Media Information Director
DPS Office of Athletics
The Detroit Public School League rivalry between King and Cass Tech extends across the board, but nowhere is it more intense and at the root of its origin than on the football field.
“I think it’s because Cass Tech rolled up and started battling and competing with King at their level when a lot of teams couldn’t,” Cass Tech coach Thomas Wilcher said. “It really started in the early ‘90s.”
The Technicians and Crusaders have bumped heads and given their supporters reason to get fired up many times through the years. But no renewal of their rivalry has been bigger or more anticipated than Friday’s 7 p.m. PSL Football Championship Game at Ford Field. Admission is $10 and tickets can be purchased at Gate A.
The battle of unbeatens matches defending PSL champion King (5-0 PSL East, 7-0 overall), coached by Dale Harvel, against Wilcher’s two-time defending Division 1 state champion Technicians (6-0 PSL West, 8-0 overall).
“The appeal of this game is the rivalry,” Wilcher said. “It’s a competition that goes on between Cass Tech and King. Both of us are battling to be the best.”
The last time the teams met was a year ago in the PSL semifinals. King thrashed the Technicians 44-13 and a week later beat East English Village to win the championship in a 51-48 thriller at Ford Field.
For its part, Cass Tech, which lost to eventual champion Crockett in the 2011 PSL semifinals, made a remarkable playoff run for the second year in a row to finish last season as the back-to-back state Division 1 champions.
Wilcher has been at Cass Tech since 1990 and is in his 16th season as head coach.
Harvel, in his fifth season as King’s head coach, was the Crusaders defensive coordinator from 1986 until 2008, a period highlighted by King becoming the first PSL team to win a state football championship with its Division 2 crown in 2007.
Clearly, there’s healthy respect between the two programs.
“Both programs have been pretty successful,’’ Harvel said. “The two schools border downtown and location has a lot to do with it. We’re competing academically and athletically for the same kids.
“That’s what makes it a rivalry. We want the same kids that Cass does. So even before the season opens, it’s a competition.”
“Harvel is a great coach,’’ Wilcher said. “He’s a person I really look up to and really admire for how he’s put together so many winning seasons. Their program has been on top for 30 years. We’re really just trying to stay at the level they are.”
The Technicians and Crusaders have battled practically on even terms in recent years after Cass Tech had a streak of domination.
“We started ringing the bell in the 90s and it seemed we kept playing King for the championship,” Wilcher said. “Or it was a situation that whoever wins would go to the championship. Then we were playing in the district (of the state playoffs) all the time, and the rivalry kept getting heated up because of that.
“Every time a big game came up, it was Cass and King for championship. We would play each other two and sometimes three times a year. When you play a team three times in one season, that’s a lot.”
Wilcher said the key to victory Friday will come down to maintaining composure in the moment.
“Just being able to handle all that comes with the rivalry of playing against King,’’ he said. “We’ve got to handle the game. It doesn’t make a difference what the record is when we play against King. You’ve got to show up.”
The Crusaders will be out to contain Cass Tech’s big-play running attack, led by junior Mike Weber.
“We’ve got to be able to limit the number of 15, 20 and 30-yard runs that Weber gets and control him a little bit,’’ Harvel said. “On our end, we can’t turn the ball over. We have to maintain possession of the football to give us a shot at winning.
“Cass Tech is a great football team with a lot of great athletes. We have to do the little things we’ve been doing all year and not give up big plays.”