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Birmingham, Bloomfield Hills

Rice and Country Day football teams off to Ford Field for state finals

November 19, 2012

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Birmingham Brother Rice quarterback Alex Malzone rolls out during a regional final win. Rice will play in the D-2 final, set for 1 p.m. Nov. 23 at Ford Field against Muskegon High.

GIBRALTAR — In the history of Michigan high school football, he’s won more games than anyone else.

Seven times in his decades, he’s ended a season on top of the mountain, grasping a championship trophy while donning that charismatic smile.

He’s transformed the Birmingham Brother Rice program into one of the premier powers in the country.

But Al Fracassa has never won consecutive state titles.

He has that chance now.

“It’s hard to express,” Fracassa said when asked what it means to play for a second straight championship this fall. Rice earned a spot in the Division 2 final after beating Wyandotte Roosevelt 31-3 Nov. 17 at Gibraltar Carlson. “I’ve never (won) two straight years, so this would be something special.”

On the field
The Warriors (11-2) got it going early against Wyandotte.

Cheyne Lacanaria hit Sergio Perkovic with a 29-yard touchdown strike four minutes into the first quarter, and then shortly after the defense forced a turnover, Shon Powell scored on an 18-yard run to give Rice a 14-0 lead in the second quarter.

The teams traded field goals before the half, and leading 17-3, Rice never look back.

Alex Malzone hit Grant Perry with a 19-yard touchdown pass at the end of the third quarter, and Brian Walker scored on a 7-yard run with 1:45 remaining in the game to cap the scoring and punch Rice’s ticket to the final, set for 1 p.m. Nov. 23 at Ford Field against Muskegon High.

“This will set in pretty soon, the fact we’re going back there again,” senior linebacker Jon Reschke said of playing in another title game. “It’s going to be a great test. (Muskegon) runs a great option, and they have a ton of team speed, so we’re going to have to be ready.”

Asked what it would mean to get Fracassa his first back-to-back championship, Reschke just smiled.

“He’s the main reason we want to win this all,” Reschke said. “It’s not about us seniors, or the team or whatever. We want to get coach that back-to-back title.”

Whatever, or whoever, the guys dedicate the game to, it’s certainly not going to be easy.

Muskegon (12-1) is fresh off a 34-21 victory against Caledonia High in the semifinals.

The Big Reds’ lone loss was a 40-39 setback to Zeeland East in the final game of the regular season.

Muskegon’s averaging 37 points per game while allowing just 18 and has won each of its four playoff games by an average of two touchdowns.

The teams last met in Week 2 of the 2008 season, a 42-27 Muskegon win.

“We’re going to get back to work, have a good week of practice and get ready,” Fracassa said. “It’s going to be a great challenge, and we’re looking forward to it.”

No doubt about it
In a D-4 semifinal at Ortonville, Beverly Hills Detroit Country Day clinched a spot in the final with a convincing 38-0 win against Saginaw Swan Valley.

“I was surprised, I really was,” coach Dan MacLean said of the margin of victory. “We were geared up for a great battle, and the guys were ready to go. They were dialed in.”

The end result was nearly perfect, but the start couldn’t have been worse.

“We threw an interception on the first play of the game,” MacLean said with a laugh. “But our defense got the ball back on downs, stopped them on a big fourth-down conversion, and once the offense got rolling, it was our game.”

Running back Rich Wilson scored the game’s first touchdown on a 4-yard run with 5:08 remaining in the first quarter, and the route was on.

Country Day added two more touchdowns in the second and third quarters, and then got the final score with a field goal early in the fourth.

Wilson finished with 81 yards on seven carries and four touchdowns.

The Jackets (11-2) are now prepping for Grand Rapids South Christian (10-3) in a 7:30 p.m. Nov. 23 championship game.

“We’re excited,” said MacLean, whose Country Day team has reached the final for the first time since losing consecutive championship games in 2007 and 2008. “This is such a hard-working team, a group of guys that has earned everything they’ve gotten. We don’t know too much about South Christian at all right now, but you have to assume they are a good team.”

If you can’t make this weekend’s finals, Mike Moore will be providing live updates via Twitter. Follow him @CandGMike.

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