August 29, 2013 at 1:00 am

Terry Foster

State playoffs give PSL teams 'new life'

Cass Tech coach Thomas Wilcher's team opens its season against Southfield Friday in the Prep Kickoff Classic at Wayne State. (Madalyn Ruggiero / Special to The Detroit News)

Detroit — Thomas Wilcher still remembers his days as a running back at Detroit Central High. The players were gathered in a room his sophomore season in 1980 and told they made the state playoffs.

There were puzzled looks all around.

“We were like, ‘What are the state playoffs?’ ” Wilcher said, laughing.

It was that way at most Detroit Public League schools.

Back then, it was PSL title or bust.

But those days are gone, and there is a new attitude when a staff brings up the state playoffs.

“Now it’s, ‘We get new life,’ ” Wilcher said. “We get an opportunity to play a second season. We get to correct our mistakes and get better.”

Wilcher’s team beat Detroit Cooley in the first round of the Class A playoffs, but lost to eventual state champion Birmingham Brother Rice in the regional finals.

Now the coach at Detroit Cass Tech, Wilcher has brought with him new attitudes and expectations.

Cass Tech has reached the state playoffs the past four seasons and won the last two Division I state titles.

Cass Tech talented

Cass Tech, which opens its season Friday against Southfield, is favored to win a third straight title.

And why not?

Cass Tech is loaded with talent, led by junior quarterback Jayru Campbell (Michigan State).

And there are other Division I players, including defensive back/wide receiver Damon Webb (Ohio State) and linebacker Deon Drake (Michigan State).

More than anything, though, Cass Tech is sending an important message to the struggling PSL: Anything is possible.

“When you get the opportunity (to play), it grows the culture,” Wilcher said. “When I was young I did not hear about this. We just talked about winning our division.”

Local talent on display

The Prep Kickoff Classic is becoming one of the more important high school events of the season. The three-day, seven-game event began Thursday at Wayne State.

It’s important because some of the best talent in the state gathers and gives fans an opportunity to check out the talent. A total of 17 Division I commits will be involved.
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