Media Information Director
DPS Office of Athletics
Cass Tech’s leading man Mike Weber has a strong opening act — his offensive line.
“The O-line is the most important component,’’ Technicians head coach Thomas Wilcher said. “If they don’t block, give your quarterback time to throw, and open holes for your running game, you’re not going to be able to do anything with the ball. They’ve had everything to do with our offensive success.”
The unbeaten Technicians (12-0), coming off a 48-35 regional championship victory against Clinton Township Chippewa Valley last weekend, are anticipating another battle of high-powered offenses Saturday at 1 p.m. in their MHSAA Division 1 state semifinal game against Saline (11-1) at Troy Athens High School.
“(Saline) is a very effective offensive machine,’’ Wilcher said. “They can score points and score quickly, just like Chippewa Valley. They’ve got a good quarterback, good running back, good receivers, a good offensive line and a good coach. It’s going to be a test for us.”
Cass Tech has proved capable of prevailing in offensive shootouts, led by Weber’s 2,130 yards and 28 TDs for the season.
The 5-10, 205-pound senior, who has verbally committed to Michigan, entrenched himself as the state’s top running back last Saturday when he rushed for 404 yards and scored five touchdowns to beat Chippewa Valley.
“It’s these guys right here. They did it for me,’’ said Weber, sharing the credit for his Division 1 playoff single-game rushing record with his big, fast and powerful offensive linemen — senior left tackle Josh Alabi (6-0, 275), junior left guard Michael Onwenu (6-2, 340), junior center Alvin Clemons (6-0, 260), junior right guard Ostell Martin (6-5, 326) and senior right tackle Daimen Oliver (6-3, 285).
“They opened the holes and I just ran through them,” Weber said.
The Technicians’ O-line has been basking in Weber’s glory this week and say they enjoy being the power that leads the ride.
“Blocking for Mike is a pleasure,” Alabi, an Ohio State verbal commit, told The Detroit News. “We’ve had a good relationship and he’s like a brother. It’s fun to block for him since he’s such a great running back. Knowing somebody can run the ball as good as he can behind you is a great feeling. He knows how to read blocks and read holes and he hits them and does his thing. He’s a great runner.”
“Blocking for him is an honor,” said Onwenu, who has another year of high school but already has major college suitors, including Ohio State, Michigan and Miami. “All you have to do is hit your guy, give him a hole and he’s gone.”
Saline got a glimpse of Weber two years ago as a sophomore when he ran for 163 yards and two touchdowns in a 21-14 regional championship victory. He was a relative unknown then, but everybody knows him now.
“Mike is going to get his yards and we know he is going to have some explosion plays,” Saline coach Joe Palka told The News. “We have to minimize them and keep that game close. We can’t let him run crazy.”
Saturday’s game will be Cass Tech’s fifth consecutive appearance in the state semifinals. A victory would earn their third trip in four years to the state championship game at Ford Field, including back to back Division 1 titles in 2011 and 2012.
Defending champion Clarkston (12-0) faces East Kentwood (11-1) in the other Division 1 semifinal game Saturday at Brighton High School.
“It would be great if we can get back to Ford Field a third time for the state championship game,’’ Wilcher said.
“It’s something that hasn’t been done by a PSL team. It would be a great accomplishment for the league, Detroit Public Schools and the city of Detroit. But first we have to get there. We know we have to come ready to play against Saline.”