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FOOTBALL: CHSL Central Update - St. Mary's reserves date in Prep Bowl, Brother Rice stays in the chase

   | Scott Burnstein

FOOTBALL: CHSL Central Update - St. Mary's reserves date in Prep Bowl, Brother Rice stays in the chase

Week 7 of the prep football season in the rough-and-rugged Catholic League Central Division saw Orchard Lake St. Mary’s sew up a reservation in the annual Prep Bowl and Birmingham Brother Rice stay alive in its quest to earn a rematch with the Eaglets and play for a CHSL title down at Ford Field on October 20.

The state’s No. 1 team in Division 3, St. Mary’s took to the road and rampaged past Warren De La Salle 35-0, running its overall record to 6-1, an unblemished 3-0 in the CHSL Central.

On the heels of a 24-14 Week 6 loss at the hands of the Eaglets, Brother Rice rallied late to top arch-rival Novi Detroit Catholic Central 20-14 in front of a packed house at Hurley Field in Berkley and push its record to 5-2, 3-1 in CHSL play.                                                                                                

If St. Mary’s beats Catholic Central next week, Brother Rice will await the Eaglets in the Prep Bowl. If Catholic Central wins, the Shamrocks will get a chance to defend their crown and go for a repeat CHSL Central championship banner.

George Porritt, St. Mary’s longtime head coach, is happy with his team punching its ticket to Ford Field and the CHSL title tilt, however, doesn’t want his squad to get complacent.

“We can’t quit on each other, we can't let up," he said. "We’ve got to keep going at it, keep competing and challenging ourselves these next few weeks.”

Senior running back Grant Niemiec ran for 145 yards and two touchdowns to lead St. Mary’s offense. Junior Parker McInnis, Niemiec’s backfield mate and first-cousin, caught a 13-yard scoring pass from senior quarterback Matt Linehan and reserve tailbacks Charles Croone and Jeff Robinson also found their ways into the end zone against a porous Pilots’ defense.

The Eaglets defense kept making a strong case for itself as being the best in the state, as they spun their second shutout of the fall. Stingy as the come, St. Mary’s defensive unit is averaging allowing a paltry 7.5 points per contest.

Unlike the Eaglets, who were cruising from the opening kickoff, Brother Rice needed some late-game magic to overcome a potent Catholic Central attack. That magic came from junior running back Brian Walker and the Warriors defense, a unit led by all-state senior middle linebacker Jonny Reschke.

Walker ran for 198 yards on 28 carries and punched in a 4-yard touchdown run with just over five minutes left to play to provide Brother Rice its first lead of the passionate prep gridiron affair, 17-14.

The Warriors, ranked No. 4 in the state in Division 2, were behind 14-3 at the break, yet made the proper adjustments and controlled play on both sides of the ball in the second half.

Reschke, committed to Michigan State, recorded a game-high 10 tackles and made an interception with three and half minutes remaining that proved the play of the game. The pick by Reschke led to a 25-yard field goal by junior Jason Alessi, who then put the game on ice during the Shamrocks’ final possession from his position in the Brother Rice secondary, deflecting a Catholic Central’s pass on fourth down at the Warriors’ 10-yard line in the closing seconds.

“This was my last game against CC and I wasn’t going to let us come out of it with a loss,” Reschke said. “We started a little slow, but got things turned around and finished with a lot of momentum.” 

Both Brother Rice and St. Mary’s are defending state champions.

St. Mary’s has advanced into the state finals in four of the past five years. The last time the Eaglets won a CHSL title was in 2005. The last time Brother Rice grabbed a Catholic League championship was two years ago in 2010.