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Backfield duo lead Cass Tech to Kickoff Classic romp over River Rouge

By: Scott Burnstein, August 25, 2018, 8:50 pm

DETROIT – The Detroit Cass Tech rushing assault was in mid-season form to open the 2018 campaign Saturday at the Prep Kickoff Classic.

Behind the devastating tailback tandem of seniors Lew Nichols and Jaren Mangham, the Technicians ran roughshod over River Rouge to the tune of a commanding 40-7 victory in a game filled with Division I college recruits on both sidelines.

Cass Tech accumulated 303 total yards on the ground, with Nichols going for a game-high 102 on 10 touches and Mangham racking up 88 yards on 11 carries.

They had two touchdowns apiece. Nichols, a 3-star prospect, is committed to Central Michigan. Mangham, a 4-star recruit, is committed to Colorado.

“We come out every game wanting to dominate as a duo,” Mangham said. “When we get going, we can be a real problem for defenses trying to stop us. Lew and I feed off each other’s energy. We want to go out and eat every snap.”

They feasted on Saturday from the jump.

A 35-yard touchdown-run by Nichols got the onslaught started at the 2:32 mark of the first quarter. Mangham’s 16-yard score in the final seconds of the quarter made it 13-0. The second quarter was scoreless, but the Cass Tech ground attack was right back at it again in the third quarter, with Mangham (11 yards), Nichols (40 yards) and back-up Jordan Lowe (18 yards) all finding the end zone in the first 10 minutes of the second half to give their team a 33-0 lead.

“River Rouge was stacking the box, but our offensive line kept opening up big holes for us,” Nichols said. “With what the line was doing, all Jaren and I had to do was do our jobs, run hard, run smart and take care of the football. We want this to be a tone-setter for the rest of the season.”

Cass Tech coach Thomas Wilcher strives to always keep the bar high for his players, no matter what position.

“These two guys (Nichols and Mangham) know we have high standards around here, we set goals for ourselves and we do everything in our power to reach them on both sides of the ball,” he said. “We all worked together today, from the line, to the backs, to the coaches calling the plays, in order to get this result. When everyone’s on the same page, it can be a beautiful thing.”

The silver lining in the River Rouge loss was a 55-yard touchdown run by Northern Illinois-commit Daraun McKinney in the fourth quarter to avoid the shutout. McKinney had a 95-yard kickoff return for a score nullified by a holding penalty in the first half.

River Rouge is a Division 4 program. Last year, the Panthers went 10-3 and appeared in the state semifinals for the third season in a row. Their highest-rated college recruit, Clemson-bound defensive end Ruke Orhorhoro, combined with defensive end Jaylen Henderson for 20 total tackles, 10 for loss, and three sacks on the day.

Cass Tech competes in Division 1 and has established itself as one of the preeminent prep pigskin programs in the country over the past decade. The last time the Technicians didn’t advance to the final four or better in the postseason was in 2009. They’ve claimed three state crown in that time span. In 2017, Cass Tech dropped a 9-7 heartbreaker to West Bloomfield in the semis under rainy and icy conditions at Troy Athens.

Saturday’s contest featured over 15 Division I college recruits on the field between both clubs. River Rouge locks horns with Detroit East English Village next week, while Cass Tech heads across the state border to Ohio to face Lakewood St. Edward.