4Frenzy De La Salle vs Brother Rice 9/15/17

Pilots and Warriors enter the rivarly game both 2-1


Jacob Dobbs snapped his fingers. The sound emphasized how quickly things had turned around for his De La Salle football team.

“Listen, the coaches were so detailed in practice,” Dobbs, a defensive back, said after the Pilots won their second straight game. “It prepares you for the game. Because you come out here and you’re so used to practice. Every little thing matters. It becomes repetitious, and it’s just natural for you.”

Practice has brought things closer to perfect for De La Salle, and the Pilots hope the trend continues in against Birmingham Brother Rice. The two Catholic League Central Division teams play Friday at Berkley. Both teams have 2-1 records.

“Brother Rice is our rival,” Dobbs said. “It’s a rivalry game. They’re going to be a lot of alumni there. It’s a big game for both programs.”

Dobbs and the defense have helped De La Salle bounce back after an opening-week setback to Lowell. The Pilots rebounded the next two weeks with victories over Grandville and London St. Thomas Aquinas.

In particular, the game against Grandville -- which went 10-2 last season and has made the playoffs the last three years -- gave De La Salle renewed confidence.

“We came back the next two weeks and we put in a lot of work,” Dobbs said. “We just did every day in practice, we took no plays off. Everything was very detailed. If little things were wrong, if you took on a block the wrong way, the coaches were on you. Everything was down to a science, and we played awesome the last two games.”

“We didn’t come out and play extremely well against Lowell, but Grandville we turned it up a few notches,” said Mike Giannone, who is in his second season as the coach at De La Salle. “Our kids improved throughout the week. We had better practices. The unity and the brotherhood, it’s really starting to show. The kids have picked each other up.”

Dobbs, who returned an interception for a touchdown against St. Thomas Aquinas, and the defense have sparked the Pilots.

Dobbs is joined in the secondary by Joshua DeBerry, Tanner Myers and Nolan Schultz. Linebacker Brendan Madigan and linemen Danny Motowski, Michael McGinnity, Nick Cominos and Evan Green also head up a defense that has allowed only seven points in its last two games.

“They’ve been tackling, they’ve been swarming the ball,” Giannone said. “But now you get in the Catholic League, it’ll be a similar story to the first two games.”

On offense, senior running back Semaj Shelton and junior running back Evan Valliancourt lead the Pilots. Senior running back Cordell Tannyhill missed the first game and played only five snaps in the second, but he did rush for a touchdown against St. Thomas Aquinas.

Seniors Luke Pfromm and Carlos Smith split time at quarterback against St. Thomas Aquinas, and both led the Pilots on several scoring drives.

“They’re totally two different types of quarterback,” Giannone said. “Luke’s done a nice job for us, and Carlos is multipurpose. He can do a lot of different things.”

Dobbs and the Pilots know things won’t be a snap against Brother Rice, a perennial power in the state.

Like De La Salle, Brother Rice also bounced back after a rough outing. Following a shutout loss to Mishawaka Penn (Indiana) in Week 2, the Warriors responded with a 21-7 victory over Elkhart Central (Indiana) last week.

Brother Rice coach Adam Korzeniewski liked the way his team handled adversity against Elkhart Central. The two teams went into halftime tied at 7-7 before the Warriors pulled away in the second half.

“We found a way to push through,” said Korzeniewski, who is in his first season as the head coach at Brother Rice. He was an assistant coach there from 2010-2013.

Senior running back Jack Moran and wide receiver Matt Torey have encouraged Korzeniewski with their play on offense.

Junior quarterback Mariano Valenti, a junior, has offers from Toledo and Central Michigan.

“He’s very mobile, he can make people miss,” Korzeniewski said. “He has a very good arm. He has a quick release.”

Senior linebacker Rubin Williams, junior safety DaRon Gilbert and senior Mac Menard pace the defense for Brother Rice, which defeated De La Salle last year 13-3.

De La Salle didn’t win a Catholic League Central Division game last year, but the three league losses were by 10 points or less.

“I think they’re really good in their interior lines,” Korzeniewski said. “They’re going to be tough. They get a lot out of their players.”

From 2011-13, Brother Rice won three straight Division 2 state championships. In 2014, De La Salle claimed the Division 2 state crown.

But neither team has advanced past the second round of the playoffs since then. They’d like for that to change this year.

“We didn’t beat them last year,” Doss said. “We didn’t win a single Catholic League game last year. That serves as motivation for us. We want to show De La Salle is on the map, unlike last year. We’re back."