Revisiting the seasons of 2 of Michigan's best, 2016 Cass Tech and 2015 Detroit King, who wins?

Written by
Jeff Corrion
Photo Credit
Jeff Corrion

Cass Tech and Martin Luther King High Schools in Detroit always have high expectations. For years they have been the flagship high schools in the city. Neither school needs an introduction and neither school will ever admit the other one is better, so we'll take the unbiased initiative to dive straight into two of the best football teams that the state of Michigan has come across in its history. We'll examine what made the 2015 King Crusaders and 2016 Cass Tech Technicians so special.

Both Cass Tech and King entered the pre-season in 2015 and 2016 as the #1 overall team in the state of Michigan and neither team had a serious contender in the regular season to take the #1 spot from them besides each other. King and Cass Tech played twice vs. one another in 2015 and 2016.

In 2015 King won an overtime nail-biter at their homefield over Cass Tech, 31-28. The 2nd meeting in 2015 almost didn't happen as King was involved in a brawl that the PSL initially ruled they would forfeit the game, but King players, fans, etc. protested at the PSL headquarters which reversed their decision and King again won a nail-biter 27-25. In their 2 wins over Cass Tech, King won by a combined 5 points. Cass Tech would wind up falling in the Division 1 title game vs. Romeo in 2015.

In 2016 Cass Tech returned the favor by winning comfortably over King 31-18 in the regular season and 41-20 in the city championship game at Ford Field. In their 2 wins over King, Cass Tech won by a combined 32 points. King would wind up winning the Division 2 title game vs. Walled Lake Western in 2016.

King's offense put up 458 points in 2015 and allowed 172 points in 2015. In the state finals game, King allowed 38 points which was their only single-digit points differential win in the playoffs. King had a 5 point win over East English Village in week 3 and 26-12 win in the regional playoff game. East English Village Prep and U of D Jesuit in the opening round turned out being their closest playoff games.

Cass Tech's offense put up 527 points in 2016 and allowed 231 points in 2016. Cass Tech's first decisive moment came in the 2nd half of a shootout on the road at Saline. Cass Tech would beat Saline 43-42 and then the following week in the semi's won in the dying seconds 32-28 over Eisenhower.

Cass Tech 2016 vs. ranked teams entering the playoffs: (Rankings are after week 9!)

Rd 1 - #23 Fordson - 35-7

Rd 2 - #22 Dearborn - 24-7

Rd 3 - #11 Saline 43-42

Rd 4 - #2 Eisenhower 42-38

Final- #5 Detroit Catholic Central 49-20

King was ranked #7 in the state following the regular season in 2016 and Cass Tech's week 1 opponent Oak Park was #17.

Detroit King 2015 vs. ranked teams entering the playoffs: (Rankings are after week 9!)

Rd 1 - #25 Detroit Jesuit - 35-24

Rd 2 - N/R Wyandotte Roosevelt - 42-6

Rd 3 - #22 East English Village - 26-12

Rd 4 - #31 Livonia Franklin - 40-6

Final- #20 Lowell - 40-38

Cass Tech was ranked #3 in the state following the regular season in 2015 and King's week 1 opponent De La Salle was #8.

Let's take a trip down memory lane to recap their playoff runs and ending with the state title:

2015 King (14-0) - King hosted an upstart U of D program led by a junior sensation in Scott Nelson (Wisconsin signee) who did all he could, but it wasn't enough. Nelson's film was crazy that game and put him on the recruiting map. In week 11, King laid waste to their star WR/DB Donnie Corley former team, Wyandotte Roosevelt. King and East English met for the 2nd time after a near fall in the regular season, but King won comfortably by 2 touchdowns. In the semi-finals, King met a strong willed and run first Livonia Franklin (9-4) team that had comfortable wins all year besides a 33-30 win over Farmington in round 1, it was over before it started as King won easily 40-6. In the finals it was Lowell who breezed through every game on their schedule besides Walled Lake Western who beat them in week 1, but got payback in the semi's. King started off flat as Lowell wore down on King, as the game moved on King began to make plays and cut into their deficit. King started their final drive in their own endzone. After a few small plays up field, one of the forgotten plays of the year occurred. Dontre Boyd caught a pass just past midfield and as he was falling down was drilled by a Lowell player who knocked him out of the game. Boyd miraculously held onto the ball to setup the grand finale. The drive concluded on the last play of the game, when Armani Posey heaved a pass to the side of the endzone where Donnie Corley snagged the ball in for a touchdown to give King the win. King players rushed the field and a mob-scene broke out in the crowd as the seemingly miraculous moment of the season unfolded, giving them the 6 points to erase a 38-34 deficit.

