Western International, Southwestern join forces
Once rivals, now teammates for PSL athletics
By Harry M. Anderson, Jr.
Special to the Michigan Citizen
DETROIT — For almost a century, the rivalry between Western International and Southwestern High School has been one of the biggest in Detroit prep sports. There were many great matches between the two on the basketball court, at volleyball matches, on the baseball field and at track meets. In football, the schools had their version of the “Little Brown Jug” competition and though many were one-sided in favor of Southwestern, the passion for the game never toned down as both schools played for pride and glory.
But that’s now a thing of the past.
Since the Detroit Public Schools closed the doors on Southwestern located at Fort Street and Waterman earlier this month, the rivalry is no more.
Like the students at Chadsey, several Southwestern students and athletes who are disgusted with the closing of the school that produced such All-Americans such as Harold Lucas, Tony Robertson, Reggie Baldwin, Mike Marshall, Luis Sharpe, Antoine Joubert and Jalen Rose have opted to enroll outside the DPS system to such schools as River Rouge, Ecorse, Lincoln Park, Melvindale and even Melvindale AB&T, a charter school.
However, several Southwestern athletes decided to stay in the Detroit system and transfer over to their friendly rival located at Clark and Scotten. They have joined forces with their fellow neighborhood rivals to play with the Cowboys and keep the neighborhood talent competitive with other PSL, suburban, charter and private schools.
Take, for example, the Western boys football program.
For senior Harry Anderson III, who ran track this past spring for Southwestern, the players from both schools are combined as one, for victory. He plays flanker, cornerback and safety for the Western football squad.
“We’re all one team,” Anderson said. “There’s no need for Southwestern players being divided from Western players. We’re all Western Cowboys now. That’s all I have to say.”
Now under the direction of new head coach Andre Harlan, who coached at Southwestern last season, Western will get a transfusion of 13 players from Southwestern and try to bring the positive winning attitude to a program, which has been in the doldrums over several decades. The Cowboys had some shining moments with former All-Americans George Perles (1952) and Ron Simpkins (1975) and All-City standout Greg Washington (1979 and 1980), but other than those players and some bright spots such as 1952 and 1968, the Cowboys have been spinning their wheels and have been at the bottom end of the pecking order.
Harlan has been the head coach at Southwestern the last six years and has led the Prospectors to the PSL playoffs six times and the state football playoffs the last five years. He hopes he can bring the same fortune to the current crop of Cowboys, which includes Southwestern transfers Anderson, sophomore running back Romello Ross, sophomore quarterback Jalen Ewing and junior wide receiver Farod Anderson.
“I think it could be a good thing for the kids at Western,” Harlan said. “Adding our kids to the roster to join forces with the Western kids is going to do something different that I think is going to work.
“If they (Western kids) buy into it, they must understand what were trying to do. It’s run in a certain way and that way is a positive winning attitude. I want to change that for them and the whole team.
“I want the team to learn how to win, but we have to give them confidence and show them how to.”
Harlan said the Western players have responded just like the kids from Southwestern and things are beginning to work out. He said the kids are getting along well and aren’t divided by their different allegiances to their schools. He said they’re combining as one unit.
“They’re Western Cowboys,” Harlan concluded. “We’re one team.”