Legendary Brother Rice High School football coach Al Fracassa has seen his share of amazing finishes among the 400-plus career victories in his illustrious career. But even he left Ford Field impressed Friday by his team's 35-28 win in stunning fashion over Muskegon.
“It was an extremely exciting playoff run and an unbelievable season, but this state championship game takes the cake,” said a beaming Fracassa in the post-game press conference. “I never thought this thing was going to end.”
Though the Warriors played solid throughout the game, the team's second straight Division title was in doubt until the very end. And it didn't even seem probable until senior Jason Alessi took a lateral pass on a kickoff return and scampered 91 yards to break a 28-28 tie with just 2:31 remaining.
The memorable score clinched Brother Rice's first repeat state championship in the Warriors brilliant history.
In the post game press conference, Alessi said Brother Rice was going to try the trick kickoff play earlier in the game but stayed with the safer returns. “It’s go big or go home. There was a huge risk and a huge reward,” an excited Alessi said.
The offensive fireworks in the 4th quarter saw three touchdowns between Brother Rice and Muskegon in a short span of 2:16 which had the Ford Field crowd buzzing.
The score was tied at 21 with 4:22 to play when Brother Rice pulled a flea flicker from their 23 yard line. Quarterback Alex Malzone handed the ball off the running back Brian Walker. Walked turned and flipped the ball back to Malzone who then hit wide receiver Corey Lacanaria with a 77 yard touchdown pass.
Muskegon came right back as Deshaun Thrower connected on a 51 yard touchdown pass to Keondre Craig to tie the score at 28 with 2:31 remaining. Coach Fracassa made the gutsy cross field backwards pass call as Jason Alessi scored on the dazzling 91 yard kick off return.
Brother Rice finished the season 12-2 in one of Fracassa's strongest finishes during his 44 years on the sidelines. He told reporters he still hasn't decided on coming back next year to improve on the 372 career victories for the Warriors.