...talks about how UConn hasn't been in contact and how they're out. (HT: UMHoops)
Future Blue Originals: Cass Tech vs. Warren De La Salle
Last Friday saw one of the most exciting and dramatic games of the season at Lake Shore High School, where Cass Tech knocked off host Warren De La Salle in a 6-0 thriller, with Michigan commit Royce Jenkins-Stone running in the game-winning touchdown with just 1:38 remaining. The defensive slugfest featured three Michigan commits—Jenkins-Stone, his teammate Terry Richardson, and Warren De La Salle's Shane Morris—and several D-I prospects, including class of 2013 Cass Tech corner Jourdan Lewis, who turned in an outstanding performance. Here are some highlights, courtesy of StateChampsTV:
Royce Jenkins-Stone (Cass Tech LB/FB #10, 2012 commit): RJS recorded six tackles at linebacker, where he was consistently active and a major factor in the Technician defense holding De La Salle's rushing attack to just 108 yards on 26 carries. Despite Cass Tech's outstanding all-around defensive effort, which kept the Pilot offense off the field for much of the game, Jenkins-Stone managed to get in on more plays than I'd seen from him in either of the previous two times I watched him play this season. When he gets to the ballcarrier, he arrives with ill intentions, and delivered a couple of very nice hits.
On this day, however, Jenkins-Stone would be most lauded for his offensive performance, as he carried the ball 22 times for 67 hard-fought yards, and Cass Tech repeatedly fed him the ball on a final drive that took 10:53 off the clock and ended with a three-yard TD run for RJS. While the rushing numbers aren't particularly impressive, they were earned in a fashion befitting of a linebacker—pretty much all of Jenkins-Stone's runs came on fullback dives into the line, and he showed a lot of toughness and durability in repeatedly slamming into the line, taking a couple big hits but shaking them off and continuing to go full-bore on both sides of the ball. RJS is still a bit raw as a prospect—James Ross has more of a play-to-play impact from what I've seen, though Ross also plays less on offense—but his heart and motor should not come into question.
Terry Richardson (Cass Tech CB/WR #9, 2012 commit): Richardson's coverage was a big reason why Shane Morris could never find a rhythm, as he was consistently right in the pocket of the receiver he was tasked with covering. Cass Tech trusted Richardson and fellow corner Jourdan Lewis to play man-up for much of the game, and both were up for the challenge. Though Richardson had been battling a leg injury since the regular season finale, and spent much of warmups on his own testing out the leg, he looked just fine once the game started, exhibiting the speed and hip swivel that make him a four-star corner prospect despite his small stature. He was also strong in run support, tallying four tackles, including a textbook wrap-up in space on a play that got to the outside quickly—he was alone on an island, but managed to drive through the ballcarrier and keep him from gaining any extra yards.
Richardson also added two catches for 46 yards, including a huge 23-yard reception on Cass Tech's game-winning drive. There are going to be questions about his size until he steps onto the field as a Wolverine and proves his height (I'd say 5'8" after standing right next to him for a post-game interview) won't be an issue, but his athleticism and coverage skills are elite for a high school player.
Jourdan Lewis (Cass Tech CB/WR #1, 2013 recruit): Lewis was the best player on the field on Friday, recording three pass breakups and a critical interception (included in the video highlights above), where he read where Morris was going beautifully and made a great play on the ball. Lewis has a couple inches on Richardson, and while he's still quite skinny, he's able to play a more physical game while still exhibiting good speed and agility.
With Richardson doing such a great job blanketing receivers on the opposite side of the field, Morris often tried to throw at Lewis, but the junior was ready—he did a great job of staying right with the receiver, waiting until the ball was there, then reaching around and knocking it away without committing a penalty—his pass breakups all felt like a carbon copy of the previous one. Lewis is the next in line in the Cass cornerback pipeline, and he looked worthy to take up the mantle previously held by Richardson, Dior Mathis, and Boubacar Cissoko, though he has a little bit of height on each of his predecessors.
