Throughout all of the commotion and pressure that comes with playing in the primetime game of the Prep Kickoff Classic, it is sometimes tough to stay under control. Early on that was the case for Cass Tech sophomore quarterback, Rodney Hall. But after a halftime talk from his father, Rodney Sr., Hall Jr. calmed down and led his Technicians to a 27-26 victory over Oak Park.
“Me and my dad, we talked. My dad, he always calms me down before games,” Hall said. “But today we rode over on a bus so he didn’t get to talk to me before the game.”
“He told me to come out and play my hardest starting on the first drive. If I see something, take it. Don’t be running around in the pocket.”
Cass Tech trailed 26-13 with 10:13 remaining after Oak Park senior running back, John Kelly’s, third rushing touchdown of the night. Kelly ran 61-yards after being initially contained at the line of scrimmage.
Cass Tech senior running back and Michigan commit Mike Weber answered with a 2-yard rushing touchdown concluding a quick Technician possession.
Oak Park tried to feed Kelly more to run out the clock, but he was stopped on three consecutive runs forcing a three-and-out.
Following an Oak Park punt, Hall led his Technicians back to the field for one final possession starting at their own 28-yard-line with 5:17 left in the fourth quarter.
“I wanted to take my team to victory as a sophomore. Just win the game,” Hall (11-for-18, 166-yards, one touchdown and one interception) said. “It feels good to come back and win like this.”
Weber took the bulk of the load on the final drive on screens and draws. He capped the drive with a 2-yard touchdown run with 2:16 left in the game.
“I ran and got what I could get. I knew they had nine in the box (on the final drive) and just ran as hard as I could,” Weber, 22 carries for 142 yards and three touchdowns, said.
Weber’s counterpart on the night was Kelly. All game long they traded blows and Weber enjoyed every minute of the competition.
“John Kelly has things that I don’t have and I have things that he doesn’t have. I’m taking no credit. He played a great game, I played a great game. It feels good to have the ‘W’,” Weber said.
“Me and Mike had pretty good performances against eachother. I tried to show him that I was the better football player by playing both sides, but his team ended up getting the victory. It was pretty good competition between him and I,” Kelly (26 carries for 139 yards and three touchdowns) said.
Early on, it looked like it would be a cake walk for Oak Park- the Knights led 19-6 after three quarters. But once Weber got rolling and the Technician defense stood tall, Cass Tech took over.
Cass Tech head coach, Thomas Wilcher, was all smiles after the victory, but appreciates the competition from a game like this. He admitted he took a liking to Kelly’s running and took some mental notes.
“That boy John Kelly made some spectacular runs, Weber made some spectacular runs- I was very impressed with both running backs,” Wilcher said. “I was impressed with how (head) coach (Greg) Carter coached. He really did show me some great things to do. I took some notes today, I really did.”
When the Cass Tech offense struggled in the first half, Hall was a little uneasy about the big stage. But after the talk with his father at halftime, Wilcher felt comfortable to open up the playbook a little more.
“The most important thing (in the second half) we did was let him loose. We did let him loose all the way,” Wilcher said.
Hall took the reins from senior Jayru Campbell, who is currently serving a suspension. Although he has a similar build to him, Hall and Campbell aren’t very similar, according to Wilcher.
“You can’t really compare them, they’re two different kids. Jayru’s a student of the game and Rodney’s learning the game. He’s got a long way to go just like Jayru did,” Wilcher said. “Rodney has a lot of gifts, we just haven’t opened them up. We haven’t really tested them yet.”
If Hall keeps playing the way he did in the second half, there could be a battle for QB1.
“I hope they learn how to work together as the season goes on because we’re gonna have a good duel-threat,” Wilcher said.
“Oh, the competition is gonna be great. It’s gonna give us an opportunity to really run a lot plays, a lot of plays. A chance to run whatever we want to run,” Wilcher said. “Because we’ll have Jayru and he is gonna be a load at 6-foot-5 and two-hundred some pounds. We’re gonna be able to run the ball.”