Martin Luther King head football coach Tyrone Spencer and his team fell a couple points shy of going to a third consecutive Division 2 state championship game, losing to Warren De La Salle 14-13 last November. The 2017 Detroit Public School League champs and back-to-back state champs in 2015 and 2016 have reloaded and rebuilt and are the Michigan Chronicle’s pick to win the PSL in 2018.
Senior quarterback Dequan Finn is back for his third year under center and is committed to Central Michigan. He will have a plethora of wide receivers to throw to, including highly-recruited junior Rashawn Williams (UofM, MSU, and OSU), seniors Darrell Wyatt (CMU), Rayshawn Williams (Youngstown State), and Jalen McGaughy (NIU), and junior Lemuel Neely-Watley, giving the Crusaders one of the more potent offenses in the state. King’s first two games are between East St. Louis (Ill.) and Muskegon.
“That loss was heartbreaking, but I would still rate last season as successful,” said Spencer. “That was a big game for us and we want to get over the hump next time. We want to get back to winning the city and state championships and I think we have an opportunity to do that, especially with the senior leadership we have coming back.”
Cass Tech also had a heartbreaking loss to end their season in 2017, losing to West Bloomfield 9-7 in the Division I semifinals. It was the program’s eighth straight trip to the semifinals but going 9-3 is unacceptable at Cass Tech. They expect to win and to win it all.
The Technicians’ running game will be its strength, with 1-2 punch Jaren Mangham (Colorado) and Lew Nichols (CMU) getting a bulk of the carries. Cass Tech’s offensive line will be strong as well, with highly-touted sophomore Raheem Anderson, Allen Jones, Dante Reed, Darius Bellamy, and a few others. Senior Jalen Graham will play quarterback and safety for Cass Tech. They face River Rouge in the first game of the season and then head to Cleveland to play Ohio power, St. Edward.
“Jalen’s so athletic and he’s going to move the ball in different ways and make plays,” said Cass Tech head coach Thomas Wilcher.
Drake Wilkins Sr. has only been at Renaissance for two years and has already created a new buzz and is building a different culture around the program. The Phoenix fell just short of last year’s state playoffs, going 4-5, and have not been since 2015. But Wilkins has one of the best players in the state in junior quarterback RaeQuan Beal (6-4, 200), a budding sophomore running back in Justin Whitehorn, sophomore athlete Robert Army, and a roster full of young players that will put the Renaissance football program back on the map.
“If our quarterback gets some help, we’re going to cause some problems,” said Wilkins. “Raequan Beal is a big-time quarterback and if the rest of our guys can step-up and help him, we will cause some problems in the city.”
The PSL is an ever-changing league and the biggest storyline of the season is how good will East English Village Prep be, now that former coach Rod Oden is gone. Oden was the program’s first head coach in 2012 and left for Harper Woods and his players from EEVP followed suit. Muskegon native Larry Porter is the new head coach and is faced with an uphill battle, since he accepted the job only a few weeks ago.
“It’s all surreal but I’m very excited about the job,” said Porter. Looking at their record from last year (9-2), we have some big shoes to feel, but we won’t make any exceptions. I’ve done my research on the PSL and it’s a tough league. We will be ready for the season.”
PSL Gold Division: EEVP, Western, Osborn, Southeastern, CMA.
PSL Black Division: King, Central, Renaissance, Denby, Frederick Douglass, Pershing
PSL Green Division: Cass Tech, Mumford, Cody, Northwestern, Henry Ford.
Teams listed in predicted order of finish with 2017 records in parentheses:
2.Cass Tech (10-3)
7.Henry Ford (6-4)
16.Frederick Douglass (0-9)