DETROIT — In a rematch of a game earlier this season in which Brother Rice defeated Catholic Central in the closing seconds, the Warriors left no doubt this time by convincingly controlling the Shamrocks to win 20-7 and claim the Catholic League (A-B) championship at Ford Field Oct. 26.
As a bonus, Rice coach Al Fracassa will now be retiring from the Rice program with the Warriors having a one-game advantage in the series against Catholic Central with a 29-28-1 record against the Shamrocks.
“I don’t keep track, but that’s a nice thing to keep track of,” Fracassa said of the series with Catholic Central. “I’m leaving the profession, and I’ll be happy to think about it when I get home.”
It took until the second half for the scoreboard to reflect the dominance displayed by the Warriors. After holding Catholic Central to 12 yards in the first half while maintaining possession for 18:30, Rice could only manage a 3-0 lead heading into the locker room due to a turnover on downs and an interception deep in Catholic Central territory.
Late in the third quarter, while Rice’s defense remained stifling, the offense was able to convert by scoring two touchdowns in a 16 second span.
Senior Brian Walker scored on a 36-yard touchdown run to give Rice a 10-0 lead. Walker finished the game with 56 yards on 10 carries while backfield mate Shon Powell added 57 yards on 13 carries.
Rice’s Charles Gleeson recovered a Catholic Central fumble on the second play of the ensuing possession to give the Warriors possession at the Shamrocks’ 21-yard line.
On the very next play, junior quarterback Alex Malzone hit Corey Lacanaria for a 21-yard touchdown to put Rice ahead 17-0 just after the start of the fourth quarter.
Malzone finished the game with 165 yards passing as the aerial attack was sparked by the return of Lacanaria, who was out of the lineup for the last three weeks with an injury.
“Corey (Lacanaria) is a fantastic receiver. He’s got a knack of getting it out in the open, and he showed that tonight a couple of times, and I’m glad to have him back,” Fracassa said.
Lacanaria had five receptions for 74 yards, while receiver Grant Perry added five catches for 76 yards for the Warriors.
Catholic Central got on the board with 3:53 left in the game when Sean Birney connected with Nicholas Cococetta on a 6-yard touchdown pass. Rice held the Shamrocks to 61 yards rushing on 25 carries.
“I think they just ended up wearing us out. The offense didn’t help them too much to take some of the pressure off of our defense,” Catholic Central coach Tom Mach said. “We didn’t do a whole lot in the rushing game, which we usually do. They were handling us pretty good up front.”
Catholic Central did have success in pressuring Malzone, sacking the Rice quarterback five times. To combat that, Rice used an efficient, quick-striking pass attack that proved to be very effective.
“Our offensive line really had to work to keep those big guys out of there today,” Fracassa said. “If you have a passer that can throw the ball quickly and have some receivers, I think you have to use them. They’re like weapons.”
Shaun Jones led the Warriors’ defense with eight tackles and a forced fumble. Rice’s defense also collected five sacks while holding Catholic Central to 110 total yards.
Jason Alessi connected on two field goal tries for Rice, first from 32 yards then on a 39-yarder in the fourth quarter.
Both teams will play in the first round of the MHSAA playoffs beginning this upcoming weekend.
Rice takes on Birmingham Groves (7-2) at 7 p.m. Nov 1 at Hurley Field. Catholic Central takes on Northville High at 7 p.m. Nov. 1 at Hillside Middle School in Northville.
In other local prep playoff news:
Birmingham Seahom hosts Southfield High; no time and date were available at press time.
Country Day hosts Clawson High at 7 p.m. Nov. 1.