BirminghamNovember 29, 2013
Fracassa goes out on top as Brother Rice claims third consecutive Division 2 state title
By Mike Moore
Rice's Shon Powell carries the ball during the first half of Friday's D-2 final. Powell and the Warriors beat Muskegon High for the second straight year and won the program's third straight D-2 title.
DETROIT — Longevity set him apart.
Success defined him.
And, in a way that was beyond fitting, Al Fracassa went out on top.
On Friday afternoon in Detroit, the winningest coach in MHSAA history closed the curtain on his legendary career, taking his final bow at Ford Field while his Birmingham Brother Rice football team claimed its third consecutive Division 2 state championship, beating Muskegon High 38-21.
“I can’t believe it,” Fracassa said about winning his final game. “I hoped I had one more. … But this was a great year, a great three years.”
The same two teams met in last year’s final, which featured five touchdowns in the fourth quarter of a 35-28 Rice win.
A year later, not much had changed.
The teams traded offensive punches as soon as the game began, combining for four first-quarter touchdowns.
Rice’s Damaris Woods hauled in a 16-yard pass from Alex Malzone to put the Warriors up 7-0 less than three minutes into regulation.
After Muskegon tied the game on the ensuing possession, Grant Perry made a one-handed, highlight-reel catch for a 34-yard touchdown and a 14-7 Rice lead.
Again, Muskegon countered with a score of its own with 1:09 remaining in the opening quarter to tie the game at 14-14.
“In that first half, it was we scored, they scored,” Fracassa said with a laugh. “We didn't know what was going on. We have a tremendous defensive unit out there and we settled down and made adjustments at halftime. We did a pretty good job.”
Neither team punted until Rice was forced to kick one away with 8:20 remaining in the first half, but it was Perry striking again that proved to be the difference.
Malzone, who completed his first nine passes, and 13 out of 15 in the first half, hooked up with Perry on an 18-yard strike to give the Warriors a 21-14 lead with just 1:07 remaining in the second quarter.
Rice never looked back.
After a scoreless third, Jason Allesi nailed a 36-yard field goal to begin the fourth, and following a Muskegon fumble, Corey Lacanaria caight a 21-yard touchdown pass just a couple minutes later.
Malzone capped Rice’s scoring with 4:33 remaining in the fourth, converting a fake field goal with a 24-yard rush.
“I knew I had great receivers going into the game and the offensive line blocked great,” said Malzon. He finished the game 20-of-24 passing for 263 yards and four touchdowns. “They blitz a lot, but the offensive line picked them up. The receivers stepped up and made some big plays. We wanted to spread the ball around and obviously it worked. We had a great day offensively.”
Muskegon’s Justin Foster scored on an 84-yard pass reception from Deshaun Thrower with 3:30 remaining.
Brian Walker led Rice’s rushing attack with 66 yards on 14 carries.
Lacanaria had 10 catches for 125 yards and a touchdown, while Perry hauled in five passes for 91 yards and two scores.
Fracassa, who is retiring after 45 seasons with Rice, earned his ninth state championship in the current playoff era.
"I wish I was younger and could coach some more," he said, smiling. "When you love something this much, it's tough to leave it."
This marked the first time since 1983 that Rice won a state championship with an undefeated season.