FARMINGTON HILLS – It was clear from the minute the teams stepped on the field Saturday night that Brother Rice hadn’t forgotten about its loss in pre-districts to Harrison last season.
Revenge helped motivate the Warriors to a stunning 30-7 win over the defending Division 2 state champions in the district finals.
“That was a tough one last year,” Brother Rice head coach Al Fracassa said. “I think I got up every day thinking about that game for the last year. It was kind of nice that we won tonight.”
Last season, the Warriors had a five-point lead heading into the final two minutes of the game. The Hawks came back by returning two turnovers for touchdowns and escaping with a 37-27 win.
This week at practice, the players talked about the devastating loss quite a bit.
“Every day (we talked about it),” running back Devin Church said. “That was our motivation, the theme was revenge.”
Church, who played in the game last season, was one of the reasons the Warriors (7-4) were able to get revenge. The senior rushed for more than 150 yards on 30-plus carries and two touchdowns.
Church also picked up a key first down on a fourth-and-one in the third quarter. Church ran a toss 11 yards down to the Harrison 4-yard line. The first down helped set up a 5-yard touchdown run from fellow running back Brian Walker.
Walker’s touchdown capped off a six minute, 59-yard drive and extended Brother Rice’s lead to 24-0 with only 2:30 remaining in the third quarter.
The sophomore running back also ran the ball well and had two touchdowns of his own. The offensive line was able to consistently win battles up front all game for both of the Warriors' running backs.
“The offensive line played great,” Church said. “It was probably one of their best performances all year.”
Walker’s other touchdown came on the first drive of the game. He put Brother Rice up 7-0 with 5:35 to go in the first on a 9-yard touchdown run.
A shorthanded Harrison (10-1) team didn’t have enough in them for a comeback this season.
Starting quarterback Jake Vento was in a walking boot and missed the entire game. Lineman Mario Ojemudia was suspended by the Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) for the first half for a rules violation he committed over the summer. The senior wore pads at a summer camp, and earlier this week, the MHSAA ruled him ineligible for first half.
Lamarr Marshall started in Vento’s place and couldn’t get in a rhythm with his receivers. He fumbled on a handoff exchange in the second quarter and then threw an interception to Jordan Rabban.
“We were a little out of synch on offense,” Harrison head coach John Herrington said.
The interception set up a 25-yard field goal by Jason Alessi at the end of the half. The kick put Brother Rice up 10-0 at the break.
Despite having to start an inexperienced quarterback, the longtime Hawks coach wasn’t offering any excuses. “I’m not going to use (Vento’s injury) as an excuse,” Herrington said. “They just beat us up front and we couldn’t stop the run so it wouldn’t have mattered.”
The nail in the coffin for Harrison’s comeback hopes was a 60-yard kickoff return by Brian Roney to open the second half. Roney ran the ball down the Harrison sideline to the 10-yard line.
Two plays later, Church scored his first touchdown of the game on a 9-yard run to go up 17-0.
“That pretty much meant we weren’t going to get back in the game,” Herrington said.
Brother Rice moves on to regionals for another game against an Oakland Activities Association White opponent. The Warriors will head to Southfield next weekend, time and date to be announced. The Blue Jays advanced by beating Farmington 27-9 on Saturday afternoon.
Before starting to plan for next week, the Warriors are going to celebrate their district title at least for one night.
“They are a class team, a wonderful team. I’m sorry they didn’t have their quarterback there,” Fracassa said. “John Herrington is class guy and he runs a class program. I’m just proud and honored to have beat this team.”