In second year playing football, Scarber leads Detroit King to a second straight D-2 title
Detroit – When Jesse Scarber began his high school athletic career four years ago, he considered himself to be a basketball player exclusively, and football couldn’t have been further from his mind.
And for good reason. Scarber will be entering his fourth season on the varsity basketball team with Detroit King this winter.
But on Friday afternoon, he was perhaps the most important football player the Crusaders had.
Scarber recorded two interceptions, including one that was returned for a touchdown in the second half, as he helped lead a dominant defensive effort for King, who won its second straight Division 2 state championship, 18-0 over Walled Lake Western.
This season was just the second season of football that Scarber has played after being convinced by King head coach Tyrone Spencer who, at the time, was the school’s defensive coordinator
“He really came out because he didn’t want to run cross country, so he came out late, in August last year,” Spencer said. “But when I was looking at him on the basketball court, he was a tough kid and I told him I was going to make him my corner next year. We put in the work and developed him and got him together and he’s done a phenomenal job.”
A 5-foot-9 point guard who has started since the end of his freshman season for the Crusaders’ basketball team, listened to Spencer along with some current and former teammates and joined the King football team for a 2015 season that ended in the program’s second title.
“My teammates LaVert Hill, Donnie Corley, they saw me on the court too,” he said. “They told me it was going to ‘be a big year (in 2015), so just come out here and play with us and we’ll get you better’.”
But joining the football team came with some challenges for Scarber as he looked hone his skills on the football field, only seeing time in games that were blowout wins for King in 2015.
However, playing against some of the state’s top players, including one of this year’s Mr. Football finalists, Ambry Thomas, over the past two years is something that Scarber said made him better as a football player.
“Playing with Ambry Thomas, one of the top receivers in the state,” he said. “Going against him every practice, he killed me, killed me, killed me until I got better.”
Thomas said that he saw Scarber improve a considerable amount from his junior year to his senior year when the two players lined up across from one another in practices leading up to the 2016 season.
“I’ve seen him grow a lot, actually,” he said. “Coming into this season, we didn’t know who our starting corner was going to be. And then Jesse went up in the one-on-ones against me and I noticed he did well, so I’m thinking he’s doing alright and then the pattern was becoming repetitive.”
Entering Friday’s game against Western, Scarber was aware that the Warriors would try throwing his way early and often, rather than throw in the direction of Thomas, one of the state’s best all-around players.
“Ambry told me they were going to come my way,” he said. “So he prepared me in practice every day, going at it after practice, just working all week.”
Entering with six interceptions on the season, Scarber saved his best performance for last in a game where he found himself lined up across from another Mr. Football Finalist in Michigan State-commit Cody White,
First the senior defensive back picked off a Western pass that was thrown into an open space as Scarber grabbed the ball, turned up field and returned the ball inside the Western 10-yard line. Then, with King leading 6-0 early in the second half, Scarber snared a pass that was tipped by and took off for a 56-yard touchdown, pushing the King lead to 12-0 with 10:38 left in the third quarter.
Despite this being just his second year of football and playing on the big stage at Ford Field, Scarber wasn’t surprised by his performance.”
“I was not surprised,” he said. “I had to play confident and do it for coach Harvel.”
And with the help of Scarber, Detroit King won its second straight Division 2 state championship, while Scarber went from being exclusively a basketball player to a two-sport athlete, who has two state championships.
Spencer said that Scarber’s success is a result of the work he’s put in over the past two years and trusting the King coaching staff to put in a position to be successful.
“It’s amazing,” he said. “But again it goes back to him trusting us and believing in us and just believing in what we do. I couldn’t have asked for more from the kid.”
Now that football season is wrapped up, Scarber’s focus is ready to turn from football to basketball and leading the King basketball team to similar success on the hardwood.
“It’s time to go get it (a state championship) in basketball.”