FOOTBALL: Brother Rice’s Hail Mary Lifts Them To A 26-24 Win Over De La Salle
BERKELY – "This was one of the greatest wins in program history," said Brother Rice head coach Al Fracassa. "I don’t know how we won the game. This was one of the most fantastic finishes I’ve ever witnessed as a football coach."
That’s saying a lot, coming from someone who has been coaching for over 50 years, and who has won eight state titles. Much like his players and coaching staff were, Fracassa was shocked and emotional after Brother Rice’s 26-24 victory over De La Salle.
The Warriors trailed for majority of the game, and overcame a 14-point deficit, icluding heroics in the final seconds by junior quarterback Alex Malzone and senior Jason Alessi to pull off the victory. De La Salle jumped off to an early lead and had Brother Rice on the ropes all night.
Quarterback Giovanni Rescigno scored on a quarterback sneak on the Pilots first drive from a yard out early in the first quarter. Then Rescigno duplicated the play, this time with 11:56 left before the half, to put De LaSalle up 14-0. Brother Rice had no answer for Rescigno in the rushing game as he tallied 107 yards on 22 carries and two touchdowns.
After dominating teams in their first three games of the season, this looked like a totally different Brother Rice team early on. Brother Rice would eventually settle down and fight their way back into the game, like the Warriors that they are. After Alessi chipped in a 37-yard field goal with 8:02 left in the half to make it 14-3, the Brother Rice defense came up with a huge fumble recovery that gave them excellent field position on the De La Salle 38-yard line.
Five plays later, Shon Powell scored the first of his two rushing touchdowns on the night, this one from 21-yards out to bring the score to 14-10 with 4:10 left before halftime. De La Salle would add a 29-yard field goal just before the half, taking a 17-10 lead into halftime. Brother Rice found itself in an unfamiliar situation, trailing by a touchdown at halftime and looking out of sync on both sides of the ball after 24 minutes of play.
But the Warriors managed to storm back into the game, eventually taking their first lead of the game late in the fourth quarter. Down 17-13 with just under six minutes remaining in the game, Malzone was sacked on a 3rd and 3 situation by Sam Badalamenti, leaving Rice no choice but to go for it on 4th and 7, due to De LaSalle’s dominance on offense all night.
Malzone dropped back, saw wide receiver Grant Perry running across the middle and threw it to him. The pass fell incomplete, but De La Salle’s Jared Wangler was called for a questionable pass interference that gave Brother Rice new life. The Warriors capitalized on their second chance opportunity just a few plays later on a 12-yard rushing touchdown by Shon Powell.
Brother Rice had put themselves in the driver’s seat, grabbing a 20-17 with 4:15 remaining. The game was far from over though. On the ensuing possession, De LaSalle used every bit of the remaining four minutes to regain the lead on an 8-yard touchdown pass from Rescigno to Brent Morris (7 catches, 83 yards). With just 24.1 seconds left in the game, De La Salle looked as if it had pulled off the upset over the two-time defending state champs.
But as the saying goes, it’s never over until it’s over.
Malzone managed to get the Warriors down to the the Pilots 34-yard line, after starting at their own 47-yard line. With just under ten seconds remaining in the game, Malzone dropped back for another pass down the field but was sacked by sophomore Drew Beesley while in the process fo trying to throw the ball. Everyone in the stadium thought the game was over and the Pilots sideline stormed the field, believing they had won the game. The officials gathered in the middle of the field and ruled that Malzone was not sacked, but had thrown the ball for an incomplete pass, and added a second back to the game clock.
One second is an eternity in football, and once again Brother Rice was handed one last opportunity to complete their miraculous comeback. With De La Salle in their prevent defense, Malzone (16-27, 200 yards), received the snap, rolled to his left and the ball towards the endzone as far as he could as time expired. Some way, somehow, the always dependable Jason Alessi came down with it among De LaSalle defenders and Rice reveivers. Touchdown.
Brother Rice (4-0) had just defeated De La Salle (2-2) 26-24, on a 34-yard hail mary pass with no time left on the clock.
"That was my first time at receiver, that hail mary pass was," Alessi said after the game. "Malzone threw a great toss to the endzone and I just went up and got it. It was crazy."
Brother Rice stormed the field to celebrate their win, and De La Salle walked around in disgust, and you could hear players saying that they had been cheated out of a win.
"The plan was just to try to see if we could complete the pass and we did," Fracassa said. "We took a chance, and you have to take chances right."