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Sofran adopts new role in epic Brother Rice-Catholic Central rivalry

By: Scott Burnstein, September 25, 2014, 9:30 pm

BIRMINGHAM – Arguably the greatest prep football rivalry in the state, Birmingham Brother Rice-vs-Detroit Catholic Central, took a trip to the tailor shop over the offseason for a little alteration – a nip-tuck that hadn’t been made in almost 40 years.

When three-time defending Division 2 state-champion Brother Rice hosts Catholic Central at Hurley Field in Berkley Friday night (7:00 p.m. kickoff), it will be David Sofran pacing the sidelines coaching Brother Rice, not the legendary Al Fracassa and the first time since 1976 that Fracassa and his longtime foe Tom Mach (took over at Catholic Central in 1976) won’t be facing in each other in the “next chapter” of the rivalry.

Sofran’s destiny in his new role was practically preordained.

He grew up a part of the rivalry, as a young boy attending the game, a teenager playing in it and as Fracassa’s protégé the previous 13 years coaching in it as an assistant before assuming the reins as his hand-picked successor.

“The rivalry goes way back for me,” Sofran said. “The first high school football game I ever went to was the 1985 Rice-CC game. It got me hooked.”

From that point forward, the 37-year old first-year Warriors head coach has bled orange and black (Brother Rice’s colors).

“I remember after that game, I’d wear my Brother Rice gear on the bus on the way to elementary school and other kids would be wearing CC colors and we’d be arguing about who was better, who was going to win that year when they played. No matter who was on what team, what each team’s record was, it was all about Rice and CC, the match-up took on a life of its own.”

After all these years the rivalry remains fresh and as exciting as ever for him.

“The game always fires you up and gives you motivation, whether you’re a player, a coach or a fan,” Sofran said.

While admitting stepping into the head-coaching chair this year and joining the rivalry in a new capacity is incredibly special to him personally, Sofran is humble in assessing its overall meaning.

“Things aren’t changing really,” he said. “Whoever’s on the sideline, no matter what year it is, this game is always going to be a battle, it’s always going to be the biggest game of the regular season and hold the weight that it does. That will never change".

He appreciates the chance to continue being a part of it.

“Getting the opportunity to participate in this rivalry means so much, it’s just tremendous.”

Entering Friday latest edition of the rivalry, Brother Rice is 4-0 and ranked No. 1 in the state. Catholic Central, coming off three straight trips to the Division 1 state championship game, is 2-2.

Sofran played in the Brother Rice-CC game four times as a player in the early-to-mid 1990s. He played wide receiver as a sophomore (1993) and junior (1994) before going under center and starting at quarterback as a senior (1995). Following a college career at receiver spent in Boston at Northeastern University, Sofran returned to Metro Detroit in 2000 and came on board Fracassa’s staff as an assistant, eventually ascending to associate head coach prior to taking over the program last winter upon Fracassa’s retirement.

Fracassa coached for more than five decades, first at Royal Oak Shrine and then his final 45 seasons at Brother Rice, where he would go on to become the MHSAA’s all-time win-leader. He’ll be a spectator at the Brother Rice-CC game this week for the first time since 1968.