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Detroit CC shuts out Brother Rice to win fourth straight in rivalry for first time since 1990s

By: Matthew B. Mowery, September 23, 2018, 12:30 am

BERKLEY — Sometimes, when you fail to take every opportunity to put an opponent away, letting them linger, it can come back to bite you.

But not when that opponent has suddenly lost all ability to put the ball in the end zone.

No. 8-ranked Novi Detroit Catholic Central left a ton of points out on Berkley’s Hurley Field Saturday night, but still was never seriously threatened by a suddenly punchless Birmingham Brother Rice squad in a 21-0 win.

“Coach always says, adversity is opportunity. So when we fumbled twice on the 1-yard line, we knew our defense had to come up huge. And the scoreboard proved it: They didn’t score. It was a great defensive performance,” said CC senior running back Keegan Koehler, who had 137 yards and a pair of touchdowns. “People know (the rivalry) is crazy, everyone’s heated for it, so to come out, play hard and get a shutout on their home field, it’s huge for the confidence.”

The Shamrocks (4-1, 1-0 CHSL Central) have now won four straight against Brother Rice (3-2, 0-2) for the first time since 1990-93, in a rivalry that’s been incredibly balanced over 63 meetings, with CC holding a minuscule 32-30-1 edge. The Shamrocks had only previously shut out the Warriors six times in 56 seasons (1964, 1969, 1973, 1982 and 1990, with the 0-0 tie in 1968).

Certainly not a bad way to open up divisional play for the Shamrocks.

“It’s so important. We always have goals: The first goal is to win the Central Division, the second goal is to win the Catholic League, and the third goal is to win a state championship. We start out every year, and those are our goals. This is on our path to our goal,” CC coach Dan Anderson said, admitting it always feels good to beat Rice. “Yes. Yes, it does.”

That doesn’t mean Anderson won’t have anything for the Shamrocks to work on cleaning up in  practice this week. Anything but that.

The Shamrocks could’ve made it much easier on themselves if they’d capitalized on any of a number of chances in Brother Rice’s half of the field, but instead, went into halftime up just 14-0.

A couple of Warrior penalties helped Rice’s first drive, as Koehler punched it in from 2 yards out just before the end of the first quarter.

They wouldn’t always make the Warriors pay for mistakes after that.

• Rice turned it over on downs near midfield on its next drive, and the Shamrocks flipped the field with a long pass from Jack Beno to Nate Anderson, but turned the ball over on second-and-goal.

• Catholic Central’s next drive started at the Rice 32, but the Shamrocks turned it over on downs, only to get it back one play later on an interception by Nazem Beydoun. They’d capitalize this time, as Beno hit Ryan Birney with an 8-yard touchdown pass, the senior’s first offensive touchdown as a varsity player.

• Rice fumbled the ensuing kickoff at its own 38, but CC turned it right back on an interception one play later.

“Oh, we missed a lot of opportunities. Our red zone offense today was awful. I think we had the ball inside the red zone two or three times and turned it over,” Anderson said. “We had opportunities, just didn’t capitalize on them. We’ve gotta work on that.”

The coup de grace was playing the time management game perfectly in the waning seconds of the first half, setting up a punt block situation. Noah Shanlian blocked the punt, recovered it, and got it inside the Rice 1, only to have the offense fumble it away on the next snap, trying to punch it in with 6.1 seconds left before haltime.

“It was a bad decision in the first half to pass the ball, and give them the opportunity to go after the punt. That was not good. Obviously, CC turned the ball over and it ended that, or obviously it would’ve been a little different,” said Rice coach Adam Korzeniewski, whose team has been shut out in successive weeks. “But, yeah, 14-0 coming into the second half, that’s plenty doable. But if we don’t score points, it doesn’t matter. It’s irrelevant. I’ll see what the play count was but, gosh, they (the defenders) were on the field a lot.”

The Shamrocks talked about it at halftime, too, knowing they needed to put the dagger in as soon as possible.

“When we went in at halftime, we got everyone quieted down — we were all screaming — we were like ‘We gotta put it together. We’re messing up,’” Birney said. “We could’ve been up by more at halftime, but in the end, we came out winning.”

Catholic Central did capitalize on its first drive of the second half, marching 80 yards for a 16-yard Koehler touchdown on the sweep to go up 21-0.

It could’ve turned into a rout from there, but didn’t.

No matter, though, as the Warriors never got the ball past the midfield stripe in the second half, never seriously threatening to score.

In all, CC forced Rice into a pair of interceptions, a fumble, the blocked punt, and turned the Warriors over on downs once.

“We can’t turn the ball over. When we have fourth-and-short, I think we’ve gotta get a little tougher at midfield. And certainly, we’ll get a mistake that’ll kill the drive. We’ll put a little something together, and then there’s a mistake, a penalty, a hold — whatever. A missed assignment. We’re not playing good enough on offense,” Korzeniewski said. “I know we ran the ball a little bit better, but it was on the perimeter. We’ve gotta establish the run inside. And then I think some of our decisions in the passing game weren’t the best. They probably could’ve had five interceptions tonight.”

Catholic Central was playing its second straight game with sophomore Jack Beno under center. He replaced the injured Marco Genrich at quarterback during the Toledo Central Catholic loss, and is now 2-0 as a starter.

“He had a couple of wobbly passes, but I thought overall he played really well for a sophomore. He made some mistakes, but you’re going to have that. He’s a sophomore, and this is his second game. And your second game is against Brother Rice. A lot of pressure,” Anderson said of Beno. “He’s getting better, he’s getting more confident, and it’s coming slowly but surely.”

Birney said the Shamrock seniors made sure that the sophomore wasn’t overwhelmed by the situation.

“Before the game, coach was like ‘Seniors, go talk to him.’ We told him we were going to take him through the win,” Birney said. “This week, before the game, we were just like ‘You’re a baller.’ He knows what to do. So the seniors definitely got into his head and helped him.”

Catholic Central hosts brand-new Columbus (Ohio) Christians of Faith Academy next week, while Rice plays at Grand Ledge.