Birmingham Brother Rice’s Navin Abro (20) eludes the tackle of Detroit U-D Jesuit’s Patrick Dery during the fourth quarter of their Division 2 regional game played on Saturday at Hurley Field in Berkley. Brother Rice won the game, 41-14. (For The Oakland Press/KEN SWART)
FOOTBALL: Brother Rice advances to Division 2 semifinals with win over U-D Jesuit WITH TOUT VIDEOS
Brother Rice wide receiver Patrick Sparks (81) makes a finger tip catch in front of U-D Jesuit’s Patrick Dery (32) during the second quarter Saturday. (For The Oakland Press/KEN SWART)
Brother Rice running back Shon Powell (2) gets brought down by Jesuit's Parris Bennett during the third quarter Saturday. (Special to the Oakland Press/KEN SWART)
Detroit U-D Jesuit's Sheldon Doss (14) makes a catch in front of Brother Rice's Joe Plaskey (center) and Shaun Jones Jr. (8) during the first quarter Saturday. The Cubs lost to the Warriors, 41-14. (For The Oakland Press/KEN SWART)
BERKLEY — Birmingham Brother Rice has no shortage of offensive weapons at its disposal. That much has been clear all season long. But in Saturday's Division 2 regional final game against Detroit U-D Jesuit, it could be argued that the Warriors' offense benefitted most of all from the team's defense.
That vaunted Brother Rice defense made a habit of stopping U-D Jesuit deep in its own territory in order to hand the Warriors' offense the ball with excellent field position and short distances to navigate for points early and often.
In the end, Brother Rice (12-0) came away with a convincing 41-14 win over the Cubs to advance to the state semifinals next Saturday against Detroit Martin Luther King.
"We scored 31 points (in the first half) against a pretty good team," Warriors coach Al Fracassa said. "We can throw the ball, run the ball and play a little bit of good defense. We'll see what happens next week against (King)."
Brother Rice's defense collected six sacks, two interceptions and a fumble recovery overall. U-D Jesuit was forced into a pair of three-and-out drives to open the game, which positioned the Warriors in Cubs territory from the get-go.
Senior running back Brian Walker, who was out of action in the Warriors' district final game a week ago, scored the first touchdown of the game on a 3-yard run with less than four minutes off the clock.
"He's a load. We hope that he can stay healthy for the rest of the season and see if we can score more points," Fracassa said of Walker, who finished with 105 yards on just 12 carries.
After getting the ball back, junior quarterback Alex Malzone wasted no time finding wideout Corey Lacanaria streaking down the field for a 45-yard pitch-and-catch touchdown for a one-play scoring drive that made it 14-0.
Second-quarter interceptions by Charlie Gleeson and Jack Grisan positioned the Warriors deep in Cubs territory two additional times, which helped extend the Brother Rice halftime lead to 31-0.
"I've got four really good defensive coaches that do a heck of a job preparing," Fracassa said in praise of the defensive effort. "When you have a defense and an offense, and you don't have very many guys going both ways, that's really an advantage that we have."
Malzone doubled his efforts in the second quarter with touchdown strikes to both Patrick Sparks and Grant Perry, who were among six different players to catch a first-half pass for the Warriors.
Malzone was mostly kept to the sideline during the second half, but totaled 180 yards passing, completing 13-of-18 passes.
Jason Alessi drilled field goals of 30 and 43 yards to build Brother Rice's lead to 34-0 before U-D Jesuit was able to break through with a pair of late touchdowns.
Damon Wright and Nick Walker each hauled in a scoring reception of 20 and 58 yards, respectively, in the fourth quarter, but it was too little, too late by that point for the Cubs.
U-D Jesuit, which qualified for the playoffs this season for the first time in a dozen years, concludes the season at 7-5. Quarterback Ryan Brand finished the game with over 200 yards passing and two touchdowns.
Next Saturday's clash between Brother Rice and King will be a rematch of the 2011 Division 2 semifinals, which came down to the wire before the Warriors eventually pulled the game out late.
BIRMINGHAM BROTHER RICE 41, DETROIT U-D JESUIT 14
UD 0 0 0 14 — 14
BR 14 17 0 10 — 42
BR — Brian Walker 3 run (Jason Alessi kick)
BR — Corey Lacanaria 45 pass from Alex Malzone (Alessi kick)
BR — Patrick Sparks 7 pass from Malzone (Alessi kick)
BR — Alessi 30 field goal
BR — Grant Perry 4 pass from Malzone (Alessi kick)
BR — Alessi 43 field goal
UD — Damon Wright 20 pass from Ryan Brand (Thomas Forester kick)
UD — Nick Walker 58 pass from Brand (Forester kick)
BR — Walker 56 run (Alessi kick)
RECORDS — Brother Rice 12-0; U-D Jesuit 7-5