On Detroit Cass Tech’s first play from scrimmage, Donovan Peoples-Jones streaked up the right sideline, got a step on his defender, but otherwise couldn’t haul in an overthrown long bomb. While that call may have seemed ambitious at the time, the top-ranked Technicians eventually did get the play to work, with Peoples-Jones scoring a 58-yard TD in the third quarter en route to a 45-27 win over Oak Park.
The game, the last of seven on the slate of the Detroit Prep Kickoff Classic at Wayne State University, was postponed until Sunday after severe thunderstorms pushed back Saturday’s three-game schedule.
Peoples-Jones — the Free Press’ No. 1 player in the state — had just 3 catches, but they covered 100 yards and accounted for two scores. He also had a 37-yard TD catch in the second quarter, as the Oak Park defense bit on Aaron Jackson’s pump fake before Jackson looked in the other direction and saw his favorite target in the clear.
“I really enjoyed myself today,” Peoples-Jones said. “I came out here and really competed today, working with my brothers, and it’s been something we’ve been working for all summer. We just focused on the goal and wanted to get the W; we just had to execute.”
Oak Park didn’t hesitate to throw upfield, either, with sophomore transfer Dwan Mathis at the helm. Mathis connected with Keveon Clark for an 80-yard score seven minutes into the game, and hit Kevin Bradley for a 64-yard TD six minutes before halftime, which gave the Knights a 21-14 lead.
But Cass Tech (1-0) answered with three scores in two minutes to take a 31-21 lead into the break. Donovan Johnson picked up the ensuing squib kickoff, found a hole right in front of him and sprinted 85 yards to tie the game at 21. Cass forced a short punt on the next series, and moved 36 yards in three plays, with Rodney Hall finding Jaron Mangham in the middle of the end zone. Edwin McLendon added a 27-yard field goal.
Cass employed a dual-quarterback system. Hall started and came to the sidelines mid-game with a sore shoulder but eventually returned. Jackson, who finished last season under center when Hall was sidelined with a season-ending ankle injury, was also effective.
“They both are great quarterbacks,” Peoples-Jones said. “In practice they’re both completing (passes) and if we can use both quarterbacks, we’re going to use them. We need to, as big of an arsenal as we have.”
And it didn’t help the Knights (0-1) that Mathis cooled down as the game went on. After starting 3-for-4, he finished 7-of-20 with three interceptions.
“We just had to make sure we eliminated the big plays, that was it,” Cass Tech coach Thomas Wilcher said. “When you eliminate the big plays, you can get control of the game. They could methodically move the ball down the field, but we can methodically move the ball down the field too. It just kind of fell into our hands.”