Detroit – For the third straight year, Warren Mott was shown the exit door in the Division 1 state football playoffs by Detroit Cass Tech.
Warren Mott coach Tom Milanov was pleased with his team's effort on Saturday afternoon at Cass Tech High School, despite the 39-7 loss in the predistrict game, but he knew his players needed a near-perfect performance to beat the powerful Technicians.
"You have to finish, you have to execute and do all the fundamental things," Milanov said. "You can't play un-fundamentally against a really good team like that.
Our kids battled. Our kids never give up. I'm really proud of them."
Cass Tech (8-2) didn't play its best game of the season, but coming off a tough defeat at the hands of crosstown rival Detroit King in the PSL championship, it was a nice bounce-back performance.
Coach Thomas Wilcher said the mood inside his team's locker room was upbeat all week long, and the Technicians just wanted to fight back from their second loss of the year to King and put together a complete performance against Mott (6-4).
"We really just want the kids to step up and do what they're supposed to do," Wilcher said. "We're just trying to be more accountable. I just told the kids: They just have to really win the individual battles. We've got to really try to step up our game."
Just as he has all year long, Cass Tech junior quarterback Rodney Hall rallied his teammates and led them into battle with the right mindset. No more thinking about the loss in the PSL title game; focus on the task at hand.
"After last week's loss, we came together as a team," Hall said. "I talked to all my teammates and I told them that's on me, so let's just come out in state playoffs and make a statement."
Hall finished the game 13-of-14 with 198 yards through the air while running for another 19 and a score. He didn't play at all in the second half, and the Technicians didn't need him as they got backup quarterback Aaron Jackson some valuable time.
Donovan Peoples-Jones took advantage of Hall's solid game, catching five passes for 114 yards and a touchdown before halftime.
The Technicians advance to the district final for the eighth straight season and are looking to win the district title for the sixth consecutive year.
That kind of success doesn't come without hard work, though.
"(That's what) our motto this week was -- trying to play to the whistle," Wilcher stated. "We blew whistles all week in practice, and if you stopped before the whistle, you had to run."
Cass Tech will host Dearborn Fordson (6-4) next Saturday at 1 p.m. in the district final. The winner of that game will need just two more wins to make it to the state championship game.
"We've got to really try to step up our game and try to really figure out how to cut that light switch on so we can know how to play tough, hard, aggressive," Wilcher said. "Just be the best, that's it."