Detroit Martin Luther King High School has been the “Big Dog” in the Detroit Public School League (PSL) for close to two decades.
With all-time PSL wins leader, the legendary coach James Reynolds, leading the way, the Crusaders became the only team to win a state title in 2007. Health issues forced Reynolds to resign at the start of the 2009 campaign. In fact, King produced its first losing record in 2008 in too many years to recount.
Dale Harvel, an assistant at King for 24 years, took over for Reynolds. Previously, he had guided the Crusaders to a 4-1.
So the contest between King (4-2) and Southeastern would be a litmus test as to if King was ready to jump back to the top of the PSL heap. Well, Southeastern showed all that last year’s PSL title was no fluke as the Jungaleers beat King 14-7 at King. Led by the strong and fast legs of Paris Powell, who rushed for 102 yards on 12 carries, including a 10-yard touchdown run with 8:35 left in the fourth quarter that gave Southeastern the lead.
It appeared Southeastern was going to shoot itself in the foot as seasoned quarterback Edward Thomas threw two interceptions. Since he was having an off night on offense, he upped his level on defense and came up with three big interceptions.
“Every time I turned it over,” Thomas told reporters, “I kept telling my guys I was gonna get it back for us.” He noted that he had problems throwing into the “heavy winds” but still managed to throw for 180 yards.
Southeastern coach Donshell English is making his mark as one of the best coaches in the PSL. He is primed and ready to step into the giant void that was left when Reynolds retired.
“I have a great opportunity to coach these kids and help make them better people as well as football players,” English told me in an interview last year. “We are getting kids to believe in the team first idea.”
Helping Southeastern (5-0) stay undefeated was the stellar play of 6-foot-4 receiver Vernell Wingate. He caught Thomas’ only touchdown pass. Southeastern end William Gholston, acknowl edged by most as the best player in the state, also, chipped in with eight tackles, four second-half sacks and a forced fumble.
King’s only score came on running back Larry Steppes 68-yard score on a screen pass in the first quarter for King (4-2), which had won its last four. But it couldn’t muster much offense afterward.
“King is always going to be that measuring stick. They’re a great team,” English told reporters after the game. “They have the history behind them, so we try to measure up every time we play them.”