Malzone Leads Brother Rice Over St. Ignatius, 29-20
By JEFF DULLACK
DETROIT – In Saturday’s season opener against perennial Ohio powerhouse Cleveland St. Ignatius, Birmingham Brother Rice knew it would have to play a near flawless game if the Warriors wanted to start their season off on a high note.
And that’s what the two-time defending Division 2 state champions did.
Behind an impressive aerial attack led by highly touted junior quarterback Alex Malzone, Brother Rice jumped out to a 24-6 lead early in the third quarter and managed to hold off St. Ignatius for a 29-20 win at the Prep Kickoff Classic at Wayne State. Brother Rice head coach Al Fracassa said that the outcome of Saturday’s game was somewhat of a surprise to him after seeing the Wildcats game film in the weeks leading up to the season opener.
“You know, it did,” he said. “Because I watched them on film and they (St. Ignatius) are a good football team, they might not lose again this year, but I’m glad we don’t have to play them again.”
Coming out of halftime with a 17-6 lead, Brother Rice wasted little time increasing its lead as senior Jason Alessi took fielded a punt on a bounce and returned it 70 yards less than a minute into the second half to give the Warriors the 24-6 advantage.
Alessi later booted a 41 yard field goal to push the Brother Rice lead to 27-6 late in the third quarter.
Alessi did a little bit of everything for the Warriors on Saturday as he also nabbed an interception for the Warriors in the third quarter before his second field goal of the day.
“We had a bunch of man coverage in there,” said Alessi of the performance from the Warrior’s secondary. “We had one deep safety and we played great in man-to-man on each guy, I don’t know the exact numbers, but we kept them in check for the most part.”
St. Ignatius didn’t go away quietly, the Wildcats answered with an 80 yard touchdown pass and catch from quarterback John Thomas to Nicholas Fabian to cut the Warrior lead down to 27-13.
Then with just over two minutes left in the fourth quarter, St. Ignatius made it a one score game as Michael Vitale scored on a four yard run to make it 27-20 and moments later, the Wildcats forced a Brother Rice punt with a minute left to play.
But a big sack from Alberto Sandoval and Jack Dunaway in the end zone on the first play of the ensuing drive sealed the win for the Warriors.
“Our defense, they hung in there and they played pretty good,” said a smiling Fracassa. “And that final dump (sack) was Dunaway, who’s only a junior and he’s a good player. You have to enjoy days like this because they don’t come around very often.”
The first half belonged to Malzone and his receivers as the junior signal caller orchestrated a pair of long, time consuming scoring drives and finished the first half with just under 200 yards receiving.
Malzone got the Warriors on the board late in the first quarter as he connected with senior receiver Damaris Woods for an 18 yard score to put the Warriors ahead 7-0.
Malzone finished 24-of-35 passing and threw for 284 yards and a touchdown for Brother Rice in Saturday’s contest and found a good rhythm with receivers Grant Perry (nine catches, 104 yards) and Corey Lacanaria (10 catches, 157 yards) from the start.
“I’ve been working with them all summer, just running routes,” he said. “I actually played with Corey when I was younger and Grant always runs great routes. We knew what we had to come out here and do and we knew their cornerbacks were probably the weakest part of their defense and that’s where we tried to hit them the most, short hitches and out-routes and that’s what we did and they made great plays.”
Brother Rice later added to their lead as senior running back Brian Walker capped off a 21-play 80 yard drive that used over 10 minutes of time on the clock as he punched the ball in from two yards out to give the Warriors a 14-0 edge. The Warriors later went into halftime with a 17-6 lead after Alessi’s first field goal, set up by a highlight reel catch from Lacanaria as he laid out for a 44 yard grab to put Brother Rice in field goal position shortly after a St. Ignatius touchdown.