Detroit King’s late pick vs. East English sets table for Cass rematch

Detroit Martin Luther King Jr. High School's Christian Chatman (7) rushes during the game.

Detroit Martin Luther King Jr. High School’s Christian Chatman (7) rushes during the game.

Jesse Scarber hasn’t been playing football long — the senior suited up for the first time this year — yet he already has a solid career highlight. The Detroit King defensive back stepped in front of an East English pass and returned it 80 yards with 3 minutes left, enabling the Crusaders to hang on for a 27-25 victory in the Detroit PSL semifinals Saturday at Detroit College Prep-Northwestern.

The victory gave King a spot in the PSL Division I championship game Friday night and a much-anticipated rematch with Cass Tech. Mumford will meet Denby in the Division I/II contest beforehand.

Scarber’s third interception this season was the Crusaders’ only takeaway of the game — and it couldn’t have come at a better time.

The Bulldogs trailed by two as they drove upfield to the King 21, riding the arm of Delvin Washington (16 of 28 for 160 yards). But Scarber read the play, timed his grab, picked off the ball at the 12 and set off up the home sideline. He returned the ball to the opposite 8-yard line, changing the tone of the game.

“My coach told me they needed me because we needed to get a stop,” Scarber said. “I lined up on their best receiver and tried to be the best defensive back I could be. I saw him break down(field), so I broke down with him.”

“They made a great play on the interception at the end,” East English coach Rod Oden said. “We thought we had the advantage with coverage, and it didn’t go our way. It was a good ball, a good route. … It was back and forth like it usually is, and we just made one less play than they did.”

King made the first big play as Ambry Thomas returned a punt 86 yards to give the Crusaders (7-1) a 7-0 lead before their first offensive series. But the Bulldogs (4-4) answered, getting two first-half touchdowns from Zhamaine March.

King’s Kevin Willis matched March with two rushing scores, and King led, 21-13, before things started to go south in the third quarter. Poised to tack on another score, Willis was hit hard, fumbled in the end zone and sat out the rest of the game with an ankle injury.

East English drove 80 yards to paydirt, as March’s third score of the day brought them to 21-19. On King’s next play, Samuel Womack stripped the ball from the running back and took it back 41 yards into the end zone, and the Bulldogs suddenly led, 25-21.

King got the game-winner with 5:20 left as quarterback Dequan Finn ran a 4-yard bootleg through a hole at least two parking spaces wide.

“I just told them to keep going,” King coach Tyrone Spencer said. “You can only control what you can control. It’s a fumble; we can get it back, so let’s just play and let’s be perfect from now on, that’s all you can do. They did it, I’m proud of them.”

And that’s a message Scarber heard loud and clear.

“You’ve got to keep playing until it’s over,” he said.

Detroit PSL championships

Friday at Ford Field

Division I/II: Mumford vs. Denby, 4

Division I: Cass Tech vs. King, 7