LEICESTER, Mass. -- Star senior fullback/linebacker Tom Rodrick carried Leicester to a pivotal win over rival Auburn Saturday night, doing a little bit of everything in his final Homecoming game.
The UConn commit rushed for 75 yards, including a 32-yards score, threw several key blocks, recorded 11 tackles, one sack and blocked an extra point in the Wolverines’ 15-6 win over the Rockets.
“Rodrick showed why he’s a D-1 prospect,” Leicester coach Tim Griffiths said. “We put some pressure on him, and he felt it all week. We were saying that, ‘If you’re the player you are, these are the games you have to step up in. You need to step up against the best.’ And I consider Auburn the best.”
Leicester (4-0, 3-0 SWCL) struck first when Rodrick and a horde of other Wolverines forced Auburn (3-2, 1-1 SWCL) senior Andrew Markvenas to fumble, leading to a recovery by Leicester’s Ryan McKay at the Rocket 40. Two plays later, quarterback Nick Makie faked a handoff up the middle to Rodrick, but gave it to Shane Padeni on a reverse to the right side for a 41-yard touchdown run, giving Leicester a quick 7-0 lead.
Late in the first, Rodrick threw down Auburn freshman quarterback Steve Saucier, leading to a three and out, but the Wolverines' offense failed to take advantage, amassing a total of only 15 yards in the entire second quarter. Auburn would rally with a nine-play, 55-yard scoring drive just before intermission, capped off by a three-yard Markvenas touchdown run.
But instead of going to the half tied, Rodrick shot through the middle of the Auburn line and blocked the extra point attempt. Jake Morrow picked the ball up and ran it back 90 yards for two Leicester points, making it 9-6 Wolverines at the break.
In the second half the Wolverines would salt the game away with solid running by Rodrick, Padeni and McKay, but also excellent game management from Makie. The undersized signal-caller was stepping in for injured star Drew Mazzeo, and the Wolverines had originally planned to mix in several quarterbacks. But Makie played so well that Griffiths felt he couldn’t pull him out.
“(Makie) was tremendous,” Griffiths said. “We had like four quarterbacks lined up to play tonight, but none of them saw the field because of the job Makie did. He probably gets the game ball tonight, honestly.”
In the closing moments of the third quarter, Makie converted a third and nine when a stepped up in the pocket and delivered a strike to Morrow for 14 yards. Then, on the first play of the fourth quarter, Rodrick put the game on ice, bursting through the middle of the line, breaking four tackles, and taking it the distance for a 32-yard touchdown.
“I told coach in the timeout that 41 (iso) might be open,” Rodrick said. “I said my prayers, ran low, and it was there.”
After the game, Rodrick was asked about his commitment to UConn in the wake of coach Paul Pasqualoni’s firing. ESPN’s No. 13 player in Massachusetts said he remains committed to the Huskies, but that he is also paying close attention to the coaching search going on in Storrs.
“As of right now, I’m committed, I can’t say otherwise,” Rodrick said with a chuckle. “(I’m monitoring the coaching search) pretty close. A couple other schools reached out.”
The win puts Leicester in the drivers' seat for the top seed in Division 5 Central, heading into their CMass Division 5 Super Bowl rematch at West Boylston next Friday. Auburn will also be back at it next Friday, and the Rockets will have to rebound quickly as they travel to face a suddenly dangerous Gardner squad.