Heading into its regular season finale, the Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice football team is enjoying a 30-game win streak. Of course, throughout its win streak and its three state titles in the last three years, a the talented stars get a bulk of the credit and attention.
This year, the seemingly unmatched chemistry between Alex Malzone and Grant Perry has gotten a lot of the credit. Given their stats, it’s easy to understand why.
However, you don’t do what Brother Rice has done with two really good players. Sure, it helps, but it takes every player to accept and excel in their role on the football field as the Warriors prepare to face Orchard Lake St. Mary’s in the Catholic League A-B title game at 7 p.m. on Saturday at Ford Field.
“No matter what team you are in the Catholic League, you are going to experience some adversity,” Brother Rice coach Dave Sofran said. “I’m proud of our guys for the way we’ve responded thus far. It’s going to be another tough game (on Saturday). St. Mary’s is a really good team every time I watch them.”
St. Mary’s coach George Porritt has seen his share of great teams in his years of coaching in the Catholic League. After losing to Brother Rice, 28-20, back on Oct. 3, Porritt knows that Brother Rice would be a difficult team to beat even with Malzone and Perry out of the equation because of how well Brother Rice plays every position.
“Shoot, the obvious is Malzone and Perry,” Porritt said. “But they’ve got a lot of others. (John) Garry is a great receiver. I think their offensive line is terrific in how they defend Malzone. Their defense has done a great job and they rally to the ball very, very well.”
Brother Rice’s linebacker’s are a prime example of proper role playing, as a rotating committee of players at the position have lead a defense that has given up a respectable 17.25 points per game. Joseph Lewandowski and Ryan McWood have been anchoring the middle while Mitchell Scott and Bo Pickens have been taking care of business on the outside. Rotating in is Jeff Timko, Brett Jacobs and Riley Maher.
“We have a lot of guys kind of rotating through,” Sofran said. “There’s up to six linebackers that are going to play. So, it’s one of those things that guys have got to rise to the occasions. We have different packages for them. It’s one of those things where some guys are a little better at run defenders and some guys are better at the pass game. It’s really down and distance that we have packages for them.
“Really, when you look at the stat sheet at the end of the day, they all have some tackles and are contributing.”
Looking at the stat sheet for the offense, the Brother Rice running game has been quietly working in its role while Mazlone slings the ball around the field. Lately, however, the Warriors running backs have had their number called more and have answered the bell.
Bobby Dixon III and Brandon Thomas have combined for seven touchdowns in the last two games to lead the Warriors in scoring in that span.
“It’s one of those things where it’s not like we can’t run the ball,” Sofran said. “We can run the ball. I think our passing game has helped open up our running attack. Usually, it is the opposite. Bobby Dixon, the offensive line and Brandon Thomas … There’s some opportunities there and that’s one of the things where – in the playoffs when the weather changes dramatically – you have to have a balanced offense.”
The key word is “balanced” and Brother Rice has found it through superior depth. Balance will remain the priority if it is to capture its second straight Catholic League A-B title and fourth straight Division 2 title this fall.
“The more depth you have in our league, with the way injuries happen, it’s one of those things where you have to have some depth,” Sofran said.