Homecoming performance for Eisenhower's Ian Kennelly helps East squad win MHSFCA East-West All-Star Game at SVSU
UNIVERSITY CENTER — For Utica Eisenhower’s Ian Kennelly, making the trip to Saginaw for one last game as a high school football player was kind of like going home.
And what he did on the field in the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association’s Michigan High School Football East-West All-Star Game at Saginaw Valley State University’s Wickes Stadium, in front of a whole slew of extended family from the area, might’ve proven where his home should be in the future.
A high school quarterback and wideout slated to play defensive back at Grand Valley, like one of his uncles, Kennelly had one last hurrah at wide receiver on Saturday, catching two touchdown passes, and narrowly missing the hat trick when he had the defensive back beaten on a double move.
“Uhhhh … I know,” said Kennelly of the near-miss, after leading the East team to a 22-13 halftime lead that stood up for the final score after a scoreless second half dominated by the defenses. “It was a pretty high-tempo first half, so I was pretty shocked, but the defenses stepped up, big time.”
Kennelly was no stranger to the Saginaw area, with his dad, Troy Kennelly, and his dad’s older brother, Johnny Kennelly, playing football at the former Saginaw McArthur, before going on to play at Northwood University.
“They’re all from Saginaw. They grew up here,” Ian Kennelly said. “There’s my aunt right there, my sister, my mom, my poppa, my dad. Yeah, I got a lot of fans here today.”
But the youngest Kennelly’s career path might be like his dad’s younger brother, Stu Schweigert, who starred at quarterback for Saginaw Heritage — created by the merger of McArthur and Saginaw Eisenhower high schools — before playing defensive back at Purdue and in the National Football League.
“We’re real close still. He’s back in West Lafayette. He moved back there a year ago. When he was living here in Saginaw, I’d come up here and train with him, and stay at his house. We’re really close,” Ian Kennelly said, not committing to whether or not the now 38-year-old Schweigert, who ran a 4.4-second 40-yard dash at the NFL combine has retained that speed. “I betcha I beat him. I don’t know what he’d say about that.”
Unless something changes, though, from here on out, any balls that Kennelly catches are going to be ones he’s earned as interceptions.
“I’m not going to play on the offensive side of the ball, at least for now. … I’m playing safety at Grand Valley. Last hurrah at the receiver position,” he said. “We’ll see. I could potentially. I believe I could play both sides of the ball in college. I don’t know. I’m just excited. It doesn’t matter what I play. I’ll play anything, as long as I get on the field.”
One of his future Grand Valley teammates, Madison Heights Madison quarterback Austin Brown, who earned game MVP honors, knows where he’d like to see Kennelly.
“He’s a great athlete, and I’m looking forward to throwing to him next year, for sure,” said Brown, who was 5-for-13 passing for 39 yards and two first-half touchdown passes. “He’s just a baller. He just wants to win, like me. I think we’re the same people, and that’s a good thing.”
The West got on the board first, capitalizing on an East turnover on the opening offensive play to punch it in with an 8-yard pass from Saginaw Swan Valley’s Alex Fries (5 of 9 passing, 28 yards) to Marquette’s Ethan Martysz.
The East took advantage of a botched punt snap for a safety four minutes later, then took the lead on Kennelly’s jump-ball touchdown catch from Brown with 3:54 left first quarter.
Brown hit Rochester High’s Drake Reid with a 16-yard scoring pass to make it 16-7 East with 4:29 left, but Midland Dow’s Shane Astrike answered in less than 20 seconds, connecting on an 84-yard scoring pass to Clare’s Brenden Sersaw to pull back within three, 16-13.
Kennelly’s 4-yard scoring pass from Trenton’s Jay Solano with 12 seconds left in the first half made it 22-13, a score that would — surprisingly — last the rest of the way.
“We had some great defensive adjustments at halftime. I thought our kids played well. Moved the ball a lot in the second half, just couldn’t get it in the end zone,” said Holland coach Andrew Pratley, the West head coach. “We missed a field goal early, so we decided to go for it the next two times. Kids making plays. Just a great defensive play on the last play there. Great players making plays.”
Both teams had opportunities to score in the second half, but defenses did stiffen, keeping it a nine-point contest. The West had one final hurrah in the final five minutes of the game, but stalled out inside the 10, and turned it over on downs when Detroit Osborne’s Josiah Lewis batted away the fourth-down pass.
It helped the East that, with the lead, they were able to grind the clock, with the running of Brown, Clinton Twp. Chippewa Valley’s Andre Chenault (80 yards) and Saline’s Brendan Munday.
“Wasn’t that we weren’t moving the ball, it was just that we had a couple of breakdowns that hurt us. It’s hard when you run tempo, and you’re moving, you’re moving, and then you have a problem,” said Grosse Ile coach John Bodner, the East’s head coach. “Andre’s an amazing running back. He’s going to take Siena Heights by storm. That guy, he just — he’s soft-spoken, and doesn’t say much, but when he gets on the field, he runs. The whole second half, we really controlled the clock, and were able to move the ball.”
It was certainly a nice option for Brown, when he was in the game, to choose between which power back to give it to.
“For sure, and a lot of people are giving me the glory, but when you’ve got dudes like that to hand it to, it kinda makes your job a lot easier,” Brown said. “Yeah, this is for sure fun. But it’s a lot different than Friday night games, because you’re preparing all week, and you’re kinda hatin’ the other team, but these dudes, we kind of all gelled, East and West, talking going here and there.”
His future teammate concurred.
“Yeah, it’s a lot of fun, especially because some of the guys from the West side, I’ll be playing with them next year at Grand Valley. And then it’s just good competition, playing against the best kids in Michigan,” Kennelly said. “It’s just a great experience to come out and play one more high school game. It’s just all for fun. Just one more time coming out here and playing with the boys, before it gets real serious at college.”
The coaches, too.
“t’s a really unique experience, bringing guys all the way from Ishpeming down to guys in Portage and whatnot, and to be able to play in the game together and be able to become really close friends in three days, and it’s just an awesome experience,” Pratley said. “We’ve got so many kids from so many different places, it really represents our state.”