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Detroit Cass Tech will enter the 2017 season as The News No. 1 ranked high school football team in the state.

Sure, Cass Tech lost several key members off its unbeaten Division 1 state-championship team, including five-star receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones (Michigan), cornerback Jaylen Kelly-Powell (Michigan), running back/cornerback Donovan Johnson (Penn State), offensive lineman Jordan Reid (Michigan State) and quarterback Rodney Hall (Northern Illinois), but the school still returns a large group of quality players.

Kalon Gervin, a four-star cornerback who participated in The Opening this past July in Oregon, leads the talented Cass Tech. He displayed his shutdown ability by not allowing a single pass reception last year.

He used his 4.4 speed to break up 14 passes while intercepting one.

“When I was younger, all the other guys put me under their wing so now it’s my turn,” said Gervin, who narrowed his five to Alabama, Oklahoma, Virginia Tech, Oregon and Michigan State. “I need to be an example and help my teammates grow. Our goal is to win the state championship again.”

Aaron Jackson (Eastern Michigan) replaces Hall at quarterback. He has experience at running Cass Tech’s offense, playing in the Division 1 state championship game — a loss to Romeo — in 2015 while Hall was out with an injury, then getting some playing time last year while Hall was recovering from the injury.

Jackson will have multiple weapons to work with, including transfers in 6-foot-5, three-star receiver Brandon Gray (Washington State), who caught 11 TD passes while at Southfield A&T last year and junior running back Arthur “Lew” Nichols, who rushed for 1,328 yards (153 carries) as Gray’s teammate last season.

Nichols will share backfield duties with four-star junior Jaren Mangham (6-2, 210) who scored 12 TDs last season and has multiple offers, including Michigan State, Oregon, UCLA and Mississippi State.

“My goals for this year is to help my team go back-to-back, improve from a year ago since I’m more of a focal point on offense and be a leader,” Mangham said.

DeAndre Square, a three-star linebacker and Kentucky commit, anchors the defense.

“I want to get 100 tackles, do whatever I can to help my team win,” said Square, who had 72 tackles and 11 sacks last season. “Winning the state title gives us a lot of confidence, making us feel like we can repeat and go undefeated again.”

Square will be joined by 6-4, 250-pound defensive end Andre Carter (Western Michigan), a transfer from Southfield A&T.

“I want to take over games, having touchdowns, getting sacks, tackles for loss,” said Carter, who also plays tight end and left tackle.

david.goricki@detroitnews.com

twitter/DavidGoricki

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