This week on the Next Level, we catch up with 2018 Newberry High School Graduate Jeff Rahilly, who starred in multiple high school sports while playing college hockey on both ends of the U.P.
By Dan Hardenbrook
Newberry hockey star Jeff Rahilly was always a standout.
Rahilly was one of the top students in his 2018 class, and he made the most of his high school experience.
“It really meant a lot to me,” Rahilly said. “You only get four years of high school, so you might as well do it all.”
Rahilly, in fact, did do it all. In his senior year, he dominated the football field, earning All State honors from the AP, Small School Offensive Player of the Year in voting by the UPSSA, and played in the annual Upper Peninsula All Star Football Game at NMU. Rahilly helped lead the Indians to a conference championship and multiple playoff appearances.
He was also just as good on the track, serving as a key member of a U.P. State Championship-contending track team.
But his true love was hockey, a sport he played outside the school arena and one that required hours of travel each week.
“There were definitely a lot of conflicts. A lot of late nights on the road,” Rahilly said. “There were some crazy trips.”
He reminisced about a now famous weekend trip that saw him drive the state from top to bottom and back again.
“Boy, Thursday night we had a hockey game in Detroit,” Rahilly said. “It was a late game at like 9 p.m. I played in that, then jumped back in the car and we drove all the way home to Newberry, then left for Norway to play in a football game Friday night. Got a big win, and jumped back in the car and went straight to Detroit for an 8 a.m. game the next morning. It was nuts.”
Nuts, but very Rahilly.
He ranks that as one of his two most memorable moments at Newberry, along with the last-second field goal win over Munising in the Battle for the Axe. “George Sevarns had the last-second kick,” Rahilly said. “It couldn’t get more exciting.”
Despite all of the success in Newberry, as well as winning MAHA State Championships with a team all the way in Iron River, and a successful stint with the Soo Indians AAA Team, Rahilly thought hard about where his next journey would take him.
“It was really tough. It came down to Davenport for hockey and Michigan Tech for football,” he said. “I waited right down until the wire. In the end, it came down to what I love more, and that has always been hockey. It’s always been my dream, and now I’m living it up.”
Jeff says college hockey is much faster.
“It’s a physical game,” he said. “But playing with the Indians there and U.P. hockey, it gets you ready to play down there for sure. All of that experience really was built on each other.”
Rahilly said his style of play and the atmosphere that Davenport provides made the transition a success. “It really is a brotherhood,” he said. “Before you know it we all became good friends and we got along great.”
Rahilly has already made a major impact on the Panthers program. He is one of the Panthers’ premier players and goal scorers, and currently is one of the team leaders, serving as Assistant Captain. The leadership role is one he cherishes, guiding his team to championship success on the ice.
“My sophomore year, we had just won regionals and were headed to the national championship when COVID hit,” Rahilly said. “We had the team to potentially win it all. Then last year with the shortened season, we still made it to nationals and we had an okay showing, but we are hoping for better things this year.”
He said the biggest challenge in leading his team through the pandemic was waiting to play. “You have games get cancelled and it’s tough,” he said. “It makes practice difficult. Then all of a sudden, you’re weeks between games. Later in the year when we got rolling it was all right.”
Jeff Rahilly has had an incredible journey, from the beginning days in The Barn to making it to the big time. His advice to those who are starting their own journey: “Grades are your biggest thing. A coach isn’t going to take you if you don’t have good grades and work hard in school. You do that, and just go to the gym and be willing to do your part, you’ll do alright.”
For our full interview with Jeff Rahilly, check out the Next Level podcast on the Newberry News website and Facebook page.