Decision Adds to Anticipation As Cass Tech's Thompson Begins Senior Year

By Keith Dunlap
Special for

August 18, 2022

DETROIT – Monday will mark both an end and the beginning for Detroit Cass Tech senior Jalen Thompson.

Greater DetroitOn one hand, it will mark an end to everyone in the recruiting world wondering which college football program he’ll initially give a commitment, as he had targeted Monday as the decision date to pledge his services to one of the more than 30 Division I college programs who have offered him a scholarship.

But it also will be the beginning, because make no mistake about it: College coaches who lose out on Monday aren’t going to give up trying to woo the ultra-talented Thompson until national signing day in December.

It’s no wonder, because Thompson is one of the premier defensive line recruits in the Midwest.

Last season, Thompson finished with 10 sacks, 42 tackles and 14 tackles for loss despite being the constant focus of attention for blocking schemes of opposing offenses.

He has narrowed his college contenders down to, in alphabetical order, Cincinnati, Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State and Pittsburgh, and chose Aug. 22 as the commitment date for two reasons.

One, it’s the first day of game week for Cass Tech’s season opener Aug. 26 at Southfield Arts & Technology.

Second, it’s the birthday of his late grandfather, and Thompson figured it was a good way to honor him.

“It was a day I felt comfortable with (committing,)” he said.

So Thompson will make one college program very happy Monday, then start preparing to make life miserable for opposing offenses during his senior season.

Of course, the big game that many have circled is Cass Tech’s annual tussle against Detroit Public School League rival Detroit Martin Luther King, which will take place on Sept. 16 at Cass Tech.

Many will turn out to see how much Thompson can pressure Martin Luther King quarterback and Oregon-pledge Dante Moore.

“Every time we go against them, my thing is to show them he’s not who they think he is and for him to get off the least amount of balls as possible,” Thompson said.

By no means is Thompson a late bloomer in football, given he has been playing in youth leagues since he was in elementary school.

However, he did not play for Cass Tech when he was a freshman because he decided to play youth football instead.

But after coming out for the varsity team his sophomore year, it certainly didn’t take long for Thompson to show he was special.

Cass Tech then-head coach Thomas Wilcher kept telling Thompson that his time was coming, and then proceeded to ask Thompson one question.

“Are you ready to blow up?” Thompson said Wilcher asked him.

Thompson sure did, and by the time his junior year was over, college coaches were salivating over his abilities.

This past offseason was spent touring some of the prominent programs in the country, including Ohio State, which offered him a scholarship in June after Thompson appeared at a camp there.

Going into his senior year, Thompson said polishing up mental aspects of the game is what he wants to focus on the most as he tries to lead Cass Tech to the Division 1 title.

“Really just fixing as many mental errors that I can and try and prepare for college as best of my ability,” he said. “Just fixing little things like techniques and definitely getting bigger. But mental things are most important right now.”

Cass Tech head coach Marvin Rushing, who is in his second year, said Thompson’s enhanced role as a leader will be vital this fall.

“He’s going to help lead our younger guys, which will be beneficial to us,” Rushing said. “We’re going to be a heavy mix of seniors and younger guys. That’s been pivotal. He’s been leading by example, working hard in the classroom and off of the field.”

It’s actually Thompson’s prowess in the classroom as a 3.8 student that has impressed Rushing more, especially while traveling the recruiting trail.

“It’s the way he carries himself off of the field,” Rushing said. “He is studying engineering here and plans on studying engineering in college. He’s a very accomplished student. The thing that stood out to me most in the offseason is that we had coaches come in here and he was really interested in what the Ivy League schools had to say.”

It should be a fun fall for everyone both and on and off the field to watch Thompson, who is ready to tell the world where he plans to play football and attend college Monday.

But he’s simply too talented for his recruiting to completely stop until December.

“Coaches now are texting me,” he said.

Keith DunlapKeith Dunlap has served in Detroit-area sports media for more than two decades, including as a sportswriter at the Oakland Press from 2001-16 primarily covering high school sports but also college and professional teams. His bylines also have appeared in USA Today, the Washington Post, the Detroit Free Press, the Houston Chronicle and the Boston Globe. He served as the administrator for the Oakland Activities Association’s website from 2017-2020.

PHOTO Detroit Cass Tech’s Jalen Thompson is expected to again rank among the state’s top defenders this season. (Photo courtesy of Jalen Thompson.)

Mendon 8-Player Championship Game Run Paced by Record-Setting Rushing

By Geoff Kimmerly 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:

8-Player Football

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.)