Donovan Peoples-Jones’ heroics send Detroit Cass Tech to title game

Connor Muldowney, Special to The Detroit News
Detroit Cass Tech wide receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones, third from right, is congratulated by teammates after scoring the winning touchdown against Utica Eisenhower.

Troy — Donovan Peoples-Jones made the catch of a lifetime on Saturday afternoon as his 20-yard reception gave Detroit Cass Tech a 32-28 victory over Utica Eisenhower to advance to the Division 1 state championship game for the second straight year.

The senior receiver was stymied by the Eisenhower defense all day long, but a touchdown in the corner of the end zone with 25 seconds left gave Cass Tech the win.

“My line did a great job in allowing my quarterback (Rodney Hall) to get enough time to throw the ball,” Peoples-Jones said. “He threw a beautiful ball. He couldn’t have thrown it any better.”

Peoples-Jones finished the game with eight receptions for 86 yards and the touchdown.

The last time these two teams met, Cass Tech won a memorable defensive battle, 6-3, to head to the state championship in 2011, and the Technicians went on to win the first of two straight state titles.

This time, the Cass Tech- Eisenhower battle was much different.

This matchup looked to be much of the same defensive contest through two quarters, but the second half kicked off with dueling touchdowns from Hall and Eisenhower running back Jack Provencher. The scoring was just getting started.

Eisenhower responded to the first two Cass Tech touchdowns in the second half to take a 28-19 lead, but allowed 13 straight points, capped off by the game-winning Peoples-Jones catch.

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“(Peoples-Jones) just made an outstanding catch,” Eisenhower coach Chris Smith said. “It’s definitely a tough way to lose. I’m proud of the way our guys played, though. It’s nothing that we did wrong; our guys played really hard, played a great game, fought hard.”

Eisenhower controlled the tempo in the first half as it rushed for 105 yards, highlighted by a 4-yard touchdown run by quarterback Max Wittwer. He also threw a 50-yard touchdown pass to give Eisenhower a 14-6 lead heading into the locker room.

The usually-potent Cass Tech offense was held to 148 total yards through the first 24 minutes, but exploded in the second half thanks to 118 rushing yards from Donovan Johnson alone.

“I knew we had to change the momentum somehow,” Cass Tech coach Thomas Wilcher said. “It was a rough start. We didn’t hit our keys, didn’t do the things we were supposed to do (in the first half).”

Hall completed 15-of-21 passes for 183 yards and a touchdown, rushing for another 85 yards and a score for Cass Tech (13-0). He knew he could trust Peoples-Jones to make the catch.

“We’re not really amazed, we know (about Peoples-Jones talent),” Hall said of his receiver. “It’s huge (to get back to the state championship game). Hopefully we can hoist that trophy at the end.”

Provencher finished with 144 yards and a touchdown for Eisenhower (12-1). Wittwer was 5-for-7 passing with 104 yards and two touchdowns and he ran for 50 yards and another score.

“I’m just fortunate that we got out of here,” Wilcher said. “We’ve just got to keep going back to work, that’s all we’ve got to do.”