Playoff success continues for Catholic League teams in tourney

C&G Newspapers | Published November 8, 2012

As the field of 256 continues to dwindle, and as high school football teams and fans move one step closer to a date at Ford Field for the final eight games of the 2012 season, the Catholic League continues to be well represented.

Entering the district final weekend Nov. 2-3, four Catholic League teams from C & G’s coverage area were alive and well.

While Pontiac Notre Dame Prep had its season come to a close in a heartbreaking 14-12 loss to Beverly Hills Detroit Country Day, Birmingham Brother Rice, Orchard Lake St. Mary’s and Novi Detroit Catholic Central all moved on for a chance at a regional crown.

D-2 defense continues
Brother Rice kept its hopes of defending last year’s Division 2 title alive, rolling past Oxford High 38-6 in a district final at home Nov. 3.

“It was a very good day,” coach Al Fracassa said simply. “We started out real strong, played a good game and then ended well. I was very pleased with the way the guys played.”

Rice scored on its first drive of the game, used its rushing attack to build a 21-0 lead, and never looked back.

“We did some good things with our running game, with the way our offensive line played,” Fracassa said. “We sort of set the tone how we wanted to.”

The Warriors (9-2) rushed for 313 yards on the day.

The win sets Rice up with a date at Walled Lake Western (9-2) this coming weekend, with a trip to the semifinals on the line.

A date and time for the game were unavailable at press time.

“We haven’t seen very much of them, but we know they have some good players, some real good athletes,” Fracassa said.

The teams have played just twice before — a 55-0 playoff-opening win by Rice in 2004 and a 28-14 Rice win in the first week of the 2000 season.

“We work with them in our summer passing league, and we know they can throw the ball around,” Fracassa said. “It’s going to be a great challenge for us.”

D-3 title defense
St. Mary’s left little doubt in its D-3 district win against Auburn Hills Avondale at home. But the final score of 49-14 doesn’t tell the whole story.

“It was a close game, especially in the first half,” coach George Porritt said. “We made some big plays before halftime, and I think that was the difference.”

St. Mary’s (9-2) led 14-7 before a late interception and eventual touchdown pushed the lead to 21-7 at the break.

The Eaglets then scored on four consecutive possessions in the third quarter to cruise to victory.

“Our offensive line did a great job again,” Porritt said. “We did a great job controlling the line of scrimmage.”

Grant Niemiec rushed for 150 yards and three scores, while Parker McInnis rushed for 115 yards and two scores.

“It’s great to move on,” Porritt said. “We’re playing well right now, and now we get to play for a regional title.”

The Eaglets host Detroit East English (9-2) at 1 p.m. Nov. 10.

“They are a very powerful running team,” Porritt said. “They have some quick backs and a good offensive line that can push you back. If we are able to slow the run down, we’ll be all right. If not, it’s going to be a long day.”

They do belong
Just a few weeks ago, Catholic Central was a 5-4 football team not entirely sure it would even make the postseason.

A few weeks later, the Shamrocks are showing why they are so feared, even with a less-than-spectacular regular-season mark.

Catholic Central improved to 7-4 Nov. 2, rolling past Walled Lake Western 45-17 in a D-1 district final.

Last year’s D-1 runner-up trailed Western 10-3 early, but responded with five unanswered touchdowns and left little doubt as to who was moving on.

The Shamrocks will stay on the road this weekend, traveling to Plymouth High for a shot at a regional title.

Plymouth (9-2) snuck past Livonia Churchill 20-14 in its district final.

Plymouth beat Catholic Central 9-7 in a 2010 regional final.

Successful season closed
Notre Dame Prep was the lone local Catholic League team not to advance in the district-final round.

“Right now, it hurts. I mean, we’re at a point with this program where losing in this game is a disappointment,” Zimmerman said moments after a 14-12 setback to Country Day in a Nov. 3 D-4 district final at home. “But these guys have a lot to be proud of. We were supposed to be rebuilding this year, and here we are playing in this one.”

Prep trailed 14-0 late in the third quarter, but then seemed to take the game over.

Prep got a 10-yard touchdown run by quarterback Brenden Newvine with 10 seconds remaining in the third, but the ensuing extra point was blocked.

Prep, however, didn’t let up.

After some key defensive stops, the offense got the ball back with just under five minutes remaining and marched down the field, capping another solid drive with another Newvine touchdown run.

The two-point conversion was stopped, though, and Prep (9-2) failed to recover the on-side kick.

“This whole game was tough,” Zimmerman said. “We just couldn’t finish tonight when we had to. That’s what it came down to.”

The loss was hard to take, but looking toward the future, Zimmerman admitted things should only get better.

“We had a very young team this year, and those guys are going to have to build from this,” Zimmerman said. “Like I said, we were supposed to take a step back, but the guys rallied to put together what this season was. The goal now is to keep this going. Take what we did here and build from it.”