Friday's high school football: Big plays lift Brother Rice to win over Country Day
Beverly Hills — Both thunder and lightning subsided before the regular-season finale between Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice and Detroit Country Day on Friday night.
Rice's defense, though, brought back the storm rather quickly, scoring 16 points via Rocco Milia's 100-yard pick-six, a sack in the end zone by Oscar McWood that resulted in a safety, and a fumble recovery in the end zone by Alfredo Velazquez as Rice cruised past Country Day on the road, 23-13.
Nolan Ray had 15 carries for 44 yards, Mikkos Stewart had a team-high 53 rushing yards on five carries and Cole Lacanaria took a 24-yard touchdown run to the house for Rice (5-1).
Rice's defense allowed just 29 yards on the ground and seven through the air, the lone completion coming on Country Day's last play from scrimmage.
"The kids work really hard. We watch film, we meet, we study guys," Rice head coach Adam Korzeniewski said. "The coaching staff works their tail off ... these guys bust their butts.
"Our tackling was pretty solid. The way they handled the line of scrimmage, the line played really well."
Rice quarterback Jake Coulter didn't have the best day through the air — neither quarterback in this game did — but he made a massive difference as the team's punter. He pinned Country Day inside its own one-yard-line on two occasions, with both of them resulting in points.
"We scored a touchdown because he put the ball at the one-yard-line, and we got another safety," Korzeniewski said. "Sometimes when the game isn't going right for you, what do you do with the ball in your hands? He's been a [terrific] punter, and that matters."
Rice defensive lineman Aristotle Taylor, who had a blocked punt to seal Country Day's fate, said that he could feel his team's energy rising as the game went on.
"We were just bringing that pressure, bringing that heat," Taylor said. "The offense was starting a little slow, so we had to pick up the slack. That's what team is about. Both sides have each other."
Graham Doman accounted for all of Country Day's points, hitting two field goals before returning an interception 45 yards to the end zone for Country Day (3-2).
Rice got off to a rough start offensively, starting its first drive from the eight. A high snap on third down resulted in a fumble, giving Country Day the ball at Rice's four-yard-line on a recovery by Billy Abdallah.
The Rice defense stood tall, though, as Doman's chip-shot field goal were the only three points Country Day could muster.
Rice's second drive went as lousy as its first. Senior Danny MacLean intercepted a pass and took a 35-yard return to the Rice 15.
Again, the Rice defense came through. Milia picked off a throw to the end zone and took it 100 yards the other way to put Rice up 7-3, halfway through the first quarter.
Country Day got some hard running from Jacob Yarberry as it made its way back to the red zone. Doman's second kick, this one from 33, was good, making it 7-6 Brother Rice with 11:47 to play in the second quarter.
A booming punt by Rice quarterback Jake Coulter rolled over 80 yards to inside the 1-yard-line of Country Day. Country Day pushed ahead for one yard on the first play of the drive, but the second resulted in disaster, as a sack by McWood resulted in a safety and a 10-6 Rice lead.
Rice put together the longest drive of the game thus far on its next possession. It'd take a 16-6 lead with 4:50 to go in the first half on a 24-yard run by Cole Lacanaria.
Abdallah forced his second turnover of the game with Rice threatening late in the second quarter, intercepting Coulter at the Country Day 26.
Country Day's Yarberry intercepted a throw to the end zone with 0:04 left in the half.
Coulter again made a difference with his leg in the third, booting another monster punt that landed at the one.
Country Day was able to escape without a safety, but botched the ensuing punt. Rice's Luke Zawaideh recovered in the end zone to go up 23-6.
Doman gave Country Day the swing it needed with 2:58 left in the third quarter. He picked off a batted pass and returned it 45 yards to the house to cut Rice's lead to 23-13.
Country Day would get the ball back after a stop by its defense at the 40 of Rice.
That momentum didn't last long, though, as junior Country Day quarterback was sacked twice on first and second down for a total of 16 yards lost. Then Taylor blocked the punt and gave Rice the ball back at Country Day's 31.
Nolan Bianchi is a freelance writer.
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