Shane Morris (De La Salle QB #12, 2013 commit): This was not Morris's finest performance, and he completed just 4-of-17 passes for 28 yards and a pair of interceptions while also losing a fumble on a QB keeper. I know I'm going to sound like a homer when I say this, but I don't think the stats are truly representative of his effort, at least when it comes to completion percentage—De La Salle's receivers could not get an inch of separation all night, and Morris was constantly trying to fit the ball into a tiny window. I also counted three drops by DLS receivers, which didn't help matters. Late in the game, Morris started forcing the issue, and that's when the picks came in—the interception to Lewis was Morris trying to get a big play downfield that just wasn't there—but with Cass Tech shutting down the De La Salle run game, Morris was left in a very tough position.
That's not to say he played well. De La Salle had Morris throw on a few designed rollouts early, but even on normal drop-back throws he didn't seem comfortable in the pocket, and on one play he shuffled smack into pressure while throwing and had his pass fall harmlessly incomplete. He still had a couple passes that reminded you why he's a five-star talent, and I think a lot of his issues came from facing two D-I corners with a pedestrian group of receivers, but it seemed like he let his frustrations get the best of him as the game wore on and it was clear things weren't going well. This is the time to remind yourself that Shane is still just a junior, and one who can throw the ball 80 yards in the air. This was a tough game against a very good Cass Tech defense, and in this case the bevy of D-I talent bested the up-and-coming quarterback.
After the jump, check out a photo gallery from the game plus interviews with both Jenkins-Stone and Richardson.
I tried my best to get some action shots in here, and I got some non-blurry in-play shots in there, but I spent most of the second half with my camera packed away so I could do a better job of scouting the players. The Cass Tech celebration at the end was awesome to see—pure jubilation from the visitors and their fans, and RJS and T-Rich took several photos together with family and friends after the trophy presentation. You'll get a sense for the pure joy in the aftermath of the game in the...
ACE: First of all, what felt better: pitching the shutout or scoring the game-winning touchdown?
ROYCE: It was a little bit of both, because that boy Shane, he's a legit quarterback. We had to maintain him and we had to make plays on him. We got two picks, I think, two interceptions on him. I kinda missed one—I didn't get turned around, I just wanted him [I think he means Jourdan Lewis] to get the four-and-out—make the play, but stop him from getting a first down, because that's all we needed to win the game.
ACE: How did you feel about your performance today, and the team's performance as a whole?
ROYCE: The team's performance and my performance, we all stepped up and made big plays. The defense stepped it up real good, you know—we held the shutout and just made plays, and I'm glad we did.
ACE: You were talking about what kind of a quarterback Shane Morris is. I know it was a bit of a rough outing for him tonight against you guys, but what do you think of him as a player?
ROYCE: Shane, as a player, he's pretty humble, and he's a great all-around quarterback. He'll be good at the next level, hopefully, because we need him at Michigan.
ACE: What was it like to be able to share this with Terry, your good friend?
ROYCE: Terry, man, we always go through this. We've been playing together for the longest [time], and we win together and we lose together. We're bros, and we're just going to keep it that way, and hopefully we come to Michigan and win. We don't want to take any more losses.
ACE: What do you have to do to win a state title?
ROYCE: Play harder. Defense step it up, offense step it up, and make plays. We can't have another repeat from last year.
ACE: First of all, congratulations. What's it like being in a tough game like that, senior year, for the regional title, coming down to the end? Describe what that game was like for you.
TERRY: It pretty much took a lot. It took a lot of heart. We had to come out, we had to believe, and we had to just work at it. We were just keeping in our minds that the dream was possible. Once again, we came through with it, so it's a big honor.
ACE: How did it feel to see your buddy Royce run in there for the game-winning TD?
TERRY: I love it, man. I love Royce. We grew up playing ball together. He knows my abilities, and I know his, so we trust each other, and I think that's something we all use to this day. Even when we were growing up back in the day we still used the same motto: We just love each other, man.
ACE: You guys faced off against a future teammate and a heck of a quarterback in Shane Morris and you shut him down. What kind of an effort did that take from you guys, and what did you think of Shane?
TERRY: It took a lot, it took a lot. Shane is my guy. I love Shane with a passion, you know. Shane's come up in the ranks, and it's amazing—I think Shane held his own and he made sure certain balls had to be in certain areas, so overall I think he has a lot of room to grow, but he will grow.
ACE: Just quickly talk about the corner playing across from you. Jourdan had a heck of a game, too. Are you trying to get him to come to Michigan with you?
TERRY: Yeah, well you know, this is his own little process. I want him to get all the visits he can, take all the visits he can, and if Michigan is in his heart, then you know, we're all a fan.