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Birmingham Brother Rice quarterback Alex Malzone, a junior, has emerged as one of the state's best passers this season. [Special to The Oakland Press/LARRY McKEE]


FOOTBALL: Malzone, resurgent passing attack propelling Brother Rice's prolific offense

Once a run-oriented team, Birmingham Brother Rice has taken on a different look this season with Alex Malzone at quarterback en route to another Division 2 title game appearance.

This season, Alex Malzone (12) has thrown for over 2,500 yards and 21 touchdowns for the Warriors. [Oakland Press file photo/JOSE JUAREZ]

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BIRMINGHAM In the current landscape of high school football, the variety of new offensive systems that coaches can choose to employ has seemingly found no end.

From read-option or shotgun spread schemes to a variety of veer, Wing-T or wishbone formations, the sport is riddled with inventive and often unconventional methods devised to score, with rushing attacks typically ruling the day.

And it is for that reason Birmingham Brother Rice quarterback Alex Malzone has found himself in what seems to be an ever-shrinking group of pro-style, pocket-passers playing at this level that carve up defenses almost exclusively with their arm, rather than their legs.

The junior signal caller has truly emerged this fall since taking over the full-time reigns of the offense. With his strong arm and a great eye for reading defenses, Malzone has played a prominent role in navigating the still-unbeaten Warriors back to Friday's Division 2 state title game against Muskegon.

"I think this year I've definitely become a leader on this team and obviously my skill set improved," Malzone said. "All of the players around me have helped out, as well as the coaches. I'm surrounded by good running backs and receivers. We've put together a great offense. We have one game left and hopefully it will be our best game."

The Warriors' fairly-traditional offense, which has been tailored to take advantage of Malzone's talents and his wealth of capable receiving options, has been humming right along all season, averaging over 34 points per game.

To better suit the capabilities of their top offensive players, Brother Rice coach Al Fracassa and his staff have slowly brought balance to the play-calling, deviating from the run-heavy system that amassed over 3,300 yards on the ground in 2011.

"Coaches are a little bit afraid to pull the trigger with me running the ball to keep me healthy, which I don't have a problem with," Malzone said. "(My style) fits the Brother Rice offense."

In 2012, as a sophomore, Malzone steadily grew accustomed to the complexities of the varsity offense and earned playing time by season's end coming off the bench. During the Warriors' run through the playoffs last year, he took turns under center, often alternating drives with incumbent starter Cheyne Lacanaria, and displaying poise and accuracy, particularly on deep passes downfield.

"He played quarterback for the junior varsity and I liked him when I saw him there," Fracassa said of his first impressions of Malzone when he was a freshman. "He came to a quarterback camp that I have and he improved an awful lot. He's a third baseman on the baseball team and he's got a good arm, so I said, 'Hey, maybe this guy can throw faster and harder.' He improved in that department."

Malzone completed 77 percent of his attempts in limited action as a sophomore, throwing six touchdown passes, zero interceptions, and raising plenty of eyebrows in anticipation of what could be in store for the future.

With over 2,500 passing yards and 21 touchdowns tosses this season, Malzone has also garnered expanded interest from Division 1 colleges looking to recruit him.

"The big thing that has impressed me is how calm he is and how confident he is," said senior captain Sage Baltrusaitis, the Warriors' center. "He's not the quarterback to get in your face and scream at you, but when he has a problem, he's definitely going to talk to you about it. That's a big thing as a junior to be doing those things. He's definitely a leader on the team."

Chief among Malzone's talented bevy of receivers this season have been senior Corey Lacanaria (55 catches, 987 yards) and junior Grant Perry (52 catches, 771 yards), with Josh Flye, Patrick Sparks, Ty Kiafoulis and Damaris Woods also contributing.

"We're passing more than we did before," Fracassa said. "But when you've got a good quarterback and good receivers, you might as well."

Last Updated: 11/27/2013 2:54:51 AM EST

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