King High claimed the city crown Friday night in the palace of the NFL Detroit Lions.
Playing with the resolve of a team that did not want its season to end, Coach Dale Harvel’s Crusaders came from behind to get the best of a 99-point thriller at Ford Field, defeating East English Village 51-48 to capture the 212 Detroit Public School League football championship.
The victory earned King its first PSL football title since 29, and also gained the Crusaders an automatic berth in the Michigan High School Athletic Association state playoffs.
They will open the 256-team, eight-division tournament Friday as the hottest team among six qualifiers from the PSL, including Cass Tech in Division 1; King and Cody in Division 2; East English Village and Central in Divison 3; and Douglass in Division 7. (See related article).
Since a forfeited 62-6 victory against Osborn saddled them with a -3 start, the Crusaders have reeled off six consecutive victories, each one a must-win that kept alive their state playoff hopes.
In the PSL semifinals Oct. 12 at Northwestern High, the Crusaders stamped themselves as a bona fide state championship contender when they ripped arch-rival Cass Tech 44-13, soundly beating the defending Division 1 state champion Technicians who had been ranked No. 1 in the state and in the top 1 nationally.
King carried that momentum into Friday’s championship game against East English Village as both teams’ offenses put on a show at Ford Field that would have made Matthew Stafford and the Megatron proud.
East English Village got out to a 2- lead before King scored 39 unanswered points and withstood a furious East English Village second-wind as great plays from both teams kept the fans on their feet until time expired.
“Defense didn’t come out ready,” said King cornerback Mycial Allen, who had an interception to set up one of his two touchdown receptions from quarterback Da’Vaun Williams, who completed 5 of 1 passes for 119 yards and two TDs.
“We played around with them in the first quarter. In the second quarter, we started picking it up and we made plays on both sides of the ball.”
Williams’ fumble was recovered and returned for a 28-yard TD by East English’s Antoine Bedford before the Crusaders charged back, scoring four touchdowns in less than five minutes to take the lead.
“We started off slow in this one a little bit, so we had to come back and go to the basics,” Williams said. “As long as we play together and we stay as a family, we know we can win any game.”
Raymond Mitchell, who rushed for 135 yards on 22 carries, scored on a 23-yard run for King’s first TD, and linebacker Sa’Von Thomas forced a fumble that James Alexander recovered and took in from seven yards to make the score 2-12. King led 32-2 after the first quarter and opened it to 39-2 early in the second quarter.
“We had to get back in the game, and it only takes one score to get back in the game,” said Harvel. “Then we got a turnover, and from then on we hit our stride.”
East English Village running back Desmond King sustained a shoulder injury early in the second quarter but came back to finish the game with 223 yards and three TDs on 21 carries. That included a behemoth 146 yards on eight carries in the third quarter as the Bulldogs trimmed the lead to 45-4. “I didn’t know if it was cracked or not,” King said. “But it really didn’t faze me. I strapped it back up and came out here.”
Nathaniel Bowlware had TD runs of four and 31 yards for East English Village, which continued battling to cut the deficit to three points on King’s 6-yard run late in the game. Finally, Thomas’ interception with eight seconds remaining sealed the Crusaders’ victory.
“It was a wild game and we just had to eventually get the defense together,” Thomas said. “On that interception, I saw (King) go out to the wing. I knew that’s where they wanted to go because he’s their best player. I read it and stepped that way. It came right to me.”
King’s victory avenged a 34-26 loss to East English Village in Week 2. arvel said he’s never seen a game like Friday’s championship game in his 3 years of coaching. But the resiliency of his team didn’t surprise him. The Crusaders’ ability to prevail under pressure has been their hallmark.
“We’ve been on the bubble all year,” Harvel said. “The kids came back from adversity and the coaching staff came back from adversity. I think that’s how we want it. The ultimate goal is to win the state championship. This is just something that comes along the way.”
With the state playoffs ahead, East English Village coach Rod Oden was philosophical after seeing his team’s seven-game winning streak halted.
“I’m not too upset,” Oden said. “Our goal was the state playoffs and this was fun for the kids, playing on this field, but it’s week 9 for us. Our kids are focused on the state playoffs.”