The Brother Rice football team has looked great so far this fall, a far cry from the Warriors dismal start to the 2010 campaign. Following Sunday night’s 27-14 defeat of Ann Arbor Pioneer in its home opener, Brother Rice is 2-0 on the young season as it prepares to battle Toledo St. Francis Ohio on Friday.
Last year, the Warriors, a perennial state powerhouse, started off 0-2 before rallying to victories in six of their next seven games and claiming another in a long line of Catholic League titles.
“It feels a lot better sitting here this season 2-0 then it did back a year ago when we were staring 0-2 right in the face and put ourselves in a position where we had to fight our tails off,” said legendary Brother Rice head coach Al Fracassa, who has led the program since 1969. “This year’s group has had a firm grasp on their identity as a football team from right off the bat, while last year’s team took a while to kind of figure out who they were and gel as a unit."
"I think this season’s senior class learned quite a bit from that experience last year and have been determined to make sure things happen differently, which they obviously have.”
Fracassa, the state’s all-time winningist head coach, is a mere three victories away from 400, a plateau only seven prep sideline coaches across the country have ever reached coming into the 2011 season.
However, Fracassa knows getting win No. 398 against St. Francis won’t be an easy task.
“Those boys in Ohio can play some football, I tell you that,” said Fracassa of his team’s upcoming trip out of state. “St. Francis is a very good team, with some very good coaches. They always have big crowds and playing in that type of environment against that type of competition will be an exceptional test for us as a program. I know it’s going to be fun and I can tell you everyone in our locker room is excited for the opportunity.”
The last matchup between the schools was in 2006, when the Warriors grabbed a 35-10 win on their way to capturing both league and district championships before falling to Warren De La Salle in the regionals.
The 2011 Warriors are led by a standout running attack and a stellar defense. Senior Devin Church, junior De Shun Brown and sophomore Brian Walker make up one of the best backfields in the state, eclipsing 225 combined yards on the ground in both of Brother Rice’s wins.
Church, who has verbally committed to Northern Illinois, had 16 carries for 100 yards and a touchdown against Pioneer Sunday. Meanwhile, Brown rushed for 110 yards and scored twice in the Warriors’ 28-21 win over Detroit King on Aug. 27.
Using a dual quarterback system — rotating senior Nick Rao and junior Cheyne Lacarania — the passing game proved lethal against a speedy King secondary in week one. Rao found tight end Joey Warner for a 30-yard touchdown in the first quarter and then Lacarania won the game for the Warriors by connecting with senior wide receiver Travis Ferguson on a 78-yard scoring strike in the closing minutes.
Linebackers Mark Doman and Jonny Reschke, and defensive backs Eddie Kidd, James Hendrix and Cody Ellwanger spearhead a defense that is only giving up an average of 17 points a game and has yet to give up 100 yards passing in two games.
“This is a tough bunch of guys we have on this team,” said Ellwanger, a team captain. “We’re all natural competitors and love the game of football with all of our hearts. The chemistry in the locker room is off the charts. I see it all really translating to the product we put on the field every week and that’s a great feeling.”