2016 Cass Tech (14-0) - Cass Tech hosted an explosive Fordson offense that was kept in check. Fordson's only loss at the time was to cross-town rival Dearborn, 28-23. Earlier in week 1, Fordson put on a show vs. Canton 40-35. Cass Tech despite being undefeated had less playoff points than Dearborn who had a week 1 loss to Northville so Cass Tech went on the road. The Technicians shutdown the senior-heavy Pioneers to setup a showdown at previously unbeaten Saline. Fox Sports was in the house to online stream the game and the game turned out being one of the best of the season at that point, as CB Donovan Johnson ran wild out of the RB position. Cass Tech wasn't feeling overtime so following Johnson's last touchdown midway in the 4th quarter, Rodney Hall hooked up with Donovan Peoples-Jones on a Slant route to convert the 2-point conversion and Cass Tech's defense would not surrender anymore points. Cass Tech drove downfield one last time, but took the knee to end it at 43-42. In the semi-finals, you couldn't have asked for a better scene besides the sidelines of Eisenhower and Cass Tech to flip. It was still a packed house on a freezing cold day. The #1 team in the state vs. the #2 team in the state with a championship appearance on the line. Eisenhower made plays early, scoring and forcing a turnover. Defensively they held Cass to field goals in the opening half. As the 2nd half wore on, Cass began to show their poise and took longer drives, eventually ending them with points. Eisenhower had two quick strike touchdowns in the 2nd half, which left Cass Tech's offense on the field longer. In the final seconds, Rodney Hall delivered a pass to Donovan Peoples-Jones where only he was able to catch the ball and he did just that as he hauled an improbable catch as he was hit and managed to land in-bounds for the game winning touchdown reception. In the finals, Cass Tech weathered 2 quick touchdowns from the Shamrocks, but it was all Cass Tech from there as Peoples-Jones concluded his career with a touchdown reception with 5-something minutes remaining.

Biggest accomplishment during the year:

Cass Tech and King both won their state title (D1 and D2) and went 14-0

Defining moment:

Cass Tech - Rodney Hall touchdown to Donovan Peoples-Jones vs. Eisenhower in final seconds: DPJ is the only person on any team who would make that catch given the circumstances as he was hit while in the air, but still his body fell instead of being moved to the side, like a smaller receiver would have.

King - Armani Posey's touchdown to Donnie Corley vs. Lowell to win the Division 2 state championship. As we rewatch this time and time again it appears to be a routine play on the film if you don't consider the time on the clock. Lowell left Corley on the side by himself with the Safety staying on the hash. Corley then to his credit makes a great play on the ball as he times his jump to perfection, essentially reaching over top the Lowell CB and ripping it away as he falls cleanly into the endzone with no time remaining on the clock.

Defining win:

Cass Tech - It's gotta be the first King meeting in week 6. CT up to then was hardily challenged and needed to put to rest their previous losses to King.

King - This is a tough one, as their 12-10 win over De La Salle was ugly besides for a few plays, but De La Salle entered the season as the defending D2 champs. The moment everyone on King knew it was their year was the city title win over Cass Tech. King won on a field goal in overtime in week 5, so if you know PSL football you know besides these 2 programs, the league has struggled with the kicking game. It setup the encore for week 9 that King won by 2 points.

Best pure football player:

Cass Tech - Donovan Peoples-Jones: Peoples-Jones had a good few years of high school football, but his senior season in 2016 was a sight to see and one that we will not see anytime soon. Peoples-Jones was gifted with an incredible amount of athleticism and size that would compare to the many of the tight ends in Michigan, but he also moves extremely well. Peoples-Jones had no issues getting open vs. any defense in 2016 as he'll cement his legacy as one of the best players to come through Michigan ever. While many Class of 2017 graduates are enjoying, "senioritis" and being lazy. Donovan Peoples-Jones enrolled early at the University of Michigan and figures to have a significant role for the Wolverines in the Fall.

