Western’s 2012 season was ended with a 42-12 loss at home to Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice in a Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) Division 2 regional final on Friday, Nov. 9.
The loss snapped Western’s (9-3) seven-game winning streak and also marked its most lopsided loss of the season.
Meanwhile, Brother Rice (10-2) extended its winning streak to six games and will square off against Wyandotte Roosevelt in a Division 2 semi-final on Saturday, Nov. 17 for a chance to play for back-to-back state titles on Thanksgiving weekend.
“It was (Brother Rice’s) night. Things went their way,” said Western Head Coach Mike Zdebski. “Our kids put in a ton of preparation and played hard in the second half. That’s a testament to the nine months of preparation we put into this season.”
Last Friday marked a matchup against two teams with the same nickname, the Warriors, as well as two head coaches with state titles to their resumes in Zdebski and Brother Rice icon Al Fracassa.
Brother Rice struck first with a 2-yard touchdown run by Brian Walker in the first quarter.
Kyle Bambard would then kick a 52-yard field goal for Western’s only points of the quarter.
Western then pulled to within two points in the second quarter after an errant snap by Brother Rice bounced through the back of its own end zone and resulted in a safety.
But Brother Rice would take control of the game with 28 unanswered points in the second quarter to lead 35-5 at halftime and effectively put the game out of reach.
It was a stark contrast for Western, which had a 42-7 halftime lead against Fenton in the previous week’s district final.
Senior Nik Heglin caught a 19-yard touchdown pass from Bambard in the third quarter for Western’s only score of the second half.
Brother Rice has now won its last three meetings with Western, including a 55-0 thrashing in their last meeting in a 2004 pre-district game.
Bambard completed 10-of-22 passes for 61 yards, a touchdown and an interception for Western, while senior Josh Jones was held to 30 yards rushing on 10 carries and 15 yards receiving on two receptions in his final game for Western.
Senior Jake Neracher also had three catches for 60 yards for Western, while Heglin was credited with four catches — but for negative 17 yards.
Junior Ben Ruby led Western’s defense with 10 tackles, while senior Tomone Jones had seven and Ethan Vieaux had five.
Josh Jones also had three tackles and a fumble recovery, while Zach Prokes had a blocked punt and Ray Howard had a fumble recovery.
Shon Powell earned 145 yards rushing, including a 56-yard touchdown run in the second quarter for Brother Rice, while Walker finished with 92 yards rushing and two touchdowns, including a 1-yard touchdown run in the second quarter.
Sergio Perkovic also caught two touchdown passes for Brother Rice.
“Brother Rice just had a series of big plays. Walker and Powell are the total package,” Zdebski said.
Coupled with Walled Lake Northern’s loss to Novi Detroit Catholic Central in the district finals, the Kensington Lakes Activities Association (KLAA) North Division was 0-for-2 against the Detroit Catholic League Central Division this year in the state playoffs.
But this year’s Western team can claim the distinction of being the first team in school history to win back-to-back district championships.
Even with its senior class, including Josh Jones, Neracher and Heglin, graduating, Western is expected to have a strong group next season with a number of returning starters, including Bambard for his senior season.
“We’ve been blessed since the day I walked in the door. These are hard-working kids, their parents are understanding, the administration is supportive, and I’m happy with the kids that are coming up,” Zdebski said.