Peoples-Jones’ superb TD catch leads Cass Tech past Eisenhower, 32-28
Troy – What little sunshine shone on Saturday at Troy Athens, Donovan Peoples-Jones and his Detroit Cass Tech teammates made the most of it.
Cass Tech never led in its Division 1 semifinal against Utica Eisenhower until Peoples-Jones made a sensational 20-yard leaping touchdown reception with 24.8 seconds left that gave the Technicians a 32-28 victory over the snake-bit Eagles.
Cass Tech (13-0), ranked No. 1 all season long, will play No. 2-ranked Detroit Catholic Central (13-0) for the state title next Saturday at Ford Field at 1 p.m.
C.C. defeated Romeo 17-0 in the other semifinal.
Cass Tech trailed 21-13 entering the fourth quarter before staging its three-touchdown comeback.
Eisenhower (12-1), which was ranked No. 3, took what seemingly was a comfortable 28-13 lead with 10:17 left on quarterback Matt Wittwer’s 44-yard touchdown pass to running back Jack Provencher.
Provencher (14 carries, 146 yards) scored on a 77-yard run that gave Eisenhower a 21-13 lead early in the third quarter.
Jaron Mangham had two 1-yard touchdown runs, the second with 3:52 remaining, gave the Technicians hope and they trailed 28-25.
Cass Tech started its winning drive on Eisenhower’s 40 with 1:36 left. Four running plays produced 20 yards and the Technicians faced a third-and-3 when quarterback Rodney Hall and Peoples-Jones teamed to make a play Cass Tech fans will talk about for many a year.
“He’s one of the top receivers in the country,” Eisenhower coach Chris Smith said of Peoples-Jones. “He showed it there. We had two guys on him. We knew we had to defend him. The weather was bad early and he wasn’t much of a factor. Then the sun came out.”
Weather conditions were dicey but when Cass Tech put together its final two scoring drives the sun came out, which improved conditions considerably.
Peoples-Jones, rated the state’s top player by State Champs and other media outlets, had eight receptions for 86 yards but most of his receptions were of the 6-to-9-yard variety. His first reception of 27 yards was his longest.
“Originally, I thought it was a run,” Peoples-Jones said of the critical third down play. “I was just running the cornerback off. It was an incredible job by Rodney. It wasn’t me. It was God.
“I was trying to focus on the ball. It was the best ball (Hall) has thrown.”
Cass Tech coach Thomas Wilcher is just happy that Hall went to Peoples-Jones in such a key moment.
“All day,” Wilcher said. “I was begging, crying, please throw him the ball. Today he did it. I tell him in practice. I tell him in the games.
“I see (the final touchdown). I see a vision. I know quarterbacks like to throw threw a window. We just wanted (Hall) to throw him the ball.”
Hall played well. He did throw an interception but he completed 15 of 19 attempts for 183 yards. He also rushed 21 times for 84 yards and this included being sacked four times for 20 yards.
“Nine times out of 10 he’s going to catch that ball,” Hall said of Peoples-Jones’ touchdown catch. “It was a hitch call. They were playing off. I noticed Donovan wasn’t stopping. I just threw it high and tight.”
Eisenhower took advantage of two Cass Tech turnovers to take a 14-6 lead at halftime.
Offensive lineman Ethan Collins kept Eisenhower’s second drive going as he recovered a Wittwer fumble on Cass Tech’s 45. Wittwer gained 29 yards on the play and seven plays later his 4-yard touchdown run gave the Eagles a 7-0 lead with 5:30 left in the first quarter.
The Technicians gained 50 yards on the next series and they had to settle for Luis Borjas’ 34-yard field goal.
After an Eisenhower punt, Hall completed three consecutive passes but on the third reception Cass Tech fumbled and Henry Janeway recovered for Eisenhower at midfield. Onn the next play Wittwer completed a 50-yard touchdown pass to a wide open Jack Morris and Eisenhower led 14-3 with 8:13 left in the half.
Cass Tech drove 74 yards just before the half and the drive stalled at the 5-yard line. Borjas kicked a 23-yard field goal with 1:21 left to bring the Technicians within eight.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Remember to watch the highlights from this game on the STATE CHAMPS! HS Sports Show, Sunday morning at 9:00 am on Fox Sports Detroit!