August 18, 2014 at 11:30 pm

Detroit Public School League football preview: One division works for all

Junior defensive back Lavert Hill bolsters Detroit Cass Tech with extraordinary speed — he's run a 4.3-second 40-yard dash. He's one of The News' top-20 players. (Steve Perez / Detroit News)

Detroit— The Detroit Public School League has undergone many changes over the past decade, with schools closing and an exodus of players to surrounding charter schools and the suburbs.

In previous years, the PSL had multiple divisions, but with only 16 schools — of various enrollments and skill levels — competing in football this season, all will be in one division.

That means the top three schools — Cass Tech, King and East English Village Prep — all will be lumped together in the same division. But with a random schedule, they won’t all play head-to-head matchups. Cass, which won the PSL championship last season, doesn’t play King and its toughest game should be a home matchup with East English in Week 6.

King has the most favorable schedule, playing neither Cass nor East English.

“The reason is because the enrollments changed at so many schools,” said Chuck Johnson, media information director for the PSL. “We tried to pit the strong schools against the strong schools. It made no sense to split into divisions because the enrollments keep fluctuating.

“The only way to do it was a one-division alignment. There wasn’t enough parity.”

The playoff format changes this season as well. The top four teams in the league will compete in the semifinals on Oct. 16 at Northwestern; the championship game will be at Ford Field on Oct. 24.

The next four teams (fifth through eighth place) will have another four-team consolation playoff.

King coach Dale Harvel said the new setup isn’t a hindrance to any of the teams, because they’ll likely meet up in the playoffs, if history is any indication.

“They know and we know we’ll meet each other (at some point),” Harvel said. “(Whoever is) the city champion will have to go through at least one of the three.”

Last season, the PSL teams played an unbalanced schedule, with seven teams in the East Division and eight in the West.

This season, the addition of Communication & Media Arts — playing its first-ever season of varsity football — creates an opportunity for two eight-team divisions, but Johnson said there wasn’t a clear point to split into two competitive divisions with eight teams each.