Division 2A Super Bowl at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro (1:30 p.m.) against Fulford's Fishermen with 2,010 yards rushing and 30 total touchdowns. However, Fulford's admiration for Constantine goes well beyond statistics.

"If he gets the corner, then he's gone for a touchdown every time," said Fulford during Thursday's practice, just hours after being introduced to Constantine at the Super Bowl Breakfast Meeting at Gillette Stadium. "I haven't been able to see him (Constantine) run in person yet, but clearly his team has gone as he has gone."

Gloucester fans need not worry, though, because Fulford will have no problems putting aside his appreciation for Constantine's running ability and placing his focus directly on winning one last football game this afternoon.

The reality is that Fulford has no choice but to do so, because the team with the best running attack will most likely dictate which team goes home with a championship today. Patriot League champ Hingham (11-1) only averages six pass attempts per game, while unbeaten Gloucester (12-0) only throws about five passes per game; Fulford is a big reason why the Fishermen lean on an explosive ground attack.

The 5-foot-9, 170-pound Fulford is a bit similar to Constantine in stature, and his statistics also resemble those of the Hingham star. Coming into today, the Northeastern Conference Large MVP has rushed for 1,203 yards and has scored 31 TDs on the ground. He also added a score on and interception return. Fulford is currently the top scorer in all of Division 2A, while Constantine is second. Both backs wear the No. 21 and the similarity goes even deeper in Fulford's opinion.

"We are both around the same size and we have the same style of running," said Fulford. "Both of us are hard runners and we always try to avoid going down at first contact."

The main difference between the two backs very well may be the fact that Constantine handles the ball approximately 70 percent of the time for the Harbormen. At least that's what Gloucester head coach Paul Ingram estimates after studying Hingham on film.

In the Fishermen offense, Fulford is by far the team's leading rusher with 462 more yards than senior Anthony Enderle's 741. However, Gloucester also frequently uses senior Brian Harnish (501 rushing yards) and junior Taylor Burbine (467 rushing yards) along with Fulford and Enderle to form a balanced running game.

According to Ingram, it's what Fulford accomplishes when his teammates carry the ball that separates him from Constantine.

"I think Fulford is a better all-around player," said Ingram without hesitation. "Andrew is a better blocker from what I've seen on film and I think that is the difference." At the same time, Ingram won't hesitate to compliment Constantine's ability.

"He (Constantine) makes things happen, even when there is nothing there," said Ingram. "You really have to wrap him up because he is a really good cut-back runner. His biggest strengths are speed and his ability to change direction."

While Ingram didn't want to say that this game could accurately be billed as simply a battle of the two finest running backs in Division 2A, he did admit that the contest would be won or lost on the ground by using a metaphor for his running backs.

"I once had a college coach tell me, 'If you have a cannon you fire it,' " said Ingram. "Well, we have three or four cannons, so we're going to fire them."

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