The public address system at Bill Landers Field frequently announced the exploits of Rice on Saturday afternoon, but this Rice had no association with the host Green Knights.
Instead, Fair Haven running back Tyler Rice spent the game bashing the Rice Memorial defense for 189 yards rushing and three touchdowns as the 2-0 Slaters hammered out a 34-20 high school football victory.
The game was costly for the 1-1 Green Knights not only for the defeat but also for the loss of senior quarterback Tommy Fitzgerald, who sustained a serious shoulder injury making a tackle early in the second quarter. Sophomore Joey Hester (4-for-8, 98 yards) directed Rice the rest of the way but couldn’t overcome his team’s mistakes or the Slaters’ clock-consuming offense.
“We have a lot of confidence in the guys we have going, but on (the Rice players) part, when you lose your starting quarterback, the confidence they felt in themselves was a little lost,” said Rice coach Neil Brodeur. “It’s not a lack of athleticism, but the confidence when Tommy went out, I think they needed to believe a little bit more in themselves and we just didn’t have it today.”
While Tyler Rice was a near-unstoppable force running the ball, teammate Ryan Alexander sliced up the Green Knights’ secondary for 183 and a touchdown with a 10-for-14 passing performance. The sophomore quarterback, who also ran for 42 yards and a touchdown, hooked up with fellow sophomore receiver Lucas Czarnecki seven times for 154 yards, including a 20-yard scoring strike.
“He played with a lot of poise today,” Slater coach Brian Grady said of Alexander. “He found the right receivers, he made plays with his feet, he’s a very good quarterback and he’s a great competitor. He understands when he needs to make a play throwing the ball or running the ball. That’s his biggest asset.
“Tyler Rice is a great football. A lot of guys in Division II don’t know him because he played at Poultney in Division III last year but that’s him. That’s the way he plays all the time. He runs hard, he runs downhill and you need to have a lot of people there to tackle him,” Grady said.
Fair Haven scored first when Rice finished a 15-play, 91-yard drive with a 1-yard plunge at 1:35 of the first. Rice responded at 6:46 of the second as Hester tossed a 25-yard scoring pass to Charlie Meli at 6:46 of the second for a 6-6 score.
Alexander scored on a 19-yard run at 3:33 and added the 2-point conversion for a 14-6 lead but Chris Jansen raced 20 yards for a Rice TD. He also scored the 2-pointer with 1:53 remaining.
On the final play of the first half, Czarnecki outjumped a defender at the goal line to pull in a 20-yard pass from Alexander and the Slaters led at the half, 20-14.
With Tyler Rice carrying the ball 18 times in the second half for 127 yards, the Slaters chewed up the yards and the clock. The Fair Haven back scored on carries of 1 and 33 yards to complete his afternoon.
“Rice is a really good football team and losing a quarterback probably hurt but I thought our kids really prepared well all week in practice,” said Grady. “We’re still a young football team and all we wanted to do was just compete on every single play.
“We didn’t stress win (or) lose, just compete every single play and I think we did that,” Grady said.