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Detroit Public School League preseason outlook: Central’s new coach has work to do; King to be bolstered by tranfers

By: Tom Markowski, August 4, 2015, 10:00 pm

Detroit – Much has changed in the Detroit Public School League since John Thompson played linebacker at Detroit Crockett a decade ago.

Thompson was one of the state’s top players back then. He went on to have a fine career at Michigan before returning to the Detroit area.

He’s the new coach at Detroit Central and its Thompson first go around as a head coach.

“There were 24 teams in the PSL when I played,” he said. “It’s down to 16.

“I wanted to get back to the city. I want to give back. I played in the PSL.”

Thompson, and other league coaches, met members of the media on Tuesday as part of the PSL’s media day at Detroit Police Headquarters near the New Center area.

More changes awaited the coaches in attendance and one in particular, Detroit Cass Tech coach Thomas Wilcher, was unaware of the changes beforehand.

Last season the 16 teams were lumped in one group. This season they are split up into four divisions. Those in East Division I will compete against those in West Division I for THE league title and the eight teams in Division II, East and West, will compete for the lower division title.

Central will compete in the East Division II and opens its season against Detroit Western at Detroit Mumford on Aug. 28 at 5 p.m.

Thompson was hired in November and was able to work with his new team (he was an assistant at Ecorse last season). He expects 35 to be on varsity with another 15 on the junior varsity. Though Thompson said this will be a transitional period he has high expectations for his quarterback, junior lefthander Darius Lynaum (6-5, 200).

Other top players include junior Davon Pitts (RB/DB), tackle Keyshawn Evans (6-5, 315), a junior who lost 35 pounds since workouts began last winter, and senior Devan Hamilton (DB/WR).

Thompson has but seven seniors on his squad so the future could hold bigger prizes but he’s not given up on this season.

“I want to win,” he said. “I looked at film (of last season) and I see the effort.”

The East Division I is loaded with perennial powers Cass Tech and King topping the list. Not far behind is Detroit East English Village Prep. The low man on the totem pole is coach Tony Blankenship who faces a tough road at Detroit Denby. But even Blankenship remains upbeat. Denby made the state playoffs each of the past two seasons and Blankenship said this team is better.

Much ballyhoo has been written and talked about on social media about the numerous King transfers. Some reports have coach Dale Harvel corralling as many as 11.

He disputed such claims. Harvel said they are outlandish and false.

“We’ve got four or five and only three will start,” Harvel said. “This happens all the time. We gain kids. We lose kids. It’s the district we’re in. I lost three starters from last year’s team who’ll be playing somewhere else.”

King’s starting quarterback last season, Mikhail Washington, moved to Virginia.

The three top transfers are running back Martell Pettaway who committed to West Virginia, defensive back Lavert Hill who committed to Penn State and linebacker Lawrence Bryant who remains uncommitted. Pettaway was at St. Clair Shores South Lake last season, Hill was at Cass Tech and Bryant was at Grosse Pointe South.

Donnie Corley is King’s top player and one of 10 preseason candidates for State Champs’ Mr. Football contest. Corley is a 6-3, 185-pound receiver/cornerback. He remains uncommitted but has scholarship offers from Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and a number of southern schools including Alabama.

As good as King is expected to be, Cass Tech appears to have the edge going in. Wilcher returns junior quarterback Rodney Hall and as many as 18 or 19 other players who have received Division I scholarship offers. Cass Tech’s junior class is outstanding. One, receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones, has received between 20 and 30 Division I scholarship offers according to Wilcher.

Lineman Michael Onwenu (U-M) and defensive back Demetrice Vance (MSU) are seniors who have been verbal commitments.