Detroit – Donovan Peoples-Jones is the top-rated receiver in the nation, still searching for the right college to play for, but more importantly at the present time still looking for his first state championship.
It’s not that Peoples-Jones hasn’t played in a state title game, it’s just that Detroit Cass Tech fell short of getting the chance to raise the ultimate trophy, falling to Romeo 41-27 in the Division 1 state final last year at Ford Field.
Now, this is Peoples-Jones’ last chance for the title and he’s looking forward to it. Top-ranked Cass Tech (12-0) faces No. 3 Detroit Catholic Central (12-0) in the championship game Saturday at 1 p.m.
“Things have gone well, now we’re undefeated and we’re working hard to win that state championship,” Peoples-Jones said after practice Monday. “It’s a big team goal, something we’ve been working toward for the last four years, and us seniors have one more shot at it. We’re going to leave it all on the field.”
Cass Tech won consecutive Division 1 titles in 2011 and ’12, beating Detroit Catholic Central both times before Peoples-Jones arrival, then lost to Catholic Central in the semifinals in ’13 before falling again in the semifinals to Saline in ’14 before the title game loss last year.
Peoples-Jones, who missed the playoffs his sophomore year due to a broken hand, has made the big plays to help Cass Tech reach Ford Field this postseason, hauling in a two-point PAT for the difference in a 43-42 regional final win at No. 5 Saline, then grabbing a 20-yard TD toss from Rodney Hall in the final minute of a 32-28 semifinal victory over No. 4 Utica Eisenhower Saturday.
Cass Tech coach Thomas Wilcher will have Hall running his offense this time around in the championship game. Hall missed last year’s title game due to an ankle injury.
“I’m sure he’s motivated, we’re all motivated to get the job done, go unbeaten and win the state championship,” said Peoples-Jones of Hall.
Peoples-Jones, a 6-foot-3, 200-pounder with 4.4 speed and a 42-inch vertical, has 54 receptions for 946 yards and 15 TDs this season and could come close to matching last year’s numbers (68, 1,161, 18) with a big performance in the title game.
And on the recruiting front, Peoples-Jones has narrowed his field to Ohio State, Michigan, Florida, Florida State and Michigan State. He has taken official visits to Nebraska, Ohio State and Florida, making the trip to Gainesville Nov. 12, the day after the win over Saline.
Peoples-Jones, who plans to enroll early and eventually would like to go to medical school, talked about his visit to Florida.
“They played South Carolina,” said Peoples-Jones of his visit to Gainesville, when the Gators defeated South Carolina 20-7. “The medical facilities impressed me and I was able to connect with some guys who were former football players (in the area) like David Reese (Farmington), who I can relate to, and that always helps. I know them prior to them being at Florida so I can ask them questions I wasn’t comfortable asking the coaches.”
Peoples-Jones, who wants to be a sports medicine surgeon, said he plans to make his decision in mid-December.
So, who is Peoples-Jones picking Saturday, when the Wolverines play the Buckeyes in Columbus?
“The better team will win, but I’m going to support the guys who I know from Cass Tech,” said Peoples-Jones, knowing Michigan showcases former Cass Tech stars in defensive backs Jourdan Lewis, Delano Hill and LaVert Hill, along with linemen David Dawson and Michael Onwenu, and Ohio State with sophomore running back Mike Weber (1,046 yards, eight TDs) and junior cornerback Damon Webb.
Peoples-Jones isn't playing favorites, and he's giving no hints to where he'll end up next fall, either.