BURNSTEIN COLUMN: Key ingredients missing on gridiron at Cass Tech & Southfield this fall, leads to early exits
The reason why as well as the lesson to be learned from neither Detroit Cass Tech nor Southfield (a pair of teams that literally have two dozen Division I college-bound players between them) making it to Ford Field and the state football finals this year is actually relatively simple;
You can’t just flip a switch and turn it on whenever you want.
If you’re not giving it 100%, getting after it on every play, not pushing yourself to the max all 48 minutes of the game, you’re going to leave yourself exposed. And that can and often will lead to unexpected losses and the unfulfilling of potential.
Kind of like what we saw at Cass Tech and Southfield this fall.
Despite the considerable amount of wins and matching league titles both teams collected, there was something missing in each locker room. The aura was bad and in the end it bled over onto the field.
Some of the players on Cass Tech and Southfield thought they could just show up and that their press clippings and scholarship offers were enough to get the job done.
It goes without saying, they were sadly mistaken.
Thus, them and their teammates will be home this Thanksgiving weekend, instead of at Ford Field trying to hoist a state crown, a spot a lot of people thought was preordained (especially in Cass Tech’s case in its quest for a third straight banner).
Cass Tech was ousted by Novi Detroit Catholic Central in the final four Saturday, steamrolled 28-0. Southfield was upended by Birmingham Seaholm 17-16 in the first-round of tourney play a few weeks back.
What went wrong?
Well, I sense that a lack of true leadership on either roster played a significant role in the outcome.
That was evident by the way some on these two squads took the news that their respective teams were concluding the season prematurely.
A Southfield player lashed out at reporters, sending one a disparaging message on Twitter, scolding the writer for warning his team days prior that it needed to start competing harder if they wanted a long playoff run in its future.
Mind you, this was less than an hour after the Bluejays blew a 16-6 lead to Seaholm in the closing three and a half minutes and dropped the curtain on their season, way before anyone had even come remotely close to predicting.
The behavior exhibited by Cass Tech all-state junior quarterback and Michigan State-commit Jayru Campbell was even worse. He was cursing at media members on the sideline during Saturday’s semifinals, scuffling after plays and allegedly threw a punch, bloodying the lip of a Catholic Central player in the postgame handshake line.
According to sources close to the Cass Tech program, Campbell has been battling off the field issues all season long. He sat out the first half of a pair of playoff games preceding his meltdown Saturday, reputedly due to suspensions.
His father’s reported run-in with the law Saturday morning might have played a role in his antics during and after the semifinals versus Catholic Central , but still, come on, Jayru, act like a man, not an immature, spoiled brat.
The Cass Tech coaches were so disturbed by Campbell’s actions, someone from the Technicians staff came over to Catholic Central’s huddle and apologized for the way he was behaving.
Campbell needs to get ahold of this problem and fast. His future depends on it.
He earned heaps of praise for his wunderkind ways leading Cass Tech to repeat state titles the last two years and judging by what went down to finish this season, he hasn’t dealt particularly well with the success he has found or the responsibility that can accompany the tremendous amount of headlines and adulation.
The fact that Cass Tech head coach Thomas Wilcher hasn’t been shy in letting it be known that he might be interested in possibly getting into the mix for the vacant Eastern Michigan job didn’t help matters for his team in the focus department, in my opinion.
Bottom line: just because it looks great on paper, the bill on the field is fit because of heart, hard work, dedication and desire.
Point blank, I don’t know how much of those aforementioned elements honestly existed at Cass Tech or Southfield this year.