STATE SEMIFINALS: Catholic League powers stand between Cass Tech and King achieving a PSL football first

Chuck Johnson
Media Information Director
DPS Office of Athletics

One more victory. That’s what Cass Tech (12-0) and King (10-1) both need Saturday at 1 p.m. to become the first Detroit Public School League tandem to reach the Michigan High School Athletic Association football state finals in the same season.

Cass Tech head coach Thomas Wilcher leads the charge

Cass Tech head coach Thomas Wilcher leads the Technicians’ charge

Coach Thomas Wilcher’s Technicians, the two-time defending Division 1 state champions, will try to keep alive their bid for a three-peat when they face familiar nemesis Novi Detroit Catholic Central (10-2) in the semifinal game at Troy Athens High School. Catholic Central is the same opponent Cass Tech defeated the last two seasons in the state finals.

King, in pursuit of its first state championship since winning Division 2 in 2007, also has a Catholic League team standing in its way. Coach Dale Harvel’s Crusaders will play Birmingham Brother Rice (12-0) in the semifinal game at Wayne State University.

As the only two PSL football programs to have won a state championship, King and Cass Tech would lift the league banner to new heights if both can navigate their way to Ford Field Nov. 29-30 for the MHSAA finals.

Just last month, the teams met at Ford Field in the PSL championship game, won by Cass 20-14. Should both win Saturday and earn a return to the home of the Detroit Lions, the entire league and its fans collectively will be rooting for the Technicians and Crusaders to bask in the state championship spotlight together.

“It’s a great challenge, but like I told the kids, this is why you came to King,’’ Harvel said. “Now we’ve got to go out and get it done. This is the biggest ballgame we’re going to play all year. (Brother Rice) is a nationally-ranked program.”

King's Jalen Embry

King High’s Jalen Embry celebrates with his teammates while embracing the regional championship trophy

The Crusaders won 6-0 against previously unbeaten Wyandotte Rooselvelt last week to win the regional crown. Harvel said the key to overcoming the unbeaten Warriors, who the Crusaders lost against in the 2011 semifinals, is  “to run the football and control the game.

“We can’t let things get out of hand early,” Harvel said. “We have to give ourselves a chance to win in the fourth quarter.”

Cass Tech will have to avoid being overconfident after using its speed and array of talent  to whack Catholic Central in the last two Division 1 title games.

“It’s a very tough matchup,’’ Wilcher said. “This is one of their better teams. They’re more equipped than they were the last two years. They’ve got better defensive backs and they’re more athletic.

“We’re going to have to come out focused and we’ve got to work together. It could be really bad if we come out overconfident. They (the Shamrocks) understand what it takes to beat Cass Tech. We’ve got to overcome our problems to make sure it doesn’t happen.”

Primarily, Wilcher said the Technicians must avoid a sluggish start, which has been a tendency this season. They trailed 17-7 at halftime last week before scoring 25 unanswered points in a 32-17 victory against Macomb Dakota for the regional championship.

“Our team speed really helps us a lot, but we’re a team that has different types of gears,’’ Wilcher said. “If we get into a groove, we can really go hard and do some good stuff. But if we get into a low gear, it’s going to be pretty hard. We have to come out in high gear.”

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