Double- and triple-check Walled Lake Western’s roster all you want – you’re still only going to find there’s only one player listed as wearing jersey No. 7.
And that might be hard to fathom, because that player, Cody White, seemed to be everywhere at once for the Warriors, who played into the Division 2 state championship game.
Last season, White excelled as a split end, one of Kyle Thomas’ favorite targets. And with Thomas graduating last spring, White was poised to step in under center this season.
Then Johnny Tracy transferred in from Birmingham Brother Rice, and White was penciled back in as a receiver. But when Tracy hurt his shoulder, White began taking snaps again, leading the Warriors to victories in their first three games (one ultimately was forfeited due to use of an ineligible player). White continued to see spot duty as quarterback after Tracy returned to the lineup.
That’s not to overlook White’s skills as a defensive back, kick returner, punt returner, punter, running back or slot back, and it’s easy to see why one might think there’s more than one No. 7 out on the field. And it's easy to see why White is the captain of the Detroit Free Press' All-North team.
“We can line him up at several different positions,” coach Mike Zdebski said. “We were lucky. In high school, he’s going to do a little bit more than anybody else, and there’s a lot of ways for him to help us.”
Zdebski’s squad was rich in talent this year, but White was the go-to guy. In Western’s 37-34 semifinal victory over longtime nemesis Lowell, White had a long touchdown run right before halftime, threw for another touchdown pass, and banged out a big 12-yard run when the Warriors were facing fourth-and-8.
White scored 15 touchdowns and averaged 16.3 yards per catch and 10.8 yards per carry this fall, but his stats were reduced somewhat since he ended up in so many places. He caught 41 passes for 669 yards and 9 TDs, ran 41 times for 443 yards, and completed 30 of 57 pass attempts for 597 yards and 8 TDs. He also punted 28 times and returned 7 kicks.
“He’s about the win, not about the stats,” Zdebski said. “He’s a consummate team player; he’s going to block if he needs to block.”
The 6-3, 205-pound blue chipper committed to Michigan State before the season started, and Zdebski sees White shining as a Spartan.
“We’ve had players here before that were really good high school athletes that went Division 2, but he’s going to excel at the next level because he’s physical, and not afraid to deal with pressure,” Zdebski said. “I think they offered him because of his physicality, his size and how well he moves for being as big as he is. He’s a big target on the flank and he causes matchup problems for short cornerbacks. He doesn’t just get open, but he’s going to make sure to get open, whether it’s push, pull or pry.”
Beyond football, White plays basketball, baseball and runs track at Western, and he’s a 3.6 GPA student who’s involved in student government.
“He’s a very well-rounded young man,” Zdebski said, “and he’s decided he wants to be the best in everything he does, which is what all the great ones do.”
COACH OF THE YEAR: Walled Lake Western’s season wasn’t billed as the “Kensington Lakes Activities Association Farewell Tour,” but it could have been. The 12-2 Warriors ran the table in the mega-league, which will be breaking up at the end of the school year.
Zdebski’s squad won all five KLAA North contests and beat Brighton in the Week 9 cross-over to claim its fourth conference championship in a row. Also this year, the Warriors beat Central division champ Northville and South division champ Canton in regular-season games, and two more KLAA foes, South Lyon and Pinckney, in district playoffs.
After two more post-season wins against Fenton and Lowell, Western finished as Division 2 runner-up after dropping an 18-0 game against Detroit Martin Luther King at Ford Field.
“We had depth at positions, that’s the deal,” Zdebski said. “Whenever you’re able to have a Division 1 quarterback (Tracy), but when he goes down, stick a kid in there who’s dynamic like Cody White, and replace him with some really good athletes like Kevin Jackson and Abdur-Rahmaan Yaseen, that really helps.”
Zdebski, a math teacher at Western, also led the Warriors to a state championship in 1999 and to three semi-final games since then. He’s 154-57 in 19 seasons