King - Ambry Thomas: When you think of the big plays in-depth during the 2015 season and the ones that put King in position to win games. Each of King's two closest games involved Ambry Thomas turning something little into touchdowns on the offensive side of the ball. Versus De La Salle in week 1, Thomas caught a quick comeback route which was 1 yard shy of the first down marker, Thomas ducked underneath the arm of a De La Salle DB and outran everyone into the endzone. The play in the 2nd half of the Lowell game was a complete game-changer as King up to that point looked bad offensively and had their defense bail them to keep within reach. In the 4th quarter vs. Lowell, Thomas caught a pass near the sideline with King down by 11 points and the hope of a comeback getting smaller and smaller as it was the first of 6 of 20 points that King scored in the 4th quarter. Thomas would turn that simple completion into the biggest play until the final play when he eluded the entire Lowell defense as he ran to the opposite side of the field and cut down the opposite sideline for 6.

Most consistent during year:

Cass Tech - Rodney Hall: Hall missed the state finals and semi-final in 2015 as a Junior. As a Senior he was in charge of the team right away and especially late in the year, he made all of the right throws and reads. Besides for throwing the game winning touchdown pass to Peoples-Jones which as lifelong teammates he knew DPJ had a better chance of catching it than it being out of his reach. Hall led the offense on the ground picking up yards and keeping Cass Tech's defense off of the field vs. Eisenhower. In the state finals when Catholic Central defended well and the pocket closed, Hall ran up field and picked up first downs. As a senior QB, Hall polished the win at all cost mentality. Hall had a huge game vs. Saline as a sophomore when he brought a, flat and down, team that had been dominated into a close finish that Cass Tech nearly came back and won.

King - Armani Posey: Posey didn't play quarterback until the third game of the season in 2015. Posey came over as a WR/DB from East English Village and played just his senior year at King high school. When King's QB situation needed to be resolved, Posey took the chance and ran with it as he more than exceeded the coaches expectations. Posey fed his receivers and runningback the ball for the remainder of the year as he would eventually win our award for offensive player of the year in 2015. The final drive that had the game winning touchdown pass featured Posey being the best he could be. His completions were accurate and he was on the same page with his receivers which eventually resulted in the win.

Most undervalued player:

Cass Tech - Jaren Mangham: Mangham entered Cass Tech last winter coming from Ohio. Mangham made a name for himself through the off-season and into the year, but turned it on at key points during the Fall. Mangham had 2 short yard rushing touchdowns vs. Eisenhower. As a sophomore to convert those short-yardage runs in the clutch is crucial and on a team full of Division 1 seniors and juniors, Mangham's impact in the run game was vastly overlooked by many.

King - Dontre Boyd: Boyd provided King with phenomenal defensive coverage and a reliable 3rd or 4th option throughout the year on offense. Boyd ran a route in the middle of a prevent defense from Lowell in the games final drive and as you know you're taking that risk of getting lit up running across the middle. Boyd did just that, catching a pass from Posey, as he fell on his knees a Lowell player blew up the unexpected Boyd who managed to hold on to the ball. Boyd suffered from a separated shoulder and tore his AC joint.

Special special teams mention:

Both teams had reliable senior kickers who came up clutch during their title runs. Luis Borjas for Cass Tech who kicked 2 field goals vs. Eisenhower and had more through the year plus PAT's and Anwar Miah who kicked the game winner vs. Cass Tech in the 2015 overtime game for King.

Cass Tech 2016 Recruits on Roster:


Willie Reid - S - Central Michigan

Desean Boyd - LB/DE - Eastern Michigan

Marc Oliver - WR - Eastern Michigan

Donovan Peoples-Jones - WR - Michigan

Jaylen Kelly-Powell - DB - Michigan

Jordan Reid - OL - Michigan State

Rodney Hall - QB - Northern Illinois

Donovan Johnson - CB - Penn State

Zach Morton - LB/DE - Syracuse

Kelvin Ateman - OL - Toledo

Taron Young - LB - Delaware State

Savion Hopes - OL - Delaware State

Darico Ellis - OL - Central State

Tim Cheatham - RB - Davenport

DaCari Green - DL/OG - Findlay

Donovan Parker - WR - Tiffin

Anthony Clark - DE/OLB - Wayne State

Otis Doss - OLB - Siena Heights

Maurice Brandy - OT - Siena Heights

Jordan Lewis - LB - Georgia Prep


Kalon Gervin - CB/WR - 41 offers

DeAndre Square - LB - 18 offers

Dyontae Johnson - LB - 8 offers

Aaron Jackson - QB - 5 offers


Jaren Mangham - RB "ATH" - 18 offers

Xavier Goldsmith - CB - 15 offers

Kyron Mckinnie-Harper - WR - 4 offers

Detroit King 2015 Recruits on Roster:


