Detroit — Detroit King running back Raymond Mitchell jumped from this field of dreams and tossed the football in the air in celebration.
He spoiled a great night with a great run in the second overtime to give King a 6-0 victory over Detroit East English Village Prep Friday night on the opponent’s home field.
“I did it for my teammates,” Mitchell screamed over the band at the end of the game. “I came through for them.”
This is the field everybody loves to play on. It is the field few visitors win on. But King did it the hard way. King had two long touchdown passes erased because of penalties. But everybody got the zone-trap run right as Mitchell scampered around left end for victory.
It was a bitter pill for East English (0-2). This is a program that wants to rival Cass Tech and Renaissance in the city of Detroit. But to get there it must overcome King (2-0), which remains the power of the east side. However, whenever these teams play, you know it will be decided by one play.
Last season, Village beat King on an interception return on the next-to-last play of the game. During an exciting encore King got revenge during the highest-scoring PSL final in history, 51-48. And on Friday, you were wondering how two teams that combined for 99 points nine months ago could go scoreless during regulation.
“I cannot explain that,” Mitchell said. “I been playing these guys for three years and every time we play it is a tough game.”
They are Michigan-Notre Dame on a smaller level. You pick who is who.
New complex sparkles
The real winner on this evening is the facility. The teams played on the old Finney High School site, a school that grew old and tired academically and athletically. The school was torn down and in its place stands a sparkling, $48 million complex that rivals any in the state.
“We are the best-kept secret in the city,” bragged athletic director Duane Travis.
And he is right. The school is tucked in the northeastern corner of the city, nuzzled next to the Grosse Pointes and hard-scrabbled streets of Detroit.
It is where Finney once stood, a school that produced basketball star Jermaine Jackson, who played at the University of Detroit and the NBA.
“Every team wants to play here because they love it here,” Travis said.
It is easy to see why. It is a turf field with brand-new stands and lights. The only thing missing is a flag pole to hang an American flag for the national anthem.
English Village is a combination of Finney and Crockett highs. Rod Oden was the football coach at Crockett who made three PSL finals. About 18 months before Finney was torn down he was asked to become East Village’s head coach. He was hesitant but did not want to abandon his Crockett players.
Team is FAMILY
He tried to merge the two programs by meeting with Finney male athletes. There were 73 boys in the room when he began his speech of changing the culture. He demanded six-month weight training in the winter and spring and wanted every boy to participate in track. Only 40 boys remained at the end of the meeting and only two actually joined the team last fall.
But those who stayed bought into the theme of FAMILY (Forget About Me I Love You).
“We changed the mind-set and got kids to think outside the box,” Oden said.
East English is a shining example of things that work in the city. But King is old-school funk and does not want to allow the young guns to take away its title.
“We will see you at Ford Field for the PSL finals,” one English Village coach said during the handshake line.
So does Mitchell anticipate another exciting rematch that goes down to the last play?
He shook his head.
“I don’t know,” he said. “They got to get by the cleaning people.”
I am not quite sure what he means by that, but it sounds like a rematch is in order.