"The Lafayette/Grand River Rivalry" - King vs. Cass Tech Football

Written by
Branden Hunter

KC vs. CT.

The Black/Gold vs. The Green/White.

King vs Cass.

Whichever name fans like to give to this rivalry, it's known as one of the fiercest in the state and is hands down the best rivalry in the city of Detroit. Talking to a 1981 graduate of Cass Tech, he told me, "Over here on Grand River, we didn't like that team over on Lafayette", which inspired me to title this article, "The Lafayette/Grand River Rivalry". Separated by just 3.5 miles, it's well known that M.L. King and Cass Tech do not like each other, and every year the two schools settle their beef on the football field. The rivalry was almost in jeopardy when the 2012 PSL schedules were released, and neither team had the other on its schedule. But thanks to the new PSL playoff format, King & Cass will meet in 2012 in the PSL semi-finals.

I'm not for certain when the first-ever meeting between the two schools was, our records don't go back that far, but I do know that since 1950, King has a 29-24 record against Cass, though Cass has won the last two meetings. The rivalry doesn't just end on the gridiron either. It ventures into all sports and activities, and even both schools' alumni recognize that bragging rights are still at stake each year. The tension between the two schools got so bad in basketball in the early 2000's, that students from both schools were banned from attending games because of the chaos. I can remember my first experience of the rivalry as a 10th grader at King in 2005. King beat Cass 20-0 on homecoming night in football, and a fight broke out in the stands. That's when I first realized that this was more than just a game.

Of course, if you're a Crusader, you know someone who is a Technician, that's common. But I've discovered a family rivalry between the two schools on the football field. Back in 2007, Chris Sanders was a junior defensive lineman for King and helped his team win a state title. His young brother Brian Sanders plays for Cass Tech now and won himself a state title also as a sophomore last season. "I hate it (laughs). My dad also played at Cass in the 80s, so whenever I go home there's a rivalry between me and those two. There is an endless debate over which school is better", says Chris. When asked about his perspective of the rivalry, Brian said, "It's like constant arguing about who is better, and who has a better program. It's almost like OSU/Michigan. Knowing that my brother went to King, I must beat him in everything we do, so it's competitive all the time.

Although King and Cass may not like each other or have their differences, the schools are similar in many ways. Both have great academic and football programs, they produce multiple Division-1 prospects every year, and nine times out of ten, the city championship is going through either school. They both also have several players playing in the NFL now, like former King DE Nick Perry, who was drafted by the Green Bay Packers in 2012, or DT Kevin Vickerson who was drafted in 2005 by the Miami Dolphins, and now plays for the Denver Broncos. The Oakland Raiders drafted OT Joseph Barksdale in 2011, and he now plays for the St.Louis Rams. Former Cass DE Vernon Gholston was a 1st round draft pick of the New York Jets back in 2008, and last played for the Rams earlier this season.

King currently boasts 4 former players on NFL rosters. Kevin Vickerson (Broncos), Braylon Edwards (Seahawks), Nick Perry (Packers), Chris Greenwood (Lions). Cass Tech has 1, that being Joseph Barksdale (Raiders). Each school also has sent numerous players onto college to play football, most recently former King RB Dennis Norfleet who returns kicks for Michigan and also former Cass safety Thomas Gordon, who also starts for Michigan at that same position. For the past 5 years, Cass has produced 23 D-1 players, while King has produced 8, and both schools have several D-1 prospects in their 2013 classes.

M.L.King won the first ever MHSAA football state title by a PSL team in 2007, and made two other appearances in '89, and '90, but lost both games. Legendary Coach James Reynolds coached at King for 35 years and went 253-112. He went 21-16 versus Cass Tech at King and his last win against them was in 2007, 35-14. Current head coach Dale Harvell is 1-3 against Cass, and looks to add to that win total this season. King's longest winning streak versus Cass is 10, from 1999-2005. Their longest losing streak is 6, from 1973-1978.

Cass Tech was the PSL's second team to win a MHSAA football state title last season in 2011 and joined King as the only Detroit school to ever compete for one. Head Coach Thomas Wilcher took over Cass Tech in 1997, and has compiled a 107-57 record and 1 state title. His record against King is 5-14, and his last win versus King was last season 20-18. Cass's longest winning streak versus King is 6 from 1973-1978, and its longest losing streak is 10 from 1999-2005.

King and Cass will add another chapter to their football rivalry later today in the PSL semi-finals at Northwestern High School. The game kicks off at 7 p.m. This is probably the most anticipated PSL game of the year, and it's not even the title game. And no matter if you're cheering for the Crusaders or Technicians, they're both our city champions!

Notable King football alums

Rod Hill
Darnell Dickerson
Kevin Vickerson
Ernest Shazor
Ron Johnson
Anthony Adams
Nick Perry
Darrin Williams
Gerald McBurrows
Ed Davis
Karon Riley

Dennis Norfleet

Braylon Edwards
Orlando McCord
Donovan Dickerson

Notable Cass Tech football alums
Walter Clago
Darris McCord
Vernon Gholston
Marco Cooper
Clarence Williams
Boubacar Cissoko
Dior Mathis
Roderick Maples
Curtis Greer
Joseph Barksdale
Aaron Kyle
Terry Richardson
Harlan Huckleby
Delonte Hollowell
Cortez Smith

Results of King/Cass Tech football games since 1950
1950-KC 9-CT 7
1952-KC 6-CT 0
1953-CT 9-KC 13
1954-CT 24-KC 0
1955-CT 25-KC 0
1956-KC 24-CT 6
1958-KC 49-CT 0
1959-KC 32-CT 10
1960-CT 7-KC 6
1961-CT 12-KC 6
1965-KC 19-CT 6
1966-KC 14-CT 13
1967-KC 14-CT 0
1968-KC 6-CT 0
1969-CT 20-KC 0
1970-CT 14-KC 8
1971-CT 14-KC 8
1972-KC 12-CT 0
1973-CT 20-KC 0
1974-CT 26-KC 18
1975-CT 38-KC 0
1976-CT 24-KC 0
1977-CT 26-KC 0
1978-CT 21-KC 0
1979-KC 15-CT 0
1980-CT 24-KC 6
1981-CT 12-KC 6
1985-KC 26-CT 0
1990-KC 50-CT 26
1991-KC 20-CT 0
1994-CT 41-KC 34
1995-CT 14-KC 7
1995-CT 21-KC 20
1995-KC 13-CT 12
1996-KC 32-CT 20
1997-KC 53-CT 7
1998-CT 34-KC 20
1999-KC 14-CT 7
1999-KC 27-CT 10
2000-KC 6-CT 0
2001-KC 44-CT 0
2001-KC 28-CT 18
2002-KC 39-CT 7
2003-KC 18-CT 0
2004-KC 9-CT 6
2005-KC 20-CT 0
2006-KC 32-CT 12
2006-CT 7-KC 6
2007-KC 35-CT 14
2008-CT 17-KC 0
2009-KC 27-CT 0
2010-CT 20-KC 0
2011-CT 20-KC 18