Detroit — Mike Weber and Detroit Cass Tech played championship-caliber football during the second half of its PSL semifinal Friday night, rallying from a 12-0 deficit to defeat East English Village, 19-12, at Northwestern High School.
Weber, a University of Michigan commit, rushed for 216 yards on 26 carries and scored three touchdowns. In the fourth quarter, Weber gained 96 yards and scored his three touchdowns.
Cass Tech's defense also came up big, limiting East English to 40 second-half yards.
Cass Tech (8-0) will try to repeat as PSL champs at 7 p.m. Friday when it plays King (8-0) at Ford Field.
"We've been down before and I just told the guys we have another half to play and we did it," said Weber who has been hampered by foot and hip injuries this season. "I've been hurting real bad, but I pushed through it and I did my best to help my team win."
Cass Tech took advantage of a short field after a bad punt by East English and Weber picked up 36 yards on six carries, including a 1-yard TD run to cut the deficit to 12-7 with 10:14 left.
Then, Cass Tech scored on a 62-yard drive with Weber blasting up the middle for a 29-yard TD run to give Cass Tech a 13-12 cushion with 4:32 remaining.
"They were stacking the side they thought we were going to and I just had good vision and cut it back and it was there," said Weber, whose performance was witnessed by Michigan head coach Brady Hoke and running backs coach Fred Jackson. "Yes, I noticed he (Hoke) was there. I talked to him. He's cool, and yes I'm still going (to Michigan)."
East English Village (5-3) looked to regain the lead on the ensuing kickoff with Nate Boleware returning it 88 yards for a touchdown, but the score was wiped out by a holding call.
"Hats off to them (Cass Tech) for making plays late in the ball game," East English Village coach Rod Oden said. "We got outcoached, though. We have to make better adjustments and put our kids in better position to stop the football. I'm taking the blame. It's 100 percent on me. We got outcoached in the second half."
After Cass Tech's defense held East English on fourth-and-19 from its own 30 in the final minutes, Weber was stopped on three consecutive carries, leading up to fourth down with Oden calling timeout to try and get the ball back. Instead, Weber broke loose for a 34-yard TD run with 16 seconds left.
"Mike Weber's an animal and he had beast-mode in him (during the second half)," said Cass Tech defensive end/outside linebacker Keith Jones. "We started off dead and we came alive after halftime. We kept the ball contained more and shot our gaps right."
Cass Tech coach Thomas Wilcher said his team simply "woke up."
"I think the most important thing is our team just woke up," explained Wilcher, whose team also defeated East English Village, 21-16, in Week 6. "(Central Michigan-bound linebacker) Michael Oliver had a great speech (at halftime), telling the kids, 'we've been down before and we're not going out like this, we know what to do and to step it up,' and they did."
Oden said early in the season that Cedrick Lattimore was a "BCS football player."
Lattimore, a 6-foot-5, 260-pound junior, put tremendous pressure on Cass Tech sophomore quarterback Rodney Hall, forcing an intentional grounding call with East English Village holding a 6-0 lead.
Then, in the second quarter Lattimore hauled in a 12-yard TD pass from Anton Curtis to open up a 12-0 cushion on a 3rd-and-7 play, finding an open spot in the end zone after Curtis rolled to the right.
But, East English Village's offense was caught in neutral during the second half — gaining just 40 of 150 total yards, including 15 yards rushing on eight carries — and it now needs a win next week to qualify for the state playoffs.