It took Rodney Hall all of four plays to throw a touchdown pass in his final high school game, and all was right in the world for the Detroit Cass Tech senior quarterback.
A year ago, Hall was standing on the sidelines at Ford Field with tears streaming down his face during the national anthem. He had broken his fibula in the regional final and all he could do was watch his teammates lose to Romeo in the state finals.
So Hall went to work and rehabbed like a maniac so he would be ready for his senior year.
After No. 17 Cass’ opening-drive touchdown, Novi Detroit Catholic Central countered with a drive of over 8 minutes to score and tie the game. And on the very next play from scrimmage, Hall threw a bubble screen that defensive end Jack Morris read perfectly, made the interception and turned it into a 25-yard touchdown to give CC a 14-7 lead.
“I saw how the linebackers dropped back so deep on their rush, they were behind me,” Hall said. “So I stepped up in the pocket and I knew I had the space to run the ball and there was probably going to be one or two defenders to beat.”
Hall gained 27 yards on the play, then threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to tie the game and the Technicians were on their way.
Hall completed 10 of 18 passes for 220 yards and record-tying five touchdowns. He also gained 58 yards on seven carries as Cass knocked off Catholic Central, 49-20, to claim the Division 1 state championship.
This was a day of atonement for Hall, who had taken it personally that Cass Tech had not won a state title in his time running the offense.
This was an incredibly loaded Cass Tech team, winners of 14 straight games. Hall, who has committed to Northern Illinois, was the benefactor of having some tremendous receivers like the all-everything Donovan Peoples-Jones, who caught six passes for 118 yards and a touchdown.
Early in the fourth quarter, Peoples-Jones had to twist his body around and lay out to make a 26-yard catch before hauling in a 13-yard TD pass.
“I just put the ball out there and I know he’s going to catch it,” Hall said. “I try to put the ball out there and get him a good ball, but whenever I can’t I know he’s going to make a great play on the ball. Either he’s going to catch it or if the defender is right there, he’s going to knock it out of the defender’s hands.”
When teams automatically drop back into pass coverage or come with a blitz, it can leave open lanes for Hall to run. But early in the season Hall wasn’t keen on running. He remembered his final carry of his junior year, which resulted in surgery and a painful recovery process.
“I came in, I was a little timid to run, actually,” he admitted. “I didn’t really want to run, I didn’t want to get hurt again and miss this opportunity. Coach (Thomas) Wilcher has been pressing me to run all year and when I finally do I get positive yardage.”
He got positive yardage when the Technicians needed it — and now they also have their third state title, thanks to Hall’s arm and his legs.
“I just did what I was supposed to do,” he said. “Coach Wilcher tells me I have great legs and just to use them.”