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FOOTBALL: Brother Rice, St. Mary's and CC all punch tickets back to final four for second consecutive season

   | Scott Burnstein

FOOTBALL: Brother Rice, St. Mary's and CC all punch tickets back to final four for second consecutive season

Fans of Catholic League football are having some de je vu right about now.

Following a trio of resounding victories in regionals over the weekend, CHSL Central Division superpowers Birmingham Brother Rice, Orchard Lake St. Mary’s and Novi Detroit Catholic Central all advanced into the final four for the second straight year.

Brother Rice (10-2) and St. Mary’s (11-1) are defending state champions in Divisions 2 and 3 respectively and Catholic Central (8-4) made it all the way into the Division 1 state finals last season before being upset by Detroit Cass Tech.

On Friday night, Brother Rice went on the road and walloped Walled Lake Western 42-12, while Catholic Central topped Plymouth 28-7 and St. Mary’s ran past Detroit East English Village Prep 42-26 on Saturday afternoon.

All the squads raised a second regional-title banner in a row on the shoulders of prolific rushing attacks.

The three-headed monster of a backfield at Brother Rice made up of junior tailbacks Shon Powell and Brian Walker and senior fullback Greg Marzec carried the Warriors to the win, totaling over 300 yards rushing the football against Western. Powell went for a career-high 144 yards and two touchdowns on just 11 carries and Walker posted 92 yards and two touchdowns, giving him 20 for the season, tying a single-season school record for scores on the ground.  Marzec, like Powell, recorded a career-high in yardage, picking up 132 yards on only 10 carries.

"Things are going real well for us right now," legendary Brother Rice head coach Al Fracassa said. "We're playing fundamentally-sound and running the football very effectively."

Catholic Central also amassed more than 300 rushing yards, using a trifecta of grass-chewing backs to befuddle and bewilder the Plymouth defense. Jumping in front 14-0 at the break, the Shamrocks delivered the knockout blow in the second half, quelling a would-be rally by their opponents.

Senior Anthony Darkangelo tallied 130 yards and had a 70-yard touchdown scamper in the first half, igniting Catholic Central’s potent assault. Fullback David Houle plunged over the goal line from a yard out in the third quarter to give the Shamrocks some breathing room at 21-7. After Catholic Central junior slot back Zach Bock jetted into the end zone from 20 yards out, it was all she wrote.

Garrett Moores, the Shamrocks’ senior signal-caller got in on the action as well, rushing for 101 yards and scoring on a 55-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. His 60-yard connection with junior tight end Dylan Roney set up Bock’s game-clinching score.

St. Mary’s corralled its ninth regional crown in the past 13 years by unleashing the dogged and decimating duo of seniors Grant Niemiec and Parker McInnis. Niemiec and McInnis both scored three touchdowns apiece. McInnis recorded a game-high 136 yards on 23 totes and Niemiec, his first-cousin and best friend, combined for over 150 total yards from scrimmage, including coming up with a key 50-yard reception that led to McInnis' first score of the day.

In this week's state semifinals, Brother Rice faces Wyandotte Roosevelt, Catholic Central takes on Rockford and St. Mary’s grapples with Battle Creek Harper Creek in a rematch of a final-four thriller last season.

This is St. Mary's fifth appearance in the state semifinals in the past six years and Catholic Central's third appearance in the last four campaigns.

Although Fracassa and Brother Rice have won eight overall state championships, the Warriors have never captured back-to-back crowns, an opportunity they remain in the hunt for this fall.

"We'll enjoy this win in the regional tonight and then go back to practice and start preparing like we know how to for our next game tomorrow," Fracassa said. "Whenever you get a chance to play another week of football this time of yeat, you know it's going to be a great week."