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Saturday's football: King opens season with big win

Al Willman
The Detroit News

Detroit — Nobody was "talking about Willis" before Detroit King’s 39-0 win over Southfield A&T in the Prep Kickoff Classic at Wayne State on Saturday.

But they were afterward.

King senior running back Kevin Willis had 20 carries for 161 yards and three touchdowns, to go with a 13-yard touchdown catch.

“This win was special,” he said. “We haven’t beat Southfield (A&T) the last three years we’ve played them. This is a huge, tremendous win for us.”

The game started 2 hours, 40 minutes late, after storms moved through the area — bringing an early end to the previous game after a nearly three-hour delay, and postponing the next game — Detroit Cass Tech vs. Oak Park — to Sunday afternoon.

“I couldn’t go back and tell my kids that we’re not playing,” King coach Tyrone Spencer said. “I didn’t want to do it. We got it done (and) it felt good. The win definitely felt good.”

King quarterback Dequan Finn (5-of-14, 139 yards, two TDs) found a wide-open Ambry Thomas (three catches, 111 yards, one TD), in stride for a 34-yard touchdown. After an A&T timeout and ensuing encroachment penalty, the extra point was good. With 10:49 left in the half, King was on top 7-0.

“Bry is just a phenomenal athlete,” Spencer said. “That’s why he’s one of the best in the state.”

Willis added to King’s lead with a 7-yard run. After a pair of encroachment penalties, A&T blocked the extra point attempt, and with 8:13 to go, King led 13-0.

Willis found the end zone again on a 9-yard run. The extra point was again blocked, and with 4:58 left, King had built its lead to 19-0.

Willis got his next touchdown in the air — a 13-yard pass from Finn, after converting a fourth down the play before. He then side-stepped his way in for the two-point conversion, making it 27-0 with 2:46 left.

King’s defense stepped up late in the half, after a muffed punt and an 18-yard pass from A&T quarterback Sam Johnson (7-for-28, 80 yards, one interception) gave A&T first-and-goal from the 1.

King forced fourth down, before Johnson overthrew a receiver, on a pass that went out of the back of the end zone. At halftime, King had a 27-0 lead.

Willis added his fourth touchdown on the first drive of the second half — a 4-yard run, capping a 67-yard drive. The two-point conversion was snuffed out, and with 6:21 remaining in the third quarter, King’s lead had ballooned to 33-0.

Willis said having a well-known receiver like Thomas has opened up King’s rushing attack.

“It opens up a lot,” Willis said. “Ambry Thomas is a big-time player, and he comes through and makes big time plays.”

King nearly padded its lead at the end of the third quarter, but a 94-yard pick-six for King safety Jesse Scarber was called back for holding.

King capped its lead with a 3-yard touchdown from Marvin Grant. With 2:48 left, King led 39-0.

Spencer, like Willis, was effusive in his praise for the offensive line.

“I treat my linemen like kings,” Spencer said. “They eat first, they get on the bus first and I just believe in that philosophy. They moved the ball. We just have to run power football, King football.”

A moment of silence was held before kickoff to honor former King coach Dale Harvel, who died of a heart attack last month. King also wore special jerseys with each player’s number, but Harvel’s name on the back.

Those special moments aside, Spencer said the team didn’t have any emotional setbacks to work through.

“They know what this season’s for,” Spencer said. “I didn’t have to remind them. I didn’t have to tell them. They know what it was. I’m just glad we got the job done.”

King will head to Detroit Central on Saturday at noon, while A&T plays Clarkston on Thursday at 5:30 p.m.

Detroit Catholic Central 42, Sterling Heights Stevenson 0: At Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Nicholas Capatina carried 14 times for 138 yards and two touchdowns, and Cameron Ryan carried 16 times for 99 yards and a TD for Catholic Central.

Detroit Central 20, Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard 15: Demetrius Christian had 12 carries for 110 yards and one TD for Central in its season opener. Leotis Briggs had a 77-yard interception return for a TD and D.J. Atkins returned a kickoff 81 yards for a score. On defense, Deandre Cheatham had eight tackles, three sacks, three forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.

Southfield Bradford Academy 50, Detroit University Prep Science and Math 0: Shelton Smith returned two interceptions for touchdowns, and threw for three others, finishing with 220 yards passing. Almount Smith caught two passes for 120 yards.

Al Willman is a freelance writer

Twitter: @AlWillmanSports