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De La Salle’s rally comes up short

SOUTHFIELD, Mich. - Threatening weather delayed the start of Saturday night's Catholic High School League opener between Brother Rice and De La Salle Collegiate.

And it certainly did no favor to the Pilots' play on the field between the two league rivals.

Brother Rice dominated the first half, building a 10-0 lead, and held off a late rally by the Pilots to pick up a 16-14 victory in the league opener for both schools. 

"We weren't sure what kind of team we were," coach Mike Giannone said. "We got blown out by Muskegon and had two lopsided wins. This game certainly told us where our deficiencies are. They exposed some of that tonight."

Brother Rice's stout defense gave the Pilots fits throughout the first half. After taking a 3-0 lead on a 24-yard field goal by senior Brady Henry, the Warriors forced a quick three-and-out from the Pilots. That was very much the story of the first half. De La Salle managed just one first down. 

The highlight for the Pilots was courtesy of senior Ricky Pearson, who picked off a pass and returned it 29 yards down to the Brother Rice 25 yard line. Unfortunately for Giannone's squad, they could not cash in. The Warriors extended their lead with a 37-yard touchdown pass from senior Greg Piscopink to junior Rocco Milia late in the half.

"We couldn't get any flow on offense," Giannone said. "We were very choppy. They ran a stunting defense and we couldn't pick it up."

The halftime break did the Pilots good. On its first possession of the second half, De La Salle moved the ball right down the field. Senior Muzzie Kahari carried the ball seven times, highlighted by a 28-yard run that helped set up senior quarterback Anthony Stepnitz's one-yard touchdown run that cut the lead to 10-7.

Brother Rice answered back with a long drive of its own to start the fourth quarter. Piscopink's 54-yard pass to sophomore Cole Lacanaria set the Warriors up with a first and goal from the 2-yard line. De La Salle thwarted their first three attempts to reach the end zone, but senior Patrick O'Hara found the end zone on fourth down to extend his team's lead to 16-7.

De La Salle made one last charge, scoring on a 3-yard run by junior Brett Stanley with 52 seconds remaining. But the Pilots were unable to recover an onside kick attempt.

"Defensively, we gave up two big plays, that's about it. Other than that, we played pretty well," Giannone said. "They played well enough to win. 

"Offensively we weren't even close enough to be able to win a game. We won't win too many games if we play like this."

Stepnitz completed 6-of-11 passes for 71 yards for De La Salle (2-2 overall, 0-1 CHSL Central).  Stanley had 17 rushes for 47 yards and a touchdown, while Kahari rushed the ball eight times for 50 yards. 

Senior Braden Babich caught three passes for 17 yards. Jack Herndon caught one pass for 28 yards, while Justin Desmet had one reception for 20 yards.

Defensively, junior Justice Scott had eight total tackles to lead the team. Sophomore William Beesley and senior Derrelle Murray each had seven, while Desmet and Babich had six apiece for the Pilots. 

The Warriors improved to 4-0 on the season with the win. De La Salle will return to action Friday night, on the road at St. Mary's.

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