Armani Posey - ATH - Bowling Green State

Leon Page - LB/DE - Central Michigan

LaVert Hill - CB - Michigan

Donnie Corley - WR - Michigan State

Dontre Boyd - DB/WR - Western Michigan

Martell Pettaway - RB - West Virginia

Dylan Swanson - OT - Urbana

Jeremiah Fuller - DB - Urbana

Lawrence Bryant - LB - Walsh

Jordan Ighofose - OL/DL - Davenport

JaQuan Boyd - DT - Kalamazoo


Cepeda Phillips - LB - Kent State

Ambry Thomas - CB - Michigan

Damani Green - DT - Wayne State

Kevin Willis - RB - Ridgewater


Jaeveyon Morton - WR/CB - 17 offers

El-Julian Jordan - QB - Western Michigan

Joshua Mayberry- OL/DT - 1 offer


Tyrece Woods - LB/DE - 3 offers

Other key members either not offered yet or will be a recruit.

Cass Tech:

2018 - WR/Slot - Teone Allen

2018 - NG/DT - Eric Smith

2018 - LB/RB - Ramani Williams

Detroit King:

2017 - ATH - Martinez Calloway-Adams

Final thoughts and our take if 2016 Cass Tech met 2015 King:

  • Both teams were extremely loaded
  • Both teams beat the other twice
  • Both teams had a phenomenal senior QB
  • Donnie Corley was our 2015 Player of the Year
  • Donovan Peoples-Jones was our 2016 Player of the Year
  • King went through numerous quarterback's, but a backup QB at the time would have been a tough decision for Dale Harvel. Cass Tech on the other hand had Aaron Jackson as backup who had major roles in 2015.
  • As you seen from their playoff opponents, Division 1 each year is much deeper and has better opponents.
  • King would need to worry about Donovan Peoples-Jones as a senior from catching the ball and making plays throughout an entire game. The same with Cass Tech needing an answer for Donnie Corley.

If King was to win, they would need to force Rodney Hall to scramble out of the pocket while containing his running ability, all while trying to make the receivers stay in front of their DB's. That's not an easy task and Donovan Peoples-Jones would need to be double-teamed mostly every 1st down and 3rd down if not short yard situations. Offensively King would need all 4 of their receivers; Donnie Corley, LaVert Hill, Ambry Thomas, and Dontre Boyd to remain healthy and all 4 would be playing both ways. All 4 would need to provide consistent ability to break Cass Tech's DB depth and block. Martell Pettaway would be the X-factor as he would need to keep Cass Tech's LB's and DB's honest. He would need to break tackles and constantly gain positive yardage.

If Cass Tech was to win, they would need to prevent the big play from one of King's four receivers. If they did give up the big play, would need to allow it once as this would figure to be a close game and catches over 20+ yards would be killer. Cass Tech would understand that King wants to establish the running game with Martell Pettaway looking to take what's given to him so tackling him and not giving him extra yards. If Cass eliminates Pettaway from the equation, would worry about a mobile and playmarker senior QB in Armani Posey who isn't the fastest, but would make the plays. Offensively Cass Tech would need to utilize Donovan Peoples-Jones and see how much attention King draws to him. Playmakers like; Donovan Parker and Teone Allen would need to be on their best routes and convert when the ball is thrown their way. Cass Tech at the same time can use the run to open the pass or the pass to open the run. Senior, Donovan Johnson ran wild on King as a junior. As a senior he's now bigger, stronger, and faster resulting in a nightmare for King. The RB duo of senior Tim Cheatham and sophomore Jaren Mangham in short yard situations would need to move the chains or cross the goal line.

- In a poll that 1,074 people voted on of who would win, 67% voted for Cass Tech.

2016 Cass Tech football team vs. 2015 Detroit King football team, who wins and why? Both teams were #1 ranked in their year.
— The D Zone (@TheD_Zone) May 3, 2017