Birmingham Brother Rice earned its second consecutive trip to the state title game on Saturday with a 31-3 win against Wyandotte Roosevelt in the MHSAA Division 2 state semifinal game at Gibraltar Carlson High School.
The Warriors (11-2) will play Muskegon on Nov. 23 at Ford Field and will be vying for their second consecutive state title, and eighth in school history.
Leading the way for the defending state champions on Saturday were running backs Shon Powell and Brian Walker, who combined for nearly 200 yards on the ground and two rushing touchdowns.
Powell said he is excited about the opportunity to play at Ford Field, which is something he has been striving for since he played Little League football in the Detroit Police Athletic League.
“I’m looking forward it,” Powell said. “I never actually played there. I’ve been on the field last year as a JV kid, but I never actually got to play down there. I played in PAL when I was little and we always tried to make it there, and never made it. To finally make it, it’s going to be great.”
The Warriors got on the board first in the semifinal matchup against Wyandotte, as quarterback Cheyne Lacanaria hit Sergio Perkovic with a 29-yard touchdown pass early in the first quarter. Kicker Jason Alessi hit the extra point and Brother Rice went up 7-0. Alessi made all four of his attempts on Saturday.
Wyandotte was able to stop the Warriors on their next drive, as Devan Stewart and Kyle Matejko each came up with big hits during the stand. A holding penalty called against Brother Rice slowed the team down, as well.
In the second quarter, the Bears were driving on offense and had reached midfield, but a busted running play in their backfield resulted in a fumble recovery for the Warriors.
Brother Rice quickly converted the turnover into seven points with a drive that was capped by an 18-yard touchdown run from Powell.
Starting on its own 20 after the kickoff, Roosevelt moved about 60 yards down the field and set up kicker Jacob Simpson for a 39-yard field goal, with only 13 seconds left in the half.
Although little time remained, the Warriors were not content to just run out the clock and take their 14-3 lead to the locker room.
Brother Rice’s Brian Walker was back deep for Simpson’s kickoff and promptly took it 63 yards to the Wyandotte 19-yard line. With only a second left on the clock, Alessi lined up and hit a 36-yard field goal, giving his team a 17-3 lead at half time.
A third-quarter punt by Stewart, who was kicking out of the Bears’ end zone, hooked right and sailed out of bounds deep in Wyandotte territory.
Brother Rice took advantage of the short field and quickly grabbed a 24-3 lead, as quarterback Alex Malzone capped a short drive with a touchdown pass to Grant Perry.
The Warriors continued to shut down Roosevelt’s offense in the fourth quarter and forced the team to punt the ball away twice.
With 1:45 left in the game Brother Rice piled on seven more points, as Walker ran in a touchdown from seven yards out and extended the Warriors lead to 31-3.
With the victory, it marks the first time Brother Rice is making back-to-back trips to the championship game. For head coach Al Fracassa, who has been at the helm for 44 years, its something he can add to his long list of accomplishments.
“It’s kind of hard to express, it’s just a wonderful feeling,” said Fracassa of earning a second consecutive trip to the state finals. “(We’ve) never been there before like that, two years in a row, so we’re going to do our best to see if we can finish the season. We know we’re going to have a tough opponent.”
Walker piled up 159 all-purpose yards and scored one rushing touchdown. Powell gained 105 yards on the ground and also scored one rushing touchdown.
Quarterbacks Lacanaria and Malzone combined for 59 yards passing and each threw a touchdown. Defensively, Christopher Carter led the team in tackles with 13.