King vs. Cass Tech game is PSL football version of “Ohio State and Michigan”

Chuck Johnson
Media Information Director
DPS Office of Athletics

For the second time this season, King and Cass Tech will be on the same football field Friday at 6 p.m. when the teams collide at Cass Tech High School in the Detroit Public School League Game of the Week.
Both teams have fashioned 3-0 league records since losing nonleague openers in the Big Day Prep Showdown at Eastern Michigan University’s Rynearson Stadium. (King was edged by Birmingham Brother Rice 28-21 and Cass Tech was routed by Farmington Hills Harrison 43-7).

The winner of Friday’s showdown will emerge the likely favorite to capture the PSL Division 1 crown, but Crockett (2-1 in the league and 3-1 overall) also has its hopes alive. Coach Rod Oden’s Rockets visit winless Central (0-3, 0-4) Friday, while Southeastern (2-1, 2-2) hosts winless Mumford (0-3, 0-4), and Cody (1-2, 1-3) visits Renaissance (1-2, 1-3).

The PSL Division 2 race is shaping up as a fight to the finish, led by first-place Ford (3-0, 3-1). Coach Jackie Muhammad’s Trojans visit Southwestern (2-1, 3-1); Douglass (2-1, 3-1) plays Finney (2-1, 3-1) at Kettering High School; Pershing (2-1) plays at Northwestern (1-2, 1-3); Kettering (2-1, 2-2) visits Denby (0-3, 0-4); and Osborn (0-3, 0-4) visits Western (1-2, 1-3).

All of Friday’s games kick off at 4 p.m. with the exception of the PSL Game of the Week under the lights between Coach Thomas Wilcher’s Cass Technicians and Coach Dale Harvel’s visiting King Crusaders.

“A victory puts us in good position, but we’ve still got two more games to play (after that),’’ said Harvel, whose Crusaders host Central and Southeastern in their final two games before the playoffs. “We emphasize that each game counts for one, and none is more important than another. If you think like that, you’ll be okay even when things don’t go your way.”

Cass Tech, with games left against Crockett next Friday at Osborn High School and Oct. 7 against visiting Mumford, is in a virtual must-win situation against King.

“King already beat Crockett (26-14), so if they beat us, they (likely) will win the division,’’ said Wilcher. “King looks hungry, they look ruthless, they’re well-coached and they look like they’re ready to do whatever it takes to win. We expect a humongous crowd to be there. When we play King, it’s always a big game.”
“It’s like Ohio State and Michigan,’’ Harvel agrees. “Cass is a great football team. Coach Wilcher does a great job and we’ve got our work cut out. This game is going to be won by the team that commits the fewest turnovers and is able to make the big plays. That’s what usually determines a game of this magnitude.”

King is led by senior running back Dennis Norfleet, who has committed to play college football at Cincinnati and is on pace for 2,000 yards rushing in his final prep season. He has nearly 800 yards rushing through four games.

“He’s just a phenomenal football player,’’ Harvel said. “He does everything we ask of him and more. He enjoys the game so much and is such a ball of energy. I’m going to hate to see him go.”

Harvel also lauds the play of junior quarterback Da’Vaun Williams, senior left tackle Samuel Tate and senior nose tackle Mike Burise as being central to the Crusaders’ advancement.|

“We haven’t won the division since ’07 when we won the state title, so it’s time for us to do that,” Harvel said. “Our goals are not changing. If we play as hard as we can and fast as we can, we can go a long way. The thing we can’t have is inconsistency.”

Although Cass appears to have rebounded nicely since the season opener, Wilcher admits he’s not satisfied with his team’s progress.

Last year’s Technicians won the PSL Division 1 title and posted the first 9-0 regular season in the school’s history. They advanced all the way to the state semifinals before finishing 12-1, but Wilcher said the bulk of his returnees haven’t dedicated themselves to building on last year’s success.

“I’m very shocked that I’m getting this type of response from this group of players, especially when they saw how much of a team effort it took last year,’’ Wilcher said. “The problem is when you get a bunch of players who think they’re the best, they start thinking they don’t have to listen half the time. They’ve fallen into the trap of being a bunch of individuals.”

Defensive back-wide receiver Terry Richardson and linebacker-fullback Royce Jenkins-Stone  are considered two of the state’s top college prospects and both are headed to Michigan. The Technicians’ veteran talent doesn’t end there. Wilcher said “nine or 10” of his 13 seniors already have firm college-scholarship commitments, and they might be losing focus.

“It seems like some of the guys just want their high school careers to be over and to get on to the next level,” he said. “We’re just not following through on what the coaches are asking and we’re not playing team football. We’re playing like a bunch of individuals. All we can do is keep preaching team, team, team, and do the drills that we hope will bring the cohesiveness we’ve been lacking.”

In the absence of veteran leadership, Wilcher has pinned his optimism on freshman quarterback  Jayru Campbell, who stepped into the starting position when senior Kevin Biscoe sustained a season-ending knee injury in the first game. Campbell has thrown for 16 touchdowns.

“The bright spots are the younger kids,’’ Wilcher said. “We’ve got a bunch of freshmen and 10th graders stepping up and doing what they’re supposed to do. We’ve got talent on this team. But to be the team we can be, we’ve got to play as a team.”

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