Detroit — Birmingham Brother Rice's quest for its fourth straight state title and first in the Dave Sofran era got off to a wild start Saturday afternoon.
Squaring off against Chicago Brother Rice in the Prep Kickoff Classic finale at Wayne State's Adams Field, the teams combined to score 27 points in the first three minutes and the Warriors found themselves trailing for the majority of the game.
But Alex Malzone and Bobby Dixon III sparked the comeback as the Warriors rattled off 20 unanswered second-half points and held off the Crusaders for a 40-34 win.
At halftime the Warriors trailed 21-20 and that margin widened when Marcus Jones scored on a 3-yard run to put the Crusaders up 27-20 with 6:37 left in the third quarter.
The Warriors responded eight seconds later as Malzone (Michigan) connected with Grant Perry down the right sideline for an 80-yard score, trimming the deficit to 27-26.
Then after forcing a quick Crusaders three-and-out, Dixon capped off a six-play, 64-yard drive with a 28-yard touchdown run up the middle three minutes later to give the Warriors their first lead since early in the first half, 32-27.
“We ran a draw straight up the middle and it opened up,” said Dixon, who is coming off an ACL injury that sidelined him last season. “The line stepped out and made their blocks and I was able to break free.”
Two drives later the Warriors began pulling away when Malzone hit John Garry for a 10-yard touchdown and converted the two-point conversion on Carter Dunaway's catch to go up 40-27 with 6:45 left. The drive was kept alive by Malzone's 41-yard completion to Luke Cappetto on a third-and-28.
“The thing that coach likes to say is big players make big plays when they need to," Malzone said. "I knew coming into this game we were going to have to score some points and that's exactly what we did.
“We faced some adversity in the first half with the offensive line getting the feel for it in our first game but we overcame that.”
The Crusaders made things interesting when quarterback Alex Alarcon scored on a 6-yard run to cut it to 40-34 with 4:09 remaining. But the Warriors picked up four first downs, including one on a fourth-and-1 near midfield by Malzone on a keeper, to salt the game away.
“I'm proud of the guys,” Warriors first-year coach Sofran said of picking up his first win since replacing legendary coach Al Fracassa. “It's about them. It's not about any record. It's about the kids. They responded well to adversity and I think that's the main thing.
“Our defense made some mental errors, but they got some important stops (in the second half).”
Malzone finished 20-of-34 for 363 yards, four touchdowns and an interception to lead the Warriors. Dixon racked up 72 yards rushing and Perry had eight catches for 214 yards and two scores, including a 69-yard touchdown reception in the second.
DeLano Madison added an interception, a 29-yard touchdown reception and a 76-yard kickoff return in the first half before being sidelined with an injury.
Alarcon was 13-of-27 for 171 yards, with two touchdowns and an interception, and Jones had 148 total yards and three touchdowns for the Crusaders.
More Prep Kickoff Classic
Lansing Sexton 35, Detroit East English Village 26: In the first game at Wayne State, Sexton took advantage of numerous East English miscues to build an early 21-0 lead midway through the second quarter.
East English clawed back into the game with a pair of impressive drives to close out the first half. It finally got on the board on its fifth possession as Anton Curtis found Nate Boleware for a 16-yard score on a fourth-and-14. Then on its next drive, Curtis shook and froze a defender near the 5-yard line and scored on a 20-yard run just before halftime to make it 21-14.
But East English continued to shoot itself in the foot, turning the ball over on its first two possessions of the second half. Sexton took advantage — once again — as quarterback Malik Mack scored on an 11-yard run to go up 27-14 with 1:13 left in the third. Mack's touchdown was set up by James Hogan's interception return to East English's 21-yard line.
East English made it a one possession game again when Leon Timmon scored on a 13-yard run less than a minute into the fourth to make it 27-20. Sexton delivered the dagger on its ensuing drive as Mack scored on a sneak from a yard out and Ja'von Wray converted the two-point conversion to put the game out of reach at 35-20 with 6:26 left.
Sexton scored on a safety, a 25-yard touchdown run by Wray, a 44-yard touchdown reception by Rashawn Welborn from Mack and a 13-yard touchdown run by Avonte Bell to build its early lead. Two of the touchdowns came on the heels of East English Village turnovers.
Mack finished with 119 total yards and three touchdowns (two rushing, one passing) to lead Sexton. Wray and Bell added 78 and 70 yards rushing, respectively.
East English's Curtis was 14-of-28 for 201 yards, with two touchdowns and an interception, and rushed for 98 yards and a score on 16 carries. Armani Posey hauled in six catches for 87 yards and Lindrell Mitchell had a 13-yard touchdown reception with 23 seconds left in the game.
James Hawkins is a freelance writer.