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Oakland County, Orchard Lake

November 20, 2012

St. Mary's takes aim at second straight state title, Rice and Country Day also play for rings

By Mike Moore
C & G Sports Writer

» click to enlarge «
Parker McInnis and St. Mary's face Grand Rapids Christian in the D-3 final. The Eaglets are looking for back-to-back state championships.

ORCHARD LAKE — It’s getting pretty routine for the guys at Orchard Lake St. Mary’s to schedule a trip downtown for the season’s final weekend.

On Saturday night, the defending Division 3 champs will play in a state title game for the fourth straight year and fifth time since 2007.

“You have to look forward to it and enjoy these types of moments,” coach George Porritt said. “This is what you play for.”

St. Mary’s faces Grand Rapids Christian in the final at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 24.

Fresh off a 28-7 victory against Battle Creek Harper Creek in the semifinals, Porritt said his guys will likely be facing the best offense they’ve seen all year.

Grand Rapids’ numbers back up Porritt’s claim.

The Eagles are averaging 42.3 points per game in 2012, and in their four playoff victories, have scored 45, 68, 31 and 52, respectively.

“They are a quick-strike team that can score a lot,” Porritt said simply. “Their offense is explosive, as good as we’ve seen so far. They have multiple guys that can burn you, a crafty quarterback, some good backs and receivers who run strong routes and can catch just about anything.”

On the flip side of the explosiveness, though, Grand Rapids Christian may be facing the best defense its seen in 2012.

St. Mary’s is allowing just 11.7 points per game this fall, and in its four playoff wins, has given up 52 points — total.

“Still, the key for us is doing what we do best, and that’s controlling the ball and using our ground game,” Porritt said.

That’s worked all season for the guys in red and white.

In their semifinal win against Harper Creek, St. Mary’s rushed for nearly 300 yards, building a 21-0 lead late in the game before each team scored once in the final six minutes.

Grant Niemiec leads the way and will likely shoulder a good deal of the carries Saturday. The senior standout has rushed for 1,750 yards and 25 touchdowns this year, setting St, Mary’s program record for rushing yards in a single season.

Parker McInnis, who went for 128 yards on 19 carries and one score last weekend, will also be featured significantly in the Eaglets’ attack.

“If we can control the ball, we’re going to have a good shot,” Porritt said.

While there are few advantages to point to at this time of the year, Porritt hopes the experience factor his guys have entering the final weekend plays into things, even if only a little bit.

“I know our kids have a good idea of what the game is all about, just from being there so much the last few years,” he said. “As far as practice goes, and that day itself and the pregame and getting ready, I think our veteran guys are going to be able to help limit the distractions and keep everyone focused. Once the game starts, though, all those things go away. Then it’s just the chance to throw your best at your opponent and see what happens.”

In other local finals action:
Birmingham Brother Rice takes on Muskegon High at 1 p.m. Nov. 23 at Ford Field.

The defending D-2 champs are seeking the eighth state title in the coaching career of Al Fracassa, but the first back-to-back title in his legendary career.

“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 in the semifinals.

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

Meanwhile, in the D-4 final, Beverly Hills Detroit Country Day faces Grand Rapids South Christian in a 7:30 p.m. final Nov. 23.

The Yellowjackets are in the finals for the first time since losing consecutive championship games in 2007 and 2008.

If you can’t make it to Ford Field for the D-2, D-3 or D-4 championship games, Mike Moore will be providing live updates via Twitter. Follow him @CandGMike.

Game reports and pictures for all three of C & G’s local teams will be posted shortly after each contest.

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