East English Village ready to face No. 1 King

Rod Beard
The Detroit News

Detroit — With one of their marquee games of the season approaching, East English Village coach Rod Oden wasn’t worried.

Preparing to face perennial Public School League powerhouse Detroit King is an almost annual issue for Oden. The difference is Oden embraces the opportunity.

King is ranked No. 1 in the state and Cass Tech second. But with East English sixth, the PSL boasts half the top six teams — and it is often left out of the conversation.

“Most people don’t know East English Village;” Oden said. “We’re just a little school on the southeast side of Detroit trying to make a name for ourselves. We want to be known as that blue-collar team that does it the old-fashioned way of blocking down and kicking out.

“We’re not really fancy and we’re not really spread. We believe in being physical and packing a lunch and going to work every day.”

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East English (2-0) is in its fourth season after former PSL schools Crockett and Finney merged. The new building is on the Finney site, with upgraded athletic facilities. Oden brought much of the Crockett mentality with him to East English.

“They don’t understand the black-and-gold mystique,” said Oden, who is 4-6 against King, 0-3 at East English. “King is up 21-0 in a lot of games getting off the bus just because they’re King.

“We can go out there and play loose. We don’t have anything to lose; we’re not the No. 1 team in the state. We can play our game, go out there and have fun.”

The game at King (2-0) is at 5 today, and it features several intriguing individual matchups, including King receiver Donnie Corley and East English defensive back James Ceasar. The two played together in youth leagues.

“It’s going to be good going against him, knowing he has all the (college) offers,” Ceasar said. “It’s going to be a big matchup.”

While King boasts several Division I prospects and looks to be marching toward another state title, Oden doesn’t want East English overlooked. With 42 players compared to King’s 70-plus, he’s focusing on building confidence in his players and leadership on and off the field.

Instead of fielding players from across the city as he did at Crockett, Oden now gets mostly neighborhood students from around the school.

“Getting guys to believe in something other than East Warren, Cadieux and Mack and all these gangs,” Oden said. “Believe in the maize and blue and Bulldog Nation. That’s something we created in Crockett’s gym (in the final year) in 2012.

“It’s catching fire now, and this is the first team where we don’t have a Crockett player — the last ones graduated last year. They’re starting to get it and pass it down to younger guys.”

Crockett won PSL titles in 2011 and 2004, when it went 12-1 and reached the state semifinals before losing to Jackson Lumen Christi. It made another semifinal appearance in 2010, but a state title — something Cass Tech and King have achieved since — has eluded it.

The game, while intriguing, will establish the pecking order in the PSL, but won’t determine the season for either team.

“We look at it as Round 1,” Oden said.

“If things go the way they’re supposed to go, we’ll play again in Week 8 or 9 (in the PSL playoffs) and possibly again in the district finals. It’s not the end all of our season.”

rod.beard@detroitnews.com

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