Football previews: Detroit Public School League

David Goricki
The Detroit News
Running back Lew Nichols, a Central Michigan commit, will look to help lead Detroit Cass Tech to the Division I state title game for the third time in four years.

David Goricki of The Detroit News previews the Detroit Public School League football season. Teams listed in predicted order of finish.


DETROIT KING (11-2, 5-0)

Coach Tyrone Spencer enters his third season as head coach. He has guided King to the Division 2 state title in 2016 and then to a PSL title and state semifinal appearance last season, a 14-13 loss to eventual champion Warren De La Salle. King returns the majority of its starters on offense, including three-year starting quarterback Dequan Finn and four-star junior receiver Rashawn Williams. The defense is led by Purdue-bound safety Marvin Grant, Cincinnati-bound cornerback Ahmad Gardner and linebacker Rich Miller (Buffalo).

DETROIT DENBY (6-3, 4-1)

Denby returns nine starters on defense and eight on offense from a team that lost the PSL B title game to Detroit Central and to Ida in a Division 5 pre-district game. Fifth-year head coach Tony Blankenship has some size up front in 6-foot, 275-pound Jermaine Trammell and 6-4, 300-pound center Jaivon Preston. The defense is led by middle linebacker Tymetrius Patterson, cornerbacks Jamari Griffin and Tshawn Wilkes and Trammell. Dual-threat quarterback Taiyron Buck also returns.


Coach Drake Wilkins expects big things from junior quarterback RaeQuan Beal (1,200 yards passing, 14 TDs), who has offers from Toledo and Central Michigan, and sophomore tailback Justin Whitehorn. Beal should get good protection from a line that includes 6-3, 320-pound Geremy Braswell and 6-3, 330-pound Bailey Mahone.


Coach Peter Brown played a lot of sophomores and juniors during his first year as head coach and hopes the young players turn into experienced veterans. Brown points out he has a small roster of 20-25 players to work with. Junior Demotez Jones (quarterback/cornerback) returns, along with junior running back/linebacker Keyshawn Brown and tight end/defensive end Crontan Harris. Deshawn Curry and Darius Hill anchor the defensive line.


Central won the PSL B championship last season at Ford Field, but has lost such stars as Jerodd Vines (Eastern Michigan) and quarterback El Julian Jordan to graduation. Just three players, including one starter, are back for coach Jimmie Macon to work with. Junior dual-threat quarterback Terrance Ealy, running back Orlando Clarkston and sophomore athlete Justyz Tuggle will be the top players, along with 6-foot, 285-pound lineman Victor Nelson, a transfer from Southfield Bradford Academy.


Shaheed Saleem is used to having success as a head coach, guiding Detroit City to the Class D state basketball championship back in 2000. Saleem, now in his second year as head coach at Douglass, expects to see improvement with junior quarterback Damon Tiggs working with 6-4 tight end Davon Allen and receiver Jalen Pickett.



Thomas Wilcher starts his 23rd year as head coach at Cass Tech. He has guided the program to three Division 1 state championships this decade (2011, ’12, ’16) and a title game appearance in 2015, a loss to Romeo. Cass Tech failed to reach the PSL title game last season and will be motivated to win the title this season, along with also making a long postseason run. Jalen Graham takes over at quarterback and has a pair of outstanding running backs to work with in Jaren Mangham (Colorado) and Lew Nichols (CMU). Linebacker Devin Nicholson (EMU) and cornerbacks Xavier Goldsmith (Colorado State), Kyron McKinnee-Harper (CMU) and Ormondell Dingle (CMU) lead the defense.


Mumford has earned consecutive district final appearances, including a 7-0 loss to Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook-Kingswood in Division 4 last season. Coach Donshell English begins his seventh season and has the majority of his offensive line back, led by guard Jonathan Scott (6-3, 320), junior tackle James Toles (6-3, 315) and left tackle MiQuan Terry (6-3, 230) to give quarterback Tahj Stewart time to find his receivers, including 6-2, 205-pound Jason Singleton.

DETROIT CODY (6-4, 2-2)

Calvin Norman, now in his 11th year as head coach at Cody, points out that he has just five starters back. But those starters are talented with defensive end William Gibson getting in on 85 tackles last season, 6-2 junior receiver/safety and three-year starter Joshua Wiley getting interest from Kentucky, WMU and Bowling Green, and linebacker/receiver Joseph Thomas getting multiple NAIA offers.


Big things are expected from junior Cardier Poellnitz. He will take over at quarterback and replace 6-4 Camare Johnson, who now becomes a weapon at receiver. Phillip Dotson, a 5-10, 180-pound junior/running back, and 6-3, 220-pound center/defensive end Julian Smith are also key contributors as three-year starters.


Northwestern has fallen on hard times since Jimmy Hill’s departure. Hill helped Northwestern win the PSL B Division title in 2015, then soon departed to coach in Florida. Now, Northwestern has had three different head coaches in as many years, and the new man’s main job will be trying to find a way to end the program’s 10-game losing streak.



Andre Harlan expects his team to win the Gold title this season after losing just six players from last year’s team, which advanced to the state playoffs for the first time in program history and fell to Dearborn Fordson in a Division 1 pre-district game. Western’s defense is led by 6-3, 290-pound sophomore nose guard Arnez Polk, 6-0, 260-pound tackle Kendall Howard and senior linebackers Craig Flowers (13 sacks), Dayone Smith (107 tackles) and Stephon McLaurin, who doubles as a receiver and is getting DII interest.


Southeastern is the smallest school in the PSL with approximately 150 students, according to coach Courtney Dinkins. He has seven starters back, led by Dwayne Crump, a 6-4, 225-pound defensive end who had a team-high 60 tackles. He will be joined on defense by linebacker Damari Covington (45 tackles) and 6-6, 220-pound end Krystopher Gould. Rayshawn Forrester, who has 4.5 speed, is the team’s tailback.


Osborn has six starters back on offense and six back on defense, led by third-year starting dual-threat quarterback Isiah Watts, who threw for 1,200 yards and rushed for 400 yards. Watts will work behind a line anchored by 6-1, 230-pound center Jordan Jackson. Watts has multiple receivers to work with in 6-5 R.J. Carter and Josiah Lewis. Linebackers Malik Brown and Tony McCary are key players on defense, along with strong safety Cortez Weeks.

DETROIT CMA (1-8, 0-5)

CMA — coming off four consecutive 1-8 seasons — has the bulk of its team back, including Jeremiah Williams, who was the quarterback his freshman year last season. Williams will play running back and cornerback his sophomore year and will be joined by 6-foot, 240-pound guard/middle linebacker Christian Johnson and two-way lineman Mark Hardy.


What? East English going from playing in the PSL title game to being picked to finish last in the Gold? Well, that happens when longtime head coach Rod Oden resigns, moves on to take over Harper Wood’s program and a ton of his former players transfer to multiple schools across the area. Larry Porter was named head coach on July 31st and has a lot of work ahead of him.