At face value, the Detroit Cass Tech-Detroit King matchup did not look like a battle between two teams that will still be playing Thanksgiving weekend.
There were too many penalties – host Cass had 13 and King eight – too many dropped passes, too many missed assignments to think that Cass Tech, No. 1 in Division 1, will compete for the D-1 title, and King, No. 2 in Division 2, can repeat as D-2 champs.
Cass Tech coach Thomas Wilcher was happy to concede that his team’s 31-18 victory Saturday afternoon was not worthy of a spot in a time capsule.
“I don’t think we played very, very well at all; we played very terrible,” said Wilcher. “We made so many mistakes out there, it was ridiculous. We left so many points on the board. We had so many bad plays, so many wrong plays it was ridiculous. We just have to clean all that up.”
And that is the thing. Cass Tech (6-0) is more than capable of correcting many of its mistakes it made in this game – and so is King (5-1).
But the biggest thing needed is to clean up the field.
The game was played at Cass Tech, which has a natural grass field, although the grass is disappearing at an alarming rate. After all of the rain we’ve had the last few days, the best description of the field is that it was soggy with several spots of standing water.
If Cass Tech finishes 9-0 it may want to turn down home field advantage in the state playoffs for an opportunity to play an opponent that has some type of field turf. Get the Technicians on an artificial surface and they are a different team, able to use their abundance of speed.
Playing on this field severely limited what Cass did offensively. It rarely targeted All-America receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones, who caught two passes for 98 yards.
He was mostly covered by King star Ambry Thomas, who caught Peoples-Jones from behind at the King 6-yard line after Peoples-Jones caught a slant pass and gained 83 yards.
“No, I’m not going to let him forget that,” said Thomas. “But it was still a great catch by him. We were in cover three, so I bailed out and he caught it.”
At halftime, Peoples-Jones received his jersey for the All-America game in San Antonio – and so did teammate Donovan Johnson, who stole the show.
With Cass’ running game sputtering late in the second quarter, Johnson took a pitch around the right side, which still featured plenty of grass and a path. A King player had an excellent angle of pursuit to stop Johnson, but Johnson had something else.
“He had the angle on me,” Johnson said. “I had the speed.”
Once he got by the defender, Johnson turned that into a 69-yard touchdown run
“Keep running full speed, don’t let no one catch you, don’t do nothing silly,” he said. “Just score.”
Early in the fourth quarter, Johnson ran a circle route out of the backfield after Peoples-Jones cleared out the area for him. He caught a short pass and turned that into an 82-yard touchdown and a commanding 31-6 lead.
“The quarterback told me to go out for a pass,” Johnson said. “I went out for a pass, caught the ball, saw a defender, had to break that tackle and as soon as I broke his tackle: Touchdown.”
King’s offense was also hampered by the field conditions. But these teams should meet again for the Public School League championship in Week 9.
That game will be played on an artificial surface.
“We’ll see them real soon,” said Thomas. “We gave away this game. We’ve still got to fix a few mistakes. We had a few dropped balls out there – a few touchdowns that were dropped. We’re going to come back strong. We’re a young team. I think we needed that loss.”
King may have needed a loss, but Cass Tech needs a new field.
Contact Mick McCabe: 313-223-4744 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @mickmccabe1.