Brother Rice hands Pioneer first loss of season in boys lacrosse state championship
BIRMINGHAM -- The Pioneer and Birmingham Brother Rice high school boys lacrosse teams both came in to Saturday’s Division 1 state championship game seeking perfection.
In its first state championship game in program history, Pioneer looked to close out an undefeated season with one last win.
Standing in the way was the program that has embodied perfection for nearly a decade.
Seven MHSAA Division 1 state championship games had been played before Saturday, and Brother Rice has left the field with the first place trophy after every one.
Saturday was no different.
AnnArbor.com file photo
Brother Rice won its eight consecutive state championship and ruined Pioneer’s bid at perfection with a 14-8 win at Birmingham Seaholm High School.
Ahead 2-1 at the beginning of the second quarter, it looked as though Pioneer (21-1) had a chance to become the first team from the state of Michigan to ever beat the Warriors (20-2).
A 10-1 run by Brother Rice to end the half essentially ended that chance.
“In the second quarter, we just got shell-shocked,” said Pioneer coach James Corey. “We just sort of got overwhelmed for where we were and I think that second quarter really hurt.”
Pioneer senior Dylan Swanson has had every answer for the Pioneers this season, including the game-winning goal in their double overtime semifinal victory over Holt on Wednesday, but even Swanson couldn’t stop the bleeding during the Brother Rice’s second quarter run.
With Brother Rice winning nearly every faceoff, he barely saw the ball.
“If we can’t get the ball on offense, we can’t score and that was kind of the story of the game,” said Swanson, whose only goal came with nine minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.
Eric Loveless led Pioneer with three goals and an assist.
Swanson said he could see the effects of Wednesday’s dramatic win as Brother Rice began to take control in the second.
“Fatigue was setting in we just sort of peaked after the first quarter, kind of let up and let (Brother Rice) kind of walk on us,” Swanson said. “We were kind of still hurt from the double overtime game and it was kind of hard to get up out of that grave because we were dug in pretty deep.”
Brother Rice forward Riley Kennedy, who will play at the University of Michigan next year, helped dig that grave with four of his game-high five goals coming in that fateful second quarter.
“(Pioneer) came out pretty hot obviously to start and then we got in our mojo and our offense started clicking and that’s when the tide started to turn,” Kennedy said. “At the end of the first half I think we knew were in control and we knew that we would end up on top if we kept playing well.”
Pioneer scored three goals in a three-minute span to end the third and start the fourth quarters and Swanson’s goal brought the Pioneers within five, the smallest deficit since early in the second quarter.
Brother Rice would only score one more time in the game, but the ability to maintain possession and minimize Pioneer’s opportunities kept the Pioneers at bay.
“We just couldn’t get possession,” Corey said.
In his second year as head coach, Corey was encouraged to be just the second public school team to reach state championship game, but that offered little comfort on Saturday. Tears smeared the black face paint of seniors who walked off the field for the last time.
“We’ve never been here, so the program's heading in the right direction, and hopefully we continue to grow. But it’s sad because I won’t get to coach these guys (any more),” Corey said. “It’s not hard for me. I think it’s hard for the seniors. You get a lot of credit for being the coach, but in reality the seniors do everything.”