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Mike Weber and John Kelly, Two Runningbacks that go Pound for Pound with one another
It's a hot summer day in Michigan, during early June and into July the weather is miserable. A lot of people are complaining to one another that it's to hot and people are looking for air conditioning. Over in Oak Park, unquestionably two of the top runningbacks in Michigan and for that matter, the Midwest are not only soaking in sweat, the heat, but also soaking in the knowledge of Daryl Graham. Mike Weber of Cass Tech and John Kelly of Oak Park both have scholarships offers but still have a long way to go before their final goals are met. The two backs train with Graham who played at Michigan Tech as a True Freshman, after playing for Greg Carter at DePorres. Graham's hard work, dedication, and skills took over from there, after one season he had over 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns at Michigan Tech. After officially breaking out as a Sophomore, Graham transferred back home to Wayne State in Detroit, (550 miles between Detroit and Houghton) where he could play play football as well as do what he could do to help out the youth. When Graham hung up the cleats in college, he was able to play with Joique Bell (Detroit Lions) and finished with over 3,000 rushing yards which is top 10, all time in the GLIAC. Right now Graham also is working with Nick Turner a 2015 RB out of Sterling Heights Stevenson, Chance Savage of Oak Park, and an upcoming RB in Lenard Flash Covington.
For John Kelly he is especially close with Daryl Graham, who happens to be the runningback coach for the Oak Park Knights. Although the Wayne State Warriors have expressed their interest in bringing back Graham to help out on their coaching staff, he has chosen to stay and help out the younger players grow both on and off of the field. Graham also has helped the development of Malik Washington who was All-State last season and would sign his Letter of Intent to play RB/DB at Ferris State University.
Let's rewind to just a couple a months ago after Mike Weber loaded up on scholarship offers as he approached the summer, also still fresh off his dominating performance over Detroit Catholic Central in the Division 1 final, while John Kelly was a popular name but did not have an offer. As the Spring time moved into summer and the rain stopped, Kelly and Weber took the field and anywhere Graham could take them to make sure they were getting pushed to the max! Kelly and Weber both describe that at time the workouts became, "very competitive." Weber went on to say what the most challenging part of his training was, "I think the sand because we would do the hardest drills in the sand with an ladder, and cones and we cutting, switching the ball and as you know the sand gets deeper every time you go, so it gets harder and harder and the running we do, it was very hard."
John Kelly takes a handoff as a Sophomore against Southfield. Source: Jeff Corrion / The D Zone
During this summer, Graham has taught the runningbacks he works with - RB fundamentals: footwork, ball security, switching the ball at the appropriate time, blocking, and finishing runs in the opening field. Graham has had his runningbacks performing workouts on hills, sand, and on the field. Weber and Kelly have the desire and drive to get better, they were constantly wanting to train on weekends and holidays, Graham was happy to accommodate their requests. Graham infused his knowledge into his backs, it was no surprise they put out dominating performances in week 1. Kelly had nothing but praise for his RB Coach, "Master Graham is my number one critic and supporter. He is the best RB coach I've ever had. He taught me lots of fundamentals from the runningback spot. I can't ask for a better coach." Weber offered a similar praise as well, "DG really help me out a lot, he taught me a lot from stretching to running the ball. I can say I got a lot better working with him, both me and John."
Now let's move back the notch to just this past week in the present day. At Wayne State University, Graham is reunited with where he calls home and both John Kelly and Mike Weber play on the same field. On Friday, August 29th. A Greg Carter led Oak Park team gets to play a semi-familiar face in Orchard Lake Saint Mary's at 4 pm. The Cass Tech game is set for 7 pm which is a few minutes following the Oak Park game, Mike Weber and Cass Tech play Southfield, in what would be an expected, thrilling game.
It is now after 6:30 pm, Oak Park bends but doesn't break in the final minutes to hold onto a crucial win over Orchard Lake Saint Mary's. Although John Kelly didn't win the game for Oak Park, he still has to feel like a million dollars after leaving a lasting impression on everyone in the stadium, who wonders why his only offer is just Michigan State. Kelly notes after game, 'we came out with more speed then them because a team like OLSM is very strong and physical so we tried to match the intensity and remain very tough."
Weber scores 2nd touchdown of game vs Southfield. Source: Brian Quinos Photography
John Kelly finishes the game with 16 carries for 148 yards and scored 1 touchdown. Kelly saved his best for the 4th quarter, who praised Graham for situations like this, "he pretty much has been getting me ready to make plays at any moment in the game, in this situation it was late in the game." Kelly also knew he could of played better and vowed not to let complacency take over after the performance, "we did not play a perfect game so there were many mistakes that I had to fix. This was only the 1st game so I will improve on my game as well as my team we got all the pieces to win the OAA tittle."
Just like in the summer workouts, they set the bar high for each other. Now that the season is here, Weber has a chance to go pound for pound with Kelly's performance. As the Cass Tech Technicians take the field to warm-up, 20 minutes prior to kickoff against Southfield, John Kelly finds #25 - Mike Weber to offer his final words of encouragement for the night, "I told him to make sure he ballout," cause we put in to much work, Kelly tells me afterwards.
You could say Weber carried the torch well from Kelly. Weber finished with 8 carries for 67 yards and a rushing touchdown, as well as 30 yard screen pass to start off the scoring in the game. Cass Tech defeats Southfield by the score of 18 to 14. Following each game, the two were awarded game MVP's of their games at the Prep Kickoff Classic.
Weber didn't have much to say prior to his game, as he was preparing and at the time, didn't know the damage Kelly was doing. Later in the week, Weber was not shocked at all by his performance and talks about his summer workout with Kelly, "Me and John want it! We push each other and compete in everything we do, we want each other to be great from this level on up we went from hills to sand to stairs the whole 9 that's the reason we are where we are now."
Weber after the game describes the key to such a hyped up game, "the key was to come out and play hard and leave nothing on the field and just have fun." At the time one of the main questions in the game was, how does Cass Tech do anything against a defensive line with Michigan commit, Lawrence Marshall, Malik McDowell, Chris Williams, and Lion King Conaway. Between balancing out snaps with Senior RB, Gary Hosey, Weber had an answer, "Malik and Lawrence are really big and physical and they were so in the hurry we knew if we ran underneath them we will make some big plays" Weber and the offense used some timely screens and draws throughout the game and had success.
This week, Cass Tech plays Northwestern and Oak Park plays Southfield-Lathrup.