BirminghamNovember 26, 2013
Rice cruises past King, earns Coach Fracassa a shot at third straight title in final game
By Mike Moore
C & G Sports Writer
DETROIT — Had it been scripted, setting up a more perfect finale would have been tough.
The final year gave way to the final playoff journey, which has bowed to the final week.
And now, in a couple of days, the final game for Al Fracassa.
Since the year began, guys on the Birmingham Brother Rice football team have spoken about the desire, the need, to send Fracassa into retirement with another state title.
Few could have envisioned how perfectly the scenario would play out.
At 13-0, the Warriors are one win away from a third consecutive state championship, guaranteeing a spot in the Nov. 29 Division 2 final with a 43-20 victory against Detroit Martin Luther King in a semifinal from Wayne State University.
“We’ve talked all year about it, about winning one more for coach,” quarterback Alex Malzone said after he helped the Warriors to their 21st straight win, dating back to last year. “This is huge. To be going back to Ford Field and to have a chance to do everything we want to, it’s pretty cool.”
Rice left little doubt as to who the better team was on this cold, windy Saturday afternoon.
Coming into the game, the most points King (10-2) had allowed in a single contest all season was 20.
But here was Brain Walker, taking advantage of some interceptions from the defense, scoring four touchdowns in the first half.
Rice led 26-0 at the break.
“We wanted to get things going right away,” said Walker, who finished with 97 yards rushing on 16 carries and scored on runs of 7, 36, 2 and 27 yards. “We didn’t feel like anyone could stop us, and what we were doing was working.”
It worked all day.
Even when King battled back, clawing to within 26-8 just 38 seconds into the second half, Rice answered with a 12-yard pass from Malzone to Corey Lacanaria and a 33-8 lead.
King made it 33-14 late in the third, but Rice answered again when Malzone connected with Lacanaria on a 55-yard scoring strike early in the fourth, and then Jason Alessi nailed a 27-yard field goal to make it 43-14.
King scored its final touchdown on the last play of the game.
“It feels great,” Fracassa said of the win. “We’re excited and happy to get to keep playing again. And we’ll be in a warmer place next week.”
Rice will face Muskegon High at 1 p.m. at Ford Field in the D-2 final.
The same teams met a year ago, and Rice won a 35-28 decision that some called one of the best finals games ever.
Muskegon, which is 12-1, hasn’t lost a game since Sept. 20 and is averaging 36.5 points per game, allowing just 13 per contest.
The Big Reds beat Portage Central 41-35 in their semifinal.
Fracassa, who has a chance to complete an entire season undefeated and with a state title for the first time since the 1983 team went 12-0, was asked what it’s like to finally know this will be his final week on the job.
“I’m going to enjoy it,” he said. “Regardless of what happens, this has been a wonderful career. … I get to finish my career with three straight seasons of 14 games. That’s pretty special.”
“We’re going to go out and play this one for him,” Walker said. “We want to give him one more. We have to finish it off.”