Although one team has a new school and new identity, there won’t be any lack of familiarity or intensity Friday at Ford Field when King High (4-2 league, 5-3 overall) collides with East English Village Prep (6-0 league, 7-1 overall) for the 2012 Detroit Public School League football championship. Kickoff time is 7 p.m. and admission is $10.
East English Village, with the same coaching staff and many of the same players that helped now-closed Crockett High defeat King 21-19 in last year’s PSL Division 1 title game, is on the big stage in the school’s first season after getting past Cody 37-32 in last Friday’s semifinal at Northwestern High School.
In the other semifinal game, King earned its place in the championship game with a 44-13 rout of arch-rival Cass Tech, a victory that was as dominating as it was stunning.
“A lot of the kids live in the same community and I think that our kids were just tired of hearing all the talk from Cass downing our program,” Crusaders coach Dale Harvel said.
“We knew it would take a great effort to win that game and that’s what our kids put forth. We don’t have five-star or four-star players. But we do have kids who work hard and want to win. If we hadn’t played hard, we wouldn’t be where we are.”
The victory was the Crusaders’ fifth in a row since starting the season 0-3, including a season-opening 21-20 double-overtime nonleague loss to Southfield, a 34-26 loss to East English in the PSL opener and a forfeited 61-6 victory against Osborn for having an ineligible player.
Despite the rough start, the Crusaders’ goals are still in front of them. A victory in the PSL championship game would assure them a spot in the state playoffs.
“Like I told the guys, ‘It’s not what happens to you. It’s how you react to what happens to you,’ ” Harvel said. “If you really look at it, we’ve been in the state playoffs since after the third week. We’ve had to win every game. We’re still in a one-game knockout situation, so Friday is more than a championship game to us. It’s survival.”
East English Village is riding a seven-game winning streak, having run the table since a season-opening 20-14 nonleague loss to Oak Park. Despite his team’s victory against King in Week 2, Bulldogs’ coach Rod Oden is making sure his team is prepared for a dogfight.
“I expect it to be a hard-fought game that will be won in the fourth quarter,’’ Oden said. “I know they are fighting to stay alive for a state playoff berth and we’re fighting to gain homefield advantage in the playoffs.
“It’s always a tough game when we play those guys. The team that makes the least mistakes will win.”
East English overcame one of its stiffest challenges yet to advance past Cody last week. The Comets were blown out by Crockett 42-7 a year ago, and played like they had something to prove against East English.
“Cody was well prepared,’’ Oden said. “We knew they would come out and play like it was their Super Bowl because of the way we won the year before. But we needed a game like that to get us ready for the championship and the state playoffs.”
Oden points out that his team’s situation is reversed from last year’s encounter with King.
“Last year, they beat us early and we beat them in the championship,’’ he said. “Everybody’s saying how hard it is to beat a team twice, but that’s what we’re going to have to do. I feel good about the fact we’re healthy. When we played them the first time this season, we had six starters out because of injuries. But we kind of held it together with the running game and the defense played great. That was the difference. Now we’ve got all of our guys healthy and hopefully that gives us the edge.”
While the Bulldogs hope to build on the successful football tradition of Crockett, Oden looks at it as a new beginning. He notes that East English Village is also comprised of players from Finney High, which also closed after last year.
“This is an opportunity for us as a new school to start something in its first year of existence,’’ he said. “There’s a lot of excitement here about being back at Ford Field and a lot of guys from Finney are a part of it for the first time. With the school closings, a lot of guys chose to go to other schools but a lot stayed. This is a reward for their dedication to the program. I’m glad for those guys.”
Likewise, Harvel is pleased his Crusaders are back in the championship game at Ford Field. But, more than the venue, he’s concerned about the task.
“It’s great for some of the kids who haven’t been there, but for our three and four-year guys, they’ve been there before,’’ Oden said. “The thing we have to do is focus on the football game.
“We have to play a whole football game because we’re playing a tough bunch of kids. Rod Oden does a great job coaching all aspects of game, offense, defense and special teams. For us to win, we’ll have to be sound in all those areas. We look forward to accepting that challenge.”
Sports Information Director
Detroit Public Schools