Media Information Director
DPS Office of Athletics
As the last Detroit Public School League football team still playing this season, Cass Tech High’s bandwagon just got a lot bigger.
The Technicians will hold a pep rally Wednesday afternoon in celebration of earning the school’s first-ever appearance in the Michigan High School Athletic Association state football finals.
While an enthusiastic student body and a strong alumni group make it certain that Cass Tech (10-3) will have a huge following when it meets Detroit Catholic Central (12-1) at 1 p.m. Saturday in the MHSAA Division I championship game at Ford Field, the Technicians can expect even more support as fans throughout the city rally behind the PSL’s bid to win a state football championship for only the second time in history.
“I think the whole city will come together like it did when King went down there (in 2007),” said Cass Tech head coach Thomas Wilcher, referring to the only previous state football championship by a PSL team.
“This lets the whole state know that the Detroit Public School League has good athletic teams. We may not have the facilities some other districts have, and we may have more obstacles to overcome to get there. But we keep fighting and we seem to keep getting there.”
King High is the only PSL team to have ever advanced to the state football finals, but this season came close to being the first for the league to have two state finalists.
Despite a valiant comeback from a 21-0 first-quarter deficit, King ran out of time in a 27-26 loss to Birmingham Brother Rice in the Division 2 semifinals Saturday at West Bloomfield High School. Eschewing an extra-point kick midway through the fourth quarter, the Crusaders came up short on a two-point conversion run that proved to be the difference.
“Our kicking game, or lack of it, is what it is,’’ King head coach Dale Harvel said. “We don’t have enough trust in it to be trying to kick against the wind. We had already missed one with the wind.”
King was bidding for its fourth appearance in the state finals, having lost in 1989 and ‘90 before cashing in four years ago. Harvel, who was an assistant to Jim Reynolds when King won in 2007 to the delight of PSL fans from all over the city, expects Cass Tech to get a similar boost in fan support.
“I would hope so,” he said. “I was talking with Wilcher the first thing Monday morning at 7 o’clock, enlightening him on logistical things that could help. I would hope that all of our schools get behind the PSL. It’s clear that our league is up and coming. Those old days are over with. When you play the PSL’s top teams, you’re going to have to beat them and it’s not going to be an easy out.”
Cass Tech’s 6-3 victory against Utica Eisenhower in the semifinals at Troy Athens High School was its fifth win in a row, continuing the recovery of a now-cohesive team that was plagued by complacency during the regular-season.
“They woke up and they became a team,” Wilcher said. “You can see it in practice and everything they do. The kids are finally believing in what we’ve been teaching.”
The Technicians’ defense has given up a total of just 16 points in playoff victories against Livonia Churchill (35-6), Dearborn Fordson (33-7), Warren DeLaSalle (6-0), and Utica Eisenhower.
“At the beginning of the year, I knew my defense was supposed to win it for us,” Wilcher said. “We had 10 of our 11 guys back from last year’s defense and my goal was that if we scored six points, we should win. It finally started taking hold when we played against Renaissance (winning 6-0 in the last regular-season game). Six points, that’s all it took.”
Even the Technicians’ players will admit that some of them were still living off the laurels of last year’s team that posted the first unbeaten 9-0 regular season in school history. That team finished the season with a 12-1 record, losing 24-21 in the semifinals to eventual state champion Lake Orion after fumbling away its chance for victory just five yards from the goal line.
Last year’s disappointment is all but forgotten now, and Wilcher expects Cass Tech’s breakthrough to usher in more football state championship representation from the PSL.
“Our league is on the rise and times are changing,” he said. “It helps that they’ve changed the point system so that more teams get in, and now you get credit based not just on won-lost record, but the toughness of the schedule you play. Our league has as much talent and good coaches as any around. And, in this economy, pretty soon the playing field will level out because all school districts will be faced with the same inequalities.”