PSL Championship: King vs. Southeastern, Central vs. Douglass

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What a Fall football weekend this Saturday will be.

Michigan State will battle 7-0 Iowa for the Big Ten lead in East Lansing.

The University of Michigan will encounter 6-1 Penn State in Ann Arbor.  

And most importantly, the Detroit Public School League (PSL) will culminate its regular season with in annual football championships at Renaissance High’s William Hill Field.

The 2009 PSL Final Four is an eclectic mix of high schools.

First, the Division A Final will showcase football royalty in Martin Luther King Jr. High School. The Crusaders, winners of too many PSL titles to count, was down last year finishing under .500, but here they are back in the title game.

King got there by pulling a mild upset, beating Crockett 28-8. Many felt the then- undefeated Crockett (7-1) was primed to make it to the title game, but King and first-year coach, Dale Harvel, had other plans.King has come a long way from the start of a season that saw its coach for three decades, James Reynolds, retire due to health issues.

“It was hard at first (without Reynolds),” said Harvel, who coached under Reynolds for 22 years.

“I told the kids this is still King football. We are going to keep a level head and keep working hard. I told the team they could be as good as their level of concentration.

“We talked about practice levels. I know everyone was not going to be at nine every practice or game, but we can indeed strive to achieve at that level. We talk every day about doing it the right way in the classroom and on the football field.”

Well, Harvel has convinced the kids to believe in him and follow his lead.

“Coach (Harvel) wants to make us better students and people,” King senior quarterback Derond Crawford said. “He told us at the beginning of the season if we got our chemistry and leadership together, we could get back to the city championship.”

King (6-2) is indeed back to the game where they last won the PSL title in 2006 and 2007.

Southeastern, who will oppose King Saturday at 4 p.m., won the 2008 PSL championship. Under the leadership of coach Donshell English, the Jungaleers are ready to lay claim as next PSL dynasty. Southeastern already defeated King, 14-7, two weeks ago. They feel they can do it again and lay claim to the school’s first back-to back titles.

Southeastern, behind maybe the PSL’s best quarterback, Edward Thomas, feel they have the experience to overcome the gallant run by rival King. With Thomas leading the way, Southeastern defeated Cody, 28-7, to advance to the title contest.

The PSL Division B title game will see Central High (5-2) contest Frederick Douglass High (5-2) at 1 p.m.

Douglass won a PSL title as Murray-Wright High four year ago. Central last won a PSL title in 1972 and last played in the title game in 1983.

The current Central coach, Eric Smith, played on that 1983 team, which was coached by the late Woody Thomas.

“It is a great achievement getting this team to where it is now,” Smith said.

“When I came back to my school a couple years ago, we barely had 30 eligible players. I had to change the mindset of the kinds and the culture. We started study tables and personal accountability. Now we have had 20 of our players make the honor roll.”

Smith said that taking the team to a summer camp in the woods was the best thing he could have done for the boys.

“So many of the inner city kids had never seen a frog, cow or snake,” he said. “Those were things they would never see on Linwood. The camp was fun, we built camaraderie and we learned to trust each other.”

Smith said he is really proud of the team, but in particular senior linebacker Antonio Lewis, who helped him change the direction of the program and helped him get back in.

I had planned to go to MSU’s game in East Lansing, but I think I stay home and cover the youth.

Hope to see you over at Renaissance on Saturday.

Leland Stein can be reached at lelstein3@aol.com.

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