FOOTBALL: Brother Rice flawless again, cruises to third straight state crown to give coach perfect retirement gift
DETROIT – Perfection is often elusive.
In 2013, it was painted orange and black.
On Friday, Birmingham Brother Rice achieved perfection on gridiron at Ford Field.
The orange and black-clad Warriors wrapped up a perfect season, finishing 14-0 by beating Muskegon 38-21 to give Brother Rice a third consecutive state title (Division 2) and legendary head coach Al Fracassa the perfect ending to his career on the sidelines.
“I couldn’t have asked for anything more special than this,” said Fracassa in the aftermath of the victory. “These are some pretty fine boys and they played great football today. It was a great year and it’s been a great last three years in terms of us ending up here and winning a state championship. It’s the kind of accomplishment that makes me very proud for the players that made it possible.”
Brother Rice’s aerial assault couldn’t be contained Friday, as junior gunslinger Alex Malzone connected on 20-of-24 passes for 265 yards and four touchdowns in the winning effort.
Malzone threw three scores in the first half and added a back-breaking 21-yard hook-up with senior wide receiver Corey Lacanaria in the fourth quarter. He completed his first nine passes of the game and then tacked on a 17-yard jaunt into the end zone on a fake field goal just for good measure.
“We felt like we could throw on them, because we had success throwing last year, so we concentrated on really getting everything nailed down in the passing game coming into the game,” the Warriors superstar field general said. “We started off fast and didn’t slow down.”
Friday was a rematch of last season’s title tilt, where Brother Rice bested Muskegon 35-28.
Leading 21-14 at the half, Brother Rice vaulted their advantage on the scoreboard to 38-14 in the fourth quarter following Malzone’s trick play that concluded with his fifth touchdown of the day.
The school’s all-time single-season pass-reception king, Lacanaria posted 10 catches for 125 yards and his game-sealing score on his final trip to Ford Field.
“Alex and I have chemistry,” said Lacanaria of his rapport with his quarterback. “I’m going to miss him a lot next year when we’re not playing together anymore.”
Two of Malzone’s touchdown tosses went to junior wide receiver Grant Perry (5 catches, 95 yards, scores of 16 and 34 yards respectively) and the other to senior split end Damaris Woods (18 yards) on the opening drive of the game.
The lone bright spot for Muskegon was its standout quarterback, senior Deshaun Thrower, who totaled over 250 yards from scrimmage (183 yards passing, 100 yards rushing) and scored three touchdowns (two on the ground, one in the air). His second rushing score of the contest, a 15-yarder, knotted things at 14-14 late in the first quarter.
Thrower will be playing basketball next winter in college at Stoney Brook in New York.
For Brother Rice, Friday was the end of an historic era. The state’s all-time leader in wins, Fracassa coached for 54 years in Metro Detroit, the past 45 with Brother Rice, a program he personally turned into a national powerhouse. Tallying 10 state championships, he pocketed nine of the tournament variety to go along with the 1974 mythical crown, a Warriors squad littered with top-tier talent.