Performance: Cass Tech's Rodney Hall
December 1, 2016
Detroit Cass Tech senior – Football
A year ago, Hall’s junior season ended on the Ford Field sideline, watching Cass Tech fall 41-27 to Romeo in the Division 1 Final after he suffered a lower leg injury two weeks before. But he came back this season fueled by championship motivation, and made it pay off. Hall threw for 220 yards and an MHSAA Finals record-tying five touchdown passes to lead the Technicians to a 49-20 win over Detroit Catholic Central in the Division 1 Final on Saturday and earn the Michigan National Guard “Performance of the Week.”
Hall started a pair of playoff games as a freshman before taking over the varsity fulltime in 2014 and leading Cass Tech to a 12-1 record. The Technicians were a combined 36-3 under him the last three seasons and scored a program-record 619 points (44.2 per game) this fall. The 6-foot-2, 210-pound signal-caller completed 10 of 18 passes in the Final and also ran for 58 yards on only seven carries. He finished this season 142 of 238 passing for 2,535 yards and 28 touchdowns, after a junior season when he threw for 2,232 yards and 20 touchdowns and ran for 1,053 yards and 14 scores.
After admitting Saturday to being a little timid to run at the start of the fall, and with a steel plate still in his ankle, Hall ran for a combined 253 yards and three touchdowns over his final three playoff games. He has committed to sign to play football at Northern Illinois University but said he’s unsure which course of study he’ll pursue. MLive-Detroit reported Hall carries a 3.4 grade-point average in its feature on the Technicians standout as one of 10 finalists for MLive’s High School Football Player of the Year award.
Coach Thomas Wilcher said: Let's say it like this: He lost one game his first year, two games his second year, zero games his third year. That's enough said. ... I think the most important thing about Rodney Hall is you have to look at his stats. He has phenomenal stats. He has a phenomenal win-loss record. I haven't been around anything like that before. I just look at his game – (he's) the gamer. He's always bringing back a victory. We went down to the wire several times, and it was all about him. And I just told him this week, 'Look, I don't need you to run the ball. All I want you to do is throw the ball. You should throw the ball for over 300 yards.’ That’s it. And I told him, just stick with the game plan; no running. And I just kept telling the offensive coordinator, don't let him run. Let him throw it. That's it."
Performance Point: “Just to be able to make it back to this point and play in this game, I was just excited to come play, and glad we won,” Hall said. “The offense was clicking, and guys were open. They did the rest. I just put it to them. … (At last season’s Final) I was crying. I was hurt that I couldn't be out there to help my teammates. I wanted (this year) bad. We made history at Cass because I think we’re the first team to go 14-0 and win the state championship. We just wanted to win this game because we’ve been losing ever since we came into high school. We have a lot of wins, but we’ve been coming up short for the last three years – and it’s great to come out with the championship this year.”
Learning to run again: “I came in (to this season), I was a little timid to run, actually. I didn't want to get hurt again and miss this opportunity. Coach, he's been pressing me to run all year, and when I finally do, I get positive yards.”
Star among the stars: “Quarterback is simple. You just have to keep everybody on the right track and make sure teammates don’t get down when we get behind. The last two weeks we’ve been losing, and I just remind my guys, ‘Come on, we can win this. We’re going to go back and score.’ Just remind them to keep scoring, remind the defense we’re going to keep getting stops, and just keep everybody’s heads up.”
Pass is present: “This year, I’ve been a way better passer. Because all offseason, I haven’t been able to run. I’ve just been working the pocket, making sure I’m looking at everything, making sure I’m reading the defense better. And I’ve had a better passing year this year, I believe.”
Leaving a legacy: “I just can’t believe it’s over with. I just want people to know I was a guy to go out there and give it all I’ve got. Just sell out for the team, and that’s what you should do – and you’ll end up a champion.”
- Geoff Kimmerly, Second Half editor
Every week during the 2016-17 school year, Second Half and the Michigan National Guard will recognize a “Performance of the Week" from among the MHSAA's 750 member high schools.
The Michigan Army National Guard provides trained and ready forces in support of the National Military Strategy, and responds as needed to state, local, and regional emergencies to ensure peace, order, and public safety. The Guard adds value to our communities through continuous interaction. National Guard soldiers are part of the local community. Guardsmen typically train one weekend per month and two weeks in the summer. This training maintains readiness when needed, be it either to defend our nation's freedom or protect lives and property of Michigan citizens during a local natural disaster.
Previous 2016-17 honorees:
Nov. 24: Ally Cummings, Novi volleyball – Read
Nov. 17: Chloe Idoni, Fenton volleyball – Read
Nov. 10: Adelyn Ackley, Hart cross country – Read
Nov. 3: Casey Kirkbride, Mattawan soccer – Read
Oct. 27: Colton Yesney, Negaunee cross country – Read
Oct. 20: Varun Shanker, Midland Dow tennis – Read
Oct. 13: Anne Forsyth, Ann Arbor Pioneer cross country – Read
Oct. 6: Shuaib Aljabaly, Coldwater cross country – Read
Sept. 29: Taylor Seaman, Brighton swimming & diving – Read
Sept. 22: Maggie Farrell, Battle Creek Lakeview cross country – Read
Sept. 15: Franki Strefling, Buchanan volleyball – Read
Sept. 8: Noah Jacobs, Corunna cross country – Read
PHOTOS: (Top) Detroit Cass Tech's Rodney Hall prepares to unload a pass during Saturday's Division 1 Final at Ford Field. (Middle) Hall hurdles a would-be Detroit Catholic Central tackler.
Mendon 8-Player Championship Game Run Paced by Record-Setting Rushing
By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com 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:
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.)