Catholic League Clash Week 2: Brother Rice looks to avoid third 0-2 start since 1991

By: Mike Moore | Online Only | Published September 2, 2015

 Quarterback John Tracy is pictured in practice. The offense managed just 20 points in a Week-1 loss in Chicago.

Quarterback John Tracy is pictured in practice. The offense managed just 20 points in a Week-1 loss in Chicago.

Photo by Donna Agusti

BIRMINGHAM — The state football playoffs officially begin Oct. 30 with pre-district action.

According to Dave Sofran, the unofficial launch of the postseason is Friday night for his Birmingham Bother Rice squad.

“Looking at the schedule we have coming up. To start the year 0-2 would be a huge mountain to climb,” Sofran said. “In my mind, this is a playoff game.”

Rice is set to take on Penn High from Mishawaka, Indiana, Friday night at 7 p.m. at Hurley Field in Berkley.

The Kingsmen come in boasting a 2-0 record and started the season ranked No. 3 in Class A.

The challenge is big enough for the Warriors, but made more desperate by last week’s 56-20 loss at Chicago Brother Rice in a game Sofran called “one of the worst losses we’ve ever had here.”

“(Chicago Brother Rice) did some good things, and we give them credit,” he explained. “But there wasn’t anything positive I took from that game that we did.”

And with a home date against Elkhart Central (Indiana) next week, and then Catholic League Central Division play set to begin Sept. 19 against Warren De La Salle, well, the Warriors are running out of mulligans.

“First of all, we have to know our assignments better,” Sofran said about Friday’s contest. “Secondly, our physical and mental toughness will be tested again, and hopefully, we can bounce back.”

Sofran said he scouted Penn last week and saw a team that dressed roughly 130 kids for a home game in front of more than 7,000 fans.

“They have a quarterback who’s 6 foot 5, 215 pounds, and a huge offensive and defensive line,” Sofran added. “They are big, strong and skilled, and if we don’t come ready to play, it could get ugly quickly.”

That was more of a warning than a prediction, though.

Sofran knows his guys, as young as they are, can be significantly better than they were on the road last week.

“Offensively, it’s things like not missing assignments, and having our playmakers step up and make plays,” he said. “Defensively, it has to be everything across the board — tackling, assignments. Following the scheme. It all has to be better.”

The second-year head coach then quickly referenced the 2003 season. Rice, coming off an 11-3 campaign and loss in the state finals in 2002, started the next season with a 44-7 loss to East Kentwood.

“It was an ugly game, one where everything went wrong,” Sofran recalled. “But the next week, we battled back, and by the end of the year we had clawed our way back to the state finals.”

He’s not looking that far down the road just yet, instead focusing on what’s directly in front of his team.

“I think to play at home helps,” he added. “Last week, going to Chicago, there were so many distractions. To have our home opener and get a fresh start, it may not be an advantage for us, but I think it helps our guys.”

The last two times Rice started a season 0-2 was 1991, when the team finished 9-4 and lost in the Class A state finals, and 2010, when the squad finished 6-4, falling in the opening round of the Division 2 state playoffs.

It’s hard, almost impossible, to envision a Brother Rice program that won three state titles in a row and owned a 33-game win streak before last year’s playoff loss to De La Salle, losing three games in a row now — but it’s a very real possibility. Keep in mind how young the Warriors are — six total returning starters — and how stacked Penn appears to be, and even playing at home may not be enough for Rice. If the Warriors keep it close early, things may change, but if the offense struggles again, and the defense fails at the 180 turnaround Sofran implied was needed, it could be a rough weekend and rough outlook at the rest of the 2015. My pick: Penn

Other Catholic League picks (winners in bold)
Warren De La Salle (0-1) vs. Windsor Cardinal Carter — 7 p.m. Sept. 4 at Wayne State

Harper Woods Chandler Park Academy (0-1) vs. Orchard Lake St. Mary’s (1-0) — 7 p.m. Sept. 4

Clarkston Everest Collegiate (1-0) vs. Royal Oak Shrine (1-0) — 7 p.m. Sept. 4

Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook-Kingswood (1-0) vs. Allen Park Cabrini (1-0) — 4 p.m. Sept. 3

Last week’s record: 1-0

Season record: 1-0