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August 27, 2014

Catholic League Clash: Brother Rice takes on Brother Rice in season opener

By Mike Moore
C & G Sports Writer

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Dave Sofran begins his Brother Rice head coaching career Saturday against Chicago Brother Rice at Wayne State University.

BIRMINGHAM — Dave Sofran is just days away from making his head coaching debut at Brother Rice.

And, fittingly, when he takes the field at Wayne State University Saturday afternoon, the first-year head coach will be taking on — Brother Rice.

“I’m looking forward to it,” Sofran said of the 2 p.m. tilt with Chicago Brother Rice. Sofran was hired to replace Al Fracassa this winter after the winningest coach in MHSAA history retired following 45 seasons at Rice. “We expect a great game. It’s a great venue against what we expect to be a good team.”

The Warriors enter the opener ridding a 22-game winning streak (14-0 last year), and begin the season as the three-time defending state champ in Division 2.

Much has changed since last year, though, not just the coach.

In total, only eight starters returned to Rice this fall from the team that capped its perfect season at Ford Field last November.

Some key contributors — quarterback Alex Malzone, receiver Grant Perry — are back, but plenty of first-year starters are now expected to shoulder the load.

On top of that, the Warriors' opponent in Week 1 is a Brother Rice squad with 15 returning starters and is ranked in the top 10 of Chicago area teams.

“They run a lot of spread formations, kind of similar to (the University of Detroit Jesuit) where we have to prepare for about 50 different formations,” Sofran said. “We have to play our base defense and kind of take what they give us.”

Malzone, a University of Michigan-bound senior, is expected to lead what should be a high-powered offense once again.

Sofran said he hopes to exploit the Crusaders’ aggressiveness on the defensive side of the ball.

“They play a lot of man to man, and they blitz a lot,” he explained. “That’s something we think we can take advantage of when they don’t have a deep safety. We hope to attack the middle of the field.”

But, with so many new starters on offense, Sofran also said there will be a need to keep things relatively simple in the first week of the season.

“We’ve talked with the kids about running the base, bread-and-butter plays, until they stop us,” Sofran said. “Once they stop us, then we will adjust. We’re going to keep things simple and attack with what we do best.”

The Chicago squad was 3-6 a year ago, but Sofran isn’t putting any stock in that at all.

“They are going to come in feeling like an underdog, feeling optimistic,” he said. “The key is being able to meet and surpass their intensity.”

The one big advantage Sofran, his players and fans will have, though, is the roughly 45-minute drive to Wayne State.

“We’ve played there before, and we’re comfortable there,” he said. “I think that helps. (Chicago Brother Rice) is the team that has to travel nearly five hours for this.”

You can reach C & G Sports Writer Mike Moore at mmoore@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1038. Twitter Follow Mike on Twitter.