Sports Information Director
Detroit Public Schools
With an impact that was as dominant as it was historic, Cass Tech defeated Detroit Catholic Central 49-13 Saturday at Ford Field to become the first Detroit Public School League team to win the Michigan High School Athletic Association Division I state football championship.
Coach Thomas Wilcher’s Technicians were proficient in all facets of the game—offense, defense and special teams—in completely dismantling a Catholic Central team that was bidding for its 10th state title and was ranked in most media polls the No. 1 team in the state.
By contrast, Cass Tech’s state championship is just the second for a PSL football team — joining King, which beat Midland in the Division 2 title game in 2007.
With thousands of their fans cheering and packing the seats behind their bench, the Technicians turned in a virtually flawless performance Saturday after beginning the day by walking the short distance from the school to Ford Field.
“I didn’t know the score would be so lopsided but I knew we had a great chance at beating that team,” Wilcher said. “I knew we were quicker and I knew our offense was prepared for that style of defense. We were ready for the adjustments they made. We were just ready for anything they did.”
In putting themselves on top of the state’s football map, Cass Tech also made a resounding statement about the high caliber of competition within the PSL. What the fans, media and teams outside the league witnessed won’t be forgotten.
“It tells the whole state that the PSL is a much better league in terms of football than they thought we were,” said Crockett High’s Rod Oden, coach of this season’s PSL Division I city championship team. “It speaks volumes for a team to win the state championship in the largest schools’ division when they weren’t even the top team in our league this year.”
Oden, whose team beat Cass Tech twice this season, came away from Saturday’s game impressed like everyone else with the Technicians’ ability to click on all cylinders.
“They played like a well-oiled machine and looked like a team on a mission, “ Oden said. “They could have easily laid down after they lost to us the second time. But they were able to come together in the playoffs. (Saturday) they played what I would consider to be flawless football in all phases of the game.”
Led by freshman quarterback Jayru Campbell, who threw a state finals record-tying five touchdown passes and showed poise way beyond his 14 years, Cass Tech picked apart Catholic Central’s defense, while its own defense stymied the Shamrocks’ run-oriented offense.
So dominant was the performance that Campbell’s 46-yard TD pass to Jourdan Lewis with 11:13 remaining in the fourth quarter gave Cass Tech a 42-7 lead, instituting a running clock the rest of the way by virtue of the 35-point mercy rule.
Royce Jenkins-Stone, one of seven Technicians seniors headed to Division I colleges on football scholarships, scored three touchdowns, including a 32-yard run, a three-yard pass reception and a 36-yard interception return. Campbell completed 13-of-20 passes for 240 yards, including TD strikes to Ruben Lile (46 yards), Terry Richardson (36 yards) and Shuron Jackson (16 yards).
The victory capped what, admittedly, had been a season of unmet potential by the Technicians, who lost their nonleague opener to Farmington Hills Harrison and didn’t reach the PSL city championship game after finishing the league season in a three-way tie with Crockett and King.
Cass Tech’s 11-3 record follows a 2010 season in which it posted the school’s first unbeaten 9-0 regular-season and advanced all the way to the state semifinals before losing to eventual champion Lake Orion and finishing 12-1.
“I never dreamed we would lose three games this year,” Wilcher said. “Our purpose for going to camp was to build a bond and become cohesive. But, once the season began, I knew we weren’t prepared. It took a team effort for us to become the team we could be. But we didn’t have that most of the season. We had a bunch of individuals.”
A players-only meeting before the playoffs helped changed that attitude as the Technicians gained their focus and began to peak, relying on a stout defense and always just a play from scoring with an explosive offense.
They won their last regular-season game 6-0 against Renaissance and reeled off a string of five playoff victories against Livonia Churchill (36-8), Dearborn Fordson (33-7), Warren DeLaSalle (6-0), Utica Eisenhower (6-3) and finally Catholic Central to win the state championship.
“To have Cass Tech go down in history and achieve what every Detroit Public School League team would like to achieve by winning the state title, it’s a great feeling,’’ Wilcher said. “This championship gives the PSL the recognition it deserves for having the top team in the state.
“It’s great for the city and the school district. It shows that we have kids who are willing to learn and to fight to reach a goal. We not only played well, but I’m proud of how we did it, with class and good sportsmanship. As a coach, it reaffirmed my perspective on what it takes to win. When our players gained focus and began to play as a team, they showed the whole state of Michigan what we’re able to do.”