The disappointment inside the Southfield high locker room at Wayne State was palpable Friday night. The Bluejays had just fallen to Detroit Cass Tech 18-14 in the ninth annual Prep Kickoff Classic, spoiling the debut of one of the nation’s best defensive line pairings. Neither Lawrence Marshall nor Malik McDowell could hide their disgust over the outcome, but through it all both found clarity regarding what their team needed to rebound.
“We can do better,” Marshall said firmly. “The defensive line didn’t do what we were supposed to do. The next game we’ve got to come out and do better. I didn’t do what I thought I should do. I missed a lot of key plays. I’ve got to keep working. Don’t take plays off. Go even harder! Don’t take plays off.”
“Obviously we’ve got to work harder,” McDowell added. “Obviously we didn’t work hard enough.”
Despite the loss the duo showed flashes of brilliance. Marshall collected a sack and had multiple pressures, while McDowell was a force on the interior. When the Bluejay coaching staff made the decision to play their new 6-6, 285-pound man-child on the interior he almost singlehandedly nullified Cass Tech’s inside zone play. It may have been glimpse of the position McDowell could play one the next level.
“During practice I was lining up all over the place, so I learned the three (technique) and the five (technique) the whole week,” McDowell explained. “I saw (Cass Tech double and triple teaming me), but it was alright. One of teammates would make the play so it was good. I felt like I was getting held, but no excuses. I’ve still got to make the play.”
He often did just that. If the four-star linemen were being graded on his initial showing on state’s biggest stage he would have passed with flying colors.
“He is an excellent football player,” Southfield coach Tim Conley said. “I’ve been really impressed with him. A lot of people were talking about because he came up from Division 7 (Detroit Loyola) that maybe he wouldn’t be very technical because he is so big compared to the athletes he was playing against down there. I’m just impressed with his football I.Q. and how good of a football player he is. He was maybe 310 lbs. and now he is down to maybe 285. He is doing really well.”
“It’s real fun playing against better competition,” stated McDowell. “It was just a fun game overall.”
It certainly was difficult to tell the talented youngster had had fun after the fact. The loss may have served to make him and his teammates more determined. That’s definitely true of Marshall. The Michigan commitment has made no secret of his intent to help lure others into the Maize & Blue fold, but at the moments those efforts have taken a backseat to a more immediate goal.
“I’m only working on (recruiting) Malik, but it’s all football right now,” he said matter-of-factly. “We’re working to get a state championship. We’re working to get better. That’s what we’ve got to do. Practice hard.”
McDowell concurred. That’s why he won’t be taking any official visits during the season.
“I’ve got to stay focused,” he said. “I will take some unofficials. I will be at the Notre Dame game (in Ann Arbor Saturday night).”
And to those wondering if a commitment might come this weekend, McDowell made clear his official visit plan.
“I will take all five.”
Stay tuned for highlights of the dynamic duo in action in the coming hours.