Even though Detroit Cass Tech came up short against Romeo in Saturday’s Division 1 championship contest, the Technicians could very well get another crack at the 2016 title since several impact players are due to return.
Rodney Hall, a junior, began the season under center and guided the Technicians to 10 wins before a broken ankle sent him to the sidelines after regionals. In Hall’s absence, sophomore Aaron Jackson stepped in and was 19-of-27 for 194 yards and two touchdowns Saturday — following up a solid performance in his first start, a 48-41 semifinal win over Canton.
“These two starts have really been a big confidence booster for me,” he said. “My team has a great offense and a great defense. I really love my teammates and they did this, I had a small role in this. These great athletes here did this.”
But no matter who is throwing the ball, their favorite target is one of those “great athletes” — Donovan Peoples-Jones. The junior wideout had eight receptions for 85 yards Saturday — twice the team’s total rushing yardage — including a nifty touchdown catch in the fourth quarter that pulled Cass within six points.
And it didn’t matter to him that the guy running the show Saturday was possibly the most inexperienced one on the Ford Field turf.
“He’s a great quarterback, he’s a very mechanical quarterback; he does everything the coaches ask him, he’s a competitor,” Peoples-Jones said. “That makes it easier for me. If he can get the ball there, I can catch the ball. Our chemistry is real good.”
That was apparent in the fourth quarter. Facing a 3rd-and-15, Jackson hit Peoples-Jones with a flare to the right side, and he rambled the remaining yardage for the first down. The duo followed that up on the very next play as Peoples-Jones took off up the right sideline as Jackson lofted the ball up. Peoples-Jones got under it and hauled it in with out breaking pace, heading into the end zone on a play covering 36 yards.
“He’s something else, man,” said Romeo’s Brad Tanner, who drew the unenviable assignment of defending Peoples-Jones. “He’s easily the quickest receiver off the line. He’s really physical, he’s a great receiver. That double-move that he did on me, that was D-I (college) right there. He’s a great player and I respect him.”
While Hall has earned spotlight time and Jackson is just coming into his own, the 6-foot-2, 190-pound Peoples-Jones is already one of Michigan’s top junior recruits. Now that his season is over, he can devote some time to sifting through his 19 offers from Division I schools.
But before he gets to campus, he’s excited about the Technicians’ prospects for next year.
“I know it’s going to be a quarterback battle, it’s going to be a great battle,” he said. “Aaron’s a great quarterback, Rodney’s a great quarterback, so that will help the team because those guys will be competing all spring and all summer.”
Sounds like Cass Tech can’t go wrong either way.