Saturday's prep football: Nichols, Mangham help Cass Tech crush River Rouge

David Goricki
The Detroit News
Detroit Cass Tech running back Lewis Nichols (21) is congratulated by teammates after scoring a touchdown in the first quarter.

Detroit — Lew Nichols and Jaren Mangham showed why they are considered the premier 1-2 running back combination in the state, each scoring a pair of touchdowns to lead Detroit Cass Tech to a dominating 40-7 rout of River Rouge Saturday afternoon in the Prep Kickoff Classic at Adams Field.

Nichols, a 5-foot-11, 200-pound senior and Central Michigan commit, rushed for 105 yards on 11 carries, scoring on a 35-yard run on a fourth-and-9 play on Cass Tech’s opening series, a 98-yard drive, then breaking loose for a 40-yard TD to close out a third quarter where Cass Tech scored 20 points to open up a 33-0 cushion.

Mangham, a 6-1, 210-pound senior headed for Colorado, had 80 yards on seven carries, including TD runs of 16 and 11 yards.

Cass Tech piled up 315 yards on the ground and held a 296-75 edge in total yards through three quarters.

“Really, we knew they were going to have a lot in the box so we came out and tried to hit them in the mouth and the offensive line did their job and us backs just did what we had to do,” Nichols said.

“The holes were big at the beginning of the game so when we first came out here I knew they were there. We just had to stay behind them, stay running the same plays, keep my pad level low and I knew I’d break something sooner or later.”

Cass Tech put on a strong defensive effort, stuffing the run while putting pressure on River Rouge senior quarterback Emmanuel Ferguson (Air Force). Ferguson was limited to 5 of 13 passing for 30 yards.

“Our coaches have been talking all week just to dominate, dominate, dominate and I feel we have the best D-line in the state,” said Cass Tech junior defensive lineman Duwayne Legette. “The O-line did a great job, too. We’ve just been working hard in practice so it would be easy in the games.”

Cass Tech coach Thomas Wilcher sent out Jalen Graham at quarterback and Graham responded well in the spread option attack, which accounted for 141 yards in the opening half — 112 on the ground.

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Graham led Cass Tech on a 98-yard, 12-play TD drive on its opening series. Graham broke loose for 26 yards on a third and long play, getting inside River Rouge territory at the 36.

Then, on fourth-and-9, Graham gave Nichols an inside handoff and Nichols ran up the middle for a 35-yard TD.

Cass Tech extended the lead to 13-0 in the final minute of the first half.

After forcing River Rouge into a three and out and pinning it deep in its own territory, Cass Tech had a short field to work and Mangham ran for 20 yards, then high-stepped into the end zone for a 16-yard TD with 27 seconds left in the half.

How one-sided was Cass Tech’s advantage in total yards through two quarters? Well, Cass Tech held a 141-48 edge in total yards, 112-38 on the ground and it would have been much larger if Ferguson didn’t get loose for a pair of long third-down runs (14, 20).

And, the dominance continued for Cass Tech in the second half with Cass Tech’s defense forcing three-and-outs and turnovers to give the offense short fields to work with.

Cass Tech middle linebacker Cameron Ingram recovered a fumble at the River Rouge 26 and on the first play Graham went up top to Ormondell Dingle in the left corner of the end zone, resulting in an interference call, and Jordan Lowe followed with an 18-yard TD.

“Tyler Milliner stripped the ball, made a great play and I just recovered the fumble,” said Ingram of Milliner, the senior safety. “We just came together as a defense. It’s not an individual thing. We all just come together and do our job.”

Then, Cass Tech scored on a 31-yard drive with Mangham finishing it with an 11-yard TD run, followed by a 66-yard drive three minutes later, capped off by Nichols’ 40-yard run, bursting up the middle and cutting right to get in the end zone for the 33-0 lead with 1:35 left in the third.

River Rouge’s lone bright spot was a 55-yard TD run by Northern Illinois-bound Daraun McKinney, who was pinned behind the line but slipped away from two defenders near the right sideline before cutting left and outrunning defenders to reach the end zone.

McKinney, who returned a state-record 12 kicks for TDs last season, had a 97-yard TD kickoff return called back due to a penalty. He also returned a kick 40 yards to midfield.

Cass Tech backup junior quarterback Sebastian Brown led a 13-play, 71-yard drive in the fourth quarter, scoring on a 2-yard run with 5:02 remaining.

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