Cass Tech, King are headliners of ’18 Kickoff Classic

David Goricki
The Detroit News
Thomas Wilcher

Detroit — Jalen Graham was tossing the football to his Detroit Cass Tech teammates Tuesday afternoon after school in the high school gym prior to the PSL boys basketball semifinals.

Yes, the PSL basketball championship game is set for Friday night at Calihan Hall with Pershing and Edison playing for the title, but football is still on the minds of Graham and others across the state.

The Detroit Sports Commission Thursday announced the pairings for the 2018 Xenith Prep Kickoff Classic which will take place Aug. 23-25 at Wayne State and Cass Tech will be playing River Rouge in one of the multiple games to kick off the season.

Graham is a three-star athlete. He played defensive back last season when Cass Tech advanced to the Division 1 state semifinals. Cass Tech veteran coach Thomas Wilcher says Graham will be the starting quarterback this season.

“I’m going to be starting at quarterback so it’s going to be a fun season,” said Graham who has been offered by Minnesota, Cincinnati, Kentucky, Iowa State and Missouri. “I started at safety in most games last year, but when our quarterback got hurt against King, that’s when I came in. I played (in state playoff game) against Dearborn Fordson too.

“I’m going to be more of a dual-threat quarterback. I remember learning a lot from Rodney (quarterback Hall, now at Northern Illinois), telling me since we play in a lot of big games, big stages, don’t let the moment get to you, basically just stay calm.”

No doubt, Graham will have big moments playing River Rouge in the opener. He will have a lot of weapons to work with, including running backs Jaren Mangham and Lew Nichols.

“River Rouge has a good program every year so it’s going to be a good test for us,” Wilcher said. “It’s a great atmosphere, great crowd, takes place right in mid-town so it’s great, I like playing in it a lot.”

Detroit King will be facing East St. Louis out of Illinois and Southfield A&T will be taking on Davison in a rematch of last year’s game won by Davison, 56-54.

“We agreed to play in it, enjoy playing in it and East St. Louis is a powerhouse in the Midwest and across the country, had a player who was a true freshman for Miami this past fall,” noted King coach Tyrone Spencer. “They send guys everywhere, kind of comparable to us and Cass Tech so it should be a really good game.

“East St. Louis has a documentary that LeBron James got behind called 89 Blocks, it gives you some details on their program.”

89 Blocks is the documentary that chronicles the East St. Louis Flyers undefeated season in 2016 with LeBron James, Maverick Carter and Sports Illustrated as executive producers.

West Bloomfield lost to Walled Lake Western, 19-14, in the Prep Kickoff Classic last year, but will not be playing in it this time around.

West Bloomfield coach Ron Bellamy was busy Thursday, taking two of his top players — linebacker Lance Dixon and receiver Tre Mosley — to Ann Arbor to visit Michigan’s coaching staff and facilities. Both players received offers by Michigan.

West Bloomfield lost to Clarkston, 3-2, in the Division 1 state championship game at Ford Field.

Classic schedule

Thursday, Aug. 23

Oak Park vs. Utica Eisenhower, 4

Detroit Catholic Central vs. Walled Lake Western, 7

Friday, Aug. 24

Allen Park vs. Trenton, 4

Davison vs. Southfield A&T, 7

Saturday, Aug. 25

Center Line vs. Madison Heights Madison, noon

Detroit Cass Tech vs. River Rouge, 3

Detroit King vs. East St. Louis, Ill., 6