Detroit — Birmingham Brother Rice's Alex Malzone and Grant Perry proved once again Saturday night why they are one of the most lethal quarterback-wide receiver tandems in the state.
Malzone connected with Perry on four touchdown passes and a crucial 2-point conversion late in the fourth quarter as Brother Rice capped its undefeated regular season with a thrilling 35-28 victory over Orchard Lake St. Mary's in the Catholic League A-B Division championship game at Ford Field.
Trailing 28-21 with 2:28 left in the game, Malzone led a 9-play, 78-yard drive and capped it with a 10-yard touchdown pass to Perry with 24 seconds left.
Rather than going for the tie, Brother Rice lined up for the 2-point conversion. And with its 30-game win streak, undefeated season and league title on the line, Malzone hit Perry on a short pass to give Brother Rice the lead, 29-28.
"We couldn't stop (St. Mary's). ... I think we had a better chance getting two points from the 3-yard line versus trying to stop them in overtime," Brother Rice coach Dave Sofran said. "Initially I think we had a fake field goal on and they called a timeout. Then we called a different play and then we called a timeout. We changed our mind three times, but it was something we've worked on ... and they ran it to perfection."
Perry added that he broke off his initial out route on the 2-point conversion play, which Malzone read perfectly.
"I was supposed to run a hot route off the motion and I saw the coverage flowing, so I decided to throttle down. (Malzone) saw that and he hit me," Perry said.
St. Mary's got the ball back at its 20-yard line with no timeouts and 80 yards to go, but Brother Rice's Jack Dunaway sacked Brendan Tabone and forced a fumble, which Brad Royer returned 18 yards for a score to seal it and give Brother Rice (9-0) its first back-to-back league titles since 2006-07.
"It feels great," Malzone said of extending the win streak to 31 and winning consecutive league championships. "We're just trying to keep the streak going. Coach Sofran said at halftime it looks like we're trying not to lose out here rather than trying to win. We came out strong and the whole team stepped it up in the second half."
Malzone finished 21-of-27 for 271 yards, four touchdowns and an interception, and Perry had 12 catches for 201 yards.
The four touchdown passes gave Malzone 26 on the season, breaking the school record of 25 set by Doug Pickens in 2002. Perry's four touchdowns also set a single-game school record and pushed his total on the season to 15, which broke Paul Jokisch's mark of 11 set in 1980.
It also wasn't the first time Malzone and Perry turned in a record-setting performance against St. Mary's. In its 28-20 win over St. Mary's in Week 6, Malzone set school records for completions (29) and passing yards (419), while Perry hauled in a school-record 257 yards receiving and tied the school record for receptions (14).
"The first week they had (defensive back) Tyson (Smith) out and we took advantage of that. This week I expected they were going to double me, but they kept it simple," Perry said. "We definitely went off of that and did well."
The duo were rolling from the start as Malzone found Perry down the right sideline for a 49-yard gain on Brother Rice's opening possession. Three plays later, Malzone hit Perry over the middle for a 21-yard score to put Brother Rice on top, 7-0, with 7:44 left in the first quarter.
St. Mary's responded with a methodical 16-play, 80-yard drive that featured 14 running plays and was capped by Justin Myrick's 1-yard plunge on the first play of the second quarter to knot it at 7-7.
Then, after forcing a quick three-and-out, St. Mary's went back to the ground attack and continuously churned up chunks of yardage to drive deep into Brother Rice territory. On third-and-6, Tabone capitalized and threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to Smith, who reached over a Brother Rice defender to make the catch for a 14-7 lead with 6:04 left in the second.
Brother Rice tied it at 14-14 on its next drive after Malzone rolled out to his right, threw back across his body and dropped the pass right over a St. Mary's defender to Perry in the back of the end zone for a 23-yard score with 1:04 remaining in the half.
It took less than a minute for St. Mary's to regain the lead after Tabone threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to a diving Nathan Fagnani to cap a 6-play, 69-yard drive with 6 seconds remaining before halftime for a 21-14 advantage.
After the teams combined to score on four of five drives, the second half opened with seven consecutive scoreless drives. That streak ended as Brother Rice rattled off a four-play, 68-yard drive that ended with Malzone pump faking and freezing a St. Mary's defender before hitting Perry for a 22-yard score to tie it at 21-21 with 5:16 left.
But just as it had all game, St. Mary's had an answer. Brandon Adams finished a 7-play, 71-yard drive with a 3-yard run to put St. Mary's on top, 28-21, with 2:28 left, which proved to be more than enough time for Brother Rice to pull off the spectacular finish.
"It was a great football game and you don't want to lose it, but they did what they had to do to win the game," St. Mary's coach George Porritt said. "There was no doubt in my mind that they were going for (the 2-point conversion)."
Tabone finished 14-of-20 for 181 yards and two scores for St. Mary's (7-2), while Smith had seven catches for 89 yards. Adams led the rushing attack with 100 yards and a score on 18 carries, and Myrick added 16 carries for 62 yards and a touchdown.
C-D Division Championship
Waterford Lakes 45, Allen Park Cabrini 14: Clay Senerius threw for 222 yards, three touchdowns and an interception on 15-of-23 passing, Devin Senerius had two touchdown receptions and Christian Heiss scored on a 67-yard run for Lakes (8-1), which won the C-D Division title for the second consecutive year. Cabrini is 3-6.
Prep Bowl Championship
Detroit Loyola 70, Dearborn Divine Child 6: Mideyin Wilson rushed for 134 yards and two touchdowns on six carries, and Marvin Campbell had 16 carries for 121 yards and one score for Loyola (9-0), which won its fifth consecutive league title. Nicholas Lee threw for 90 yards, ran for 31 and had two touchdowns, Patrick Harbin scored on runs of 4 and 50 yards, and Blaine Woodland and Josh Stewart each added a rushing touchdown. Danny Blade scored on a 61-yard interception return for Divine Child (6-3).
Clawson 35, East Detroit 34: Donavan Holt had 25 carries for 227 yards and two TDs, and made 14 tackles. Tavian Bridges had 15 tackles for Clawson (6-3).
Dearborn 17, Ann Arbor Skyline 7: Michael Phillips was 6-for-9 for 130 yards and two touchdowns and Josh Edwards had three sacks for Dearborn (6-3).
Clinton Township Clintondale 32, Mount Clemens 20: Ju'Juan Clowers rushed for 126 yards and two TD's and Aurelio Fields ran for 117 yards and two TDs for Clintondale .
Center Line 56, Lutheran Westland 0: Steve Lucas ran for 160 yards and a touchdown and John Cox had a 46-yard fumble recovery for a TD for Center Line (3-6)
Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook-Kingswood 29, Detroit Allen Academy 16: Jalen Allen had 25 carries for 256 yards and two touchdowns and Aaron Wigeins ran for 90 yards and a TD for Cranbrook (5-3).
Birmingham Roeper 3, Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett 1 (OT):Liggett opened the scoring in overtime on a goal by Harrison Wujak at the 85-minute mark. Max Whipple and Jack Flynn scored key goals as Roeper bounced back to take the victory.
"I told the team before the game that they are capable of scoring goals in a minute," Roeper coach Ed Sack said. "And that's what we did."
James Hawkins is a freelance writer. Detroit News staff contributed.