Media Information Director
DPS Office of Athletics
From a field of 256 teams (in eight 32-team divisions) that qualified for the Michigan High School Athletic Association football playoffs, Cass Tech in Division 1 and East English Village in Division 3 are among 64 teams still vying for a state championship.
After winning district titles last week, the Detroit Public School League’s dynamic duo each will make its bid for a regional crown this weekend when Coach Thomas Wilcher’s Technicians (9-2) visit Saline (10-1) Friday at 7 p.m., and Coach Rod Oden’s Bulldogs (9-2) travel to play Orchard Lake St. Mary’s (9-2) Saturday at 1 p.m.
“Saline is a well-organized machine on both offense and defense,’’ Wilcher said. “They’re not confused about what they do. They know where to go, how to line up and they’re very well coached.”
Wilcher, coach of the defending Division 1 state champions, is no longer questioning his team’s drive toward another coronation at Ford Field after advancing in the playoffs with victories against Grosse Pointe South, 37-3 and, last week, against Dearborn, 42-23.
“The hunger is coming back,’’ he said. “I know the kids don’t want to turn their equipment in. They’re excited about Friday’s game and playing at night. But we have to go up there and execute in order to win.”
Of more concern to Wilcher is the officiating that he feels has been inconsistent and unfavorable to his team throughout the season.
“We’ve probably had eight touchdowns called back this year and the kids feel like we just can’t get justice,’’ he said. “We’re getting penalized so much every game, they feel like somebody is out to get them.”
Wilcher says his players continually have to guard against second-guessing themselves on what they can and cannot do. “It’s like being battered. When you’re abused, every time it happens, it takes a while to get back to yourself. It’s hard, but that’s something our kids are going to have to learn to overcome.”
East English Village, a merging of now-closed Crockett and Finney High Schools, has made a name for itself in the new school’s first season.
After pummeling Marysville 63-25 and St.Clair 63-7 in successive playoff victories, the Bulldogs can make a major statement Saturday with a victory against Orchard Lake St. Mary’s, the defending Division 3 state champions.
The task for the Bulldogs won’t be easy. St. Mary’s owns victories this season against the Division I (Cass Tech) and Division 2 (Birmingham Brother Rice) defending state champions and also beat last year’s Division I state runners-up (Detroit Catholic Central), and are considered by many the No. 1 team in the state.
“It’s going to be a litmus test for our program to see just where we’re at,’’ Oden said. “Playing the defending state champions of our division is a measuring stick for us, but we look forward to the matchup.”
Oden expects the outcome to revolve around who can do the most damage on first down. “We have to hold them to less than three yards and we have to gain more than three yards,” he said.
“This game is going to be won in the trenches. Both teams have good offensive and defensive lines and dynamic running backs that should make it a great game for all to see.”
Crockett was bumped out of the tourney last season in the regional finals, a disappointment that only fuels the Bulldogs’ fire to go all the way this year. They have reason to be optimistic with 21 seniors and a coaching staff that were a part of Crockett’s successful program, along with an infusion of talent from Finney High and elsewhere.
“They’re a pretty good football team, but we think we’re pretty good, too,” Oden said. “We have seniors who have won four districts and a regional title in their tenure, and we’re kind of tired of knocking on that door. We’re ready to take that next step, and why not do it against the defending state champions? We hope that can be this weekend.”