In Play with Tom Markowski

PSL among the elite football leagues thanks to Cass Tech and King

Football   | Tom Markowski

PSL among the elite football leagues thanks to Cass Tech and King

Detroit – Fifteen years ago people laughed at Detroit Public School League football. It was considered a league with great players and undisciplined teams.

The players are still great but now they are concentrated, playing on five or six teams instead of being spread around all over the city.

Look at Detroit King and Detroit Cass Tech. Since 2007 when King won its first title opinions began to change. Actually it happened in the second half of King’s 47-21 victory over Midland in the Division 2 final. King came into that game ranked No. 1 but trailed 21-7 early in the third quarter. King scored the final 40 points to bury Midland and any thoughts that a PSL couldn’t win a state title.

Cass Tech has reached the state semifinals in each of the past seven seasons. The Technicians have won three titles during this period, King has won two.

This season marked the first time two PSL teams won titles in the same season.

Granted, no PSL team, other than these two, has reached a state final but the league no longer is the butt of playoff jokes. The PSL is now at the top of the heap.

Next season you can expect both to be there or at least near the top.

Expectations have changed and Thomas Wilcher, Cass Tech’s coach, said, at least for his team and at King, coaching is better.

"It's very special to have both teams win because you showed an impact that we can play in football," Wilcher said. "You just can't write us off, you just can't say we can't do this. When you have two schools at the top of their game, last year King was ranked No. 1, went 14-0. This year we were ranked No. 1 and we went 14-0.

"It shows that we can coach, you can't say we don't have good coaches. We have good coaches, we have good players, we have disciplined kids, so all we want to do is keep our kids all working together. We want to keep our kids in the city of Detroit, we want to keep our kids home, we want parents to come watch our kids play, we want our parents to understand that Detroit Public Schools is positive. There's something for each and every young man to experience and you don't have to travel 20 miles to get experience. Come in 20 miles and get a great experience, here in Detroit Public Schools."

Let’s look back. When King reached the Class A final (just four classes) in 1989 and the Class AA final the next season it represented a milestone. A team from the PSL had never reached a final before and many thought then that they never would again.

It took King, and the PSL, 17 years to get back to a final.

Things were different then. The PSL was dominating the boys basketball scene. Detroit Cooley won the Class A title in 1987, ’88 and ’89, and Detroit Southwestern won Class A titles the following two seasons. The PSL was primarily a basketball league. Football was seen as a transition from summer basketball to the beginning of the basketball season.

There are many reasons for this. The basketball played in the city was at a zenith. Mike Talley of Cooley won Mr. Basketball during this time. Soon-to-be NBA players Jalen Rose, Voshon Lenard and Howard Eisley were the stars at Southwestern.

What many forget is the PSL was a 28-team, four-division league back then and 27 were Class A (Chadsey was, periodically, Class B). Now there are 16 teams and of those seven are in Class A.

So, you shrink the league, compress the talent into fewer and, well, you see what we have.

One cannot overemphasize the importance of coaching. No sport is dependent upon coaching as much as football is. If you question that, try having 45 players on a basketball team. Yeah, thought so.

And you can’t get away from the fact that winning breeds winning. Imagine you’re a young athlete and you have the opportunity to play at Cass Tech or Detroit Western. If you’re an elite athlete Cass Tech is your likely choice.

So who’s going to be the next Ambry Thomas or Donovan Peoples-Jones? My guess is that he’ll play for either Cass Tech or King.