Detroit — Dale Harvel knew it would be tough for Detroit King to make a long postseason run last year with a nonexistent running game.
King — the state's No. 1 team in The Detroit News top-20 preseason rankings — carried an 8-0 record into the PSL title game, then suffered a lopsided loss (39-7) to Cass Tech before having its season come to an end the following week in another one-sided loss (40-12) to Southfield in the opener of the state playoffs.
Harvel is optimistic about King's chances for a big season this year, thanks to outstanding running back Martell Pettaway, a West Virginia-bound transfer from St. Clair Shores South Lake.
Pettaway, a 5-foot-10, 210-pound senior with 4.5 speed, rushed for consecutive 1,300-yard seasons at South Lake, averaging 8.6 yards last year. He had his first offer from Michigan State his sophomore year, but committed to West Virginia in June. He decided to transfer so he could graduate from King, the school where his older brother Devinne was a member of the Crusaders' 2007 state championship team before tragically passing away that spring after collapsing in the school's gym.
"It's very exciting to bring a new running game back to King since it's been lost for a few years," Pettaway said. "I can't wait until the season starts because we've been practicing really hard and the city has been doubting us so I can't wait until we get on the field and show the people what we've got.
"My goals are to run for more than 1,500 yards and win the city and state championships. I want to leave a legacy with the Pettaway name on the field. I want to go out this season with a bang."
King will play defending Division 2 state champion Warren De La Salle in the season opener at 2 p.m. Aug. 29 at Wayne State University. The teams also could meet in the state playoffs.
"It's very important," Pettaway said of the opener. "Coach always says in order to be a champion you have to beat the champion, and that's the first game so it will be a great test for us."
Harvel was the defensive coordinator during the 2007 state title run, then took over as head coach the following year and has guided King to a 47-19 record, two PSL titles and two state semifinal appearances.
Harvel also will be aided by transfers in cornerback LeVert Hill (Penn State) from Cass Tech, receiver Armani Posey from East English and linebacker Lawrence Bryant from Grosse Pointe North.
All eyes will be on the state's premier player, receiver / cornerback Donnie Corley, who had 62 receptions for 1,100 yards and 16 TDs while also intercepting 11 passes, returning seven for scores.
Mikale Washington (1,839 yards, 27 TDs, four INTs) transferred out of the state, but King still has a strong-armed quarterback in 6-1, 205-pound sophomore El Julian Jordan.
"My goal this year is to win the state championship; that's our main goal," Corley said. "Last year, I proved I could play so stats and stuff like that is not important for me this year. We have a lot of great players and we want to win the state title.
"He (Jordan) can make any throw on the field. He's very young and has no worries, plays like he has nothing to lose. We worked out, throwing the ball around twice a week this summer. He can make all the throws so it should be a lot of fun."
A stronger running game should ease the pressure on Jordan. The offensive line is anchored by two-way linemen Leon Page (6-3, 240), a Central Michigan commit, and 6-0, 220-pound junior Cepeda Phillips.
"He has a strong arm and a lot of potential, but he's young," said Harvel of Jordan. "The strength of our team is the defense and running game. We can rely on Martell Pettaway, who is a strong, physical running back who can break a game open between the tackles. If we can be sound defensively and run the football, everything will take care of itself in November."
That defense will be led by Corley, Page, who had 12 sacks from his defensive end spot, safety Dontre Boyd (Western Michigan) and four-star junior cornerback Ambry Thomas, who has 4.4 speed and more than a dozen offers, including Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, LSU, Missouri and Wisconsin.