Birmingham Brother Rice running back Brian Walker (28), the team’s top scorer, will look to lead the Warriors to back-to-back titles Friday against Muskegon. (The Oakland Press file photo/VAUGHN GURGANIAN)
FOOTBALL FINALS: Brother Rice looking for first repeat state title in school history
BIRMINGHAM — It’s not going to be easy.
They know that for sure.
But if they succeed, the reward is as sweet as possible.
The storied Birmingham Brother Rice Warriors football team is going for its first-ever repeat state championship on Friday at 1 p.m. in the Division 2 state finals down at Ford Field.
Their opponent: A primed and potent Muskegon Big Red squad.
“That’s a pretty talented team we’re about to face,” said legendary Warriors head coach Al Fracassa of the pending match-up. “We’re preparing for the battle of our lives and I’m sure they are, too.”
Fracassa and Brother Rice are seeking their ninth overall state title.
“It would be an excellent achievement for these young men and a tribute to their ability, dedication and focus,” said Fracassa on the prospect of claiming back-to-back state championships.
Muskegon is hoping to raise its fourth state championship banner in the past eight years and 18th overall. The Big Red last won a state crown in 2008.
“We have nothing but tons of respect for those guys out on the other side of the state,” said Fracassa of his opponents. “They’ve got lots of great players and a lot of great coaches, but we think we have a few ourselves, too”
As Fracassa mentioned, Friday’s state title tilt will be filled to the brim with playmakers on both sidelines.
Seniors Jalen Smith and John King lead Muskegon’s assault, with Smith being one of the top dual-threat quarterbacks in the state and King rushing for over 1,500 yards and 17 touchdowns so far this season.
The explosive junior tailback tandem of Brian Walker and Shon Powell paired with a defensive unit that is stout as they come fuels the Brother Rice attack. Walker just broke the program’s single-season touchdown record (21) on the ground and tied for the overall lead (22) with current Illinois running back Devin Church, the MVP of last season’s state-title team.
The Warriors’ coaching staff is also confusing their opponents in the playoffs this year by switching up quarterbacks periodically throughout games, mixing it up between second-year starter Cheyne Lacanaria and sophomore back-up Alex Malzone, a fast-riser under center with a cannon of an arm. Both Brother Rice field generals have thrown touchdown passes in the last two Warriors’ victories.
Orchard Lake St. Mary’s — playing for a Division 3 state championship on Saturday — is the one common opponent for Brother Rice and Muskegon, as Brother Rice fell to the Eaglets in a mid-season clash and Muskegon downed St. Mary’s in the season opener.