Two titanic forces of football nature collided Friday night at Ford Field.
The Detroit Public School League championship game had a different drama in this much-anticipated rematch between top-ranked, Division 2 power and undefeated Detroit Martin Luther King, and defending league champion Detroit Cass Tech.
Other than Cass Tech’s special teams producing two scores, King was the better team. They passed better and ran the ball better, but still found themselves down 25-21 going into the final 12 minutes.
King used the legs of Martell Pettaway and the leadership of Armani Posey to drive 84 yards, and used a 10-yard TD run by Kevin Willis to take a 27-25 lead with 5:10 left. However, King missed the all-important extra point.
It didn’t matter because the defense held, and the Crusaders (9-0) held on for the 27-25 win in the battle of the Goliaths as Cass Tech (7-2) relinquished the crown.
“I saw a nice little gap, got a block and hit it up in there,’’ said Willis. “Armani Posey was out there doing his thing.’’
A rematch of a 31-28 regular season victory by King, Division 1 talent dominated both rosters, but there were some subtractions.
Five King players were suspended because of the ugly brawl against Detroit Cody the previous week, and were forced to watch the game from the sideline. That also became a point of contention because suspended students aren’t supposed to attend school events.
King Coach Dale Harvel confirmed before the game that those out were backup quarterback El-Julian Jordan, defensive back Jerimiah Fuller, defensive backs Ambry Thomas and Martinez Adams Calloway, and lineman Traveon Orr. Fuller, Thomas and Adams Calloway were all starters.
“We found out Tuesday that we were playing, then we found out Thursday that we were losing five players,’’ said Harvel. “We lost two starters out of the secondary, so for our defense to hold up the way it did with two kids playing roles they hadn’t played before was big. We put pressure on him (Rodney Hall) all night.
“With guys having to move around, it hurt our special teams.’’
Cass Tech’s passing game was dismal with just 36 yards, but Coach Thomas Wilcher was gracious in defeat.
“First off all, I want to compliment Coach Harvel in what he did and Coach (Terel) Patrick in what he did,’’ said Wilcher. “Their offense and defense did a great job. The most important thing to me was that how I noticed Harvel had some kids that needed to be disciplined and he did that. I complimented him on that and I told him I was glad he did that because I’m glad we’re stepping up and trying to do something about our young men.’’
After a scoreless first quarter, the Technicians faced at fourth-down and five at the King 9-yard line, and used a 26-yard field goal by Albert Pace to take a 3-0 lead with 11:58 left in the first half.
Posey had a 17-yard TD pass to an outstretched Dontre Boyd to give the Crusaders a 7-3 lead with 7:42 left in the first half.
Donovan People-Jones gave Cass Tech a lift on a 44-yard punt return score with 3:57 left in the half as the Technicians regained the lead, 11-7.
Donnie Corley didn’t catch many passes, but he was a disruptive force in the Cass Tech secondary, drawing two pass interference penalties.
“They played over the top on me, but our receivers are great players,’’ said Corley. “One-on-one we were going to make a play. I just ran my routes and trusted my coaches. ‘’
Posey used a 24-yard pass to Boyd and an 18-yarder to Pettaway to march to the Cass Tech 5 with 34 seconds left in the half.
Posey found Boyd again, this time from two yards out with two seconds left to take a 13-11 halftime lead.
Cass Tech started the third quarter with a bang, getting a 92-yard kickoff return from Peoples-Jones to regain the lead, 18-13.
Big plays started piling up as Hill took a swing pass 85-yards, out-racing Michigan State recruit Demetric Vance Jr. with 10:22 left in the third as the see-saw battle was now in King’s favor, 21-18, after Corley caught the ensuing two-point conversion pass.
Junior running back Tim Cheatham broke loose for a 56-yard run for the Technicians. With a fourth down and three at the King 4, Wilcher went for it and Donovan Johnson scored from four yards out with six seconds left in the third quarter. It came at a cost as Johnson lay on the turf for five minutes. The extra point gave the Technicians at 25-21 lead, before King recorded the final score.
Detroit Collegiate Prep-Northwestern 26, Detroit Central 12: Northwestern (9-0) stayed undefeated behind two five-yard TD runs from Christopher Dennis to win the Division 2 championship Friday at Ford Field.
Northwestern took a 7-0 lead on a 34 yard punt return by Germaine Williams and made it 14-6 on a 58-yard bomb from quarterback Danny Whitt to Michael Marion. Dennis had both of his TD runs in the second half and finished with 18 carries for 114 yards.
Central fell to 6-3.
Contact Perry A. Farrell: 313-222-2555 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @farrellperry.