Brother Rice looks for juniors to come up big

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Young …. and potentially dangerous.

That pretty much sums up Brother Rice football for 2013.

How successful the upcoming season is for the Crusaders largely will depend on how well their non-seniors perform. Brother Rice figures to start just six seniors this season.

“We’re real young,” said Crusaders coach Brian Badke, who’s beginning his second campaign. “We’re going to rely on a lot of juniors. We have some big spots to fill, but I like the direction we’re headed.”

The biggest hole is at quarterback now that Matt Page, a SouthtownStar All-Area pick in 2012, is playing at Washington University. Badke, however, is confident he’s found a quality replacement in junior Alex Alarcon, who played running back, linebacker and defensive back last season as a sophomore on varsity.

Alarcon takes over the quarterback reins full-time in the Crusaders spread attack-style offense.

“Alarcon doesn’t throw the ball as well as Matt, but he’s an athlete,” Badke said. “He has good football sense. He still has to work on his leadership skils, which have gotten better. But he can do a lot of things well on the football field.”

The Crusaders have multiple big-play weapons surrounding Alarcon in junior running back Marcus Jones and senior receivers Chris Rozell and Luke Mueller. Jones had more than 800 yards rushing and Mueller set a school-record with 67 receptions in 2012.

“Jones has put on 15 or 20 pounds,” Badke said. “He has big-play potential. Rozell is a burner, and Mueller has great hands. We want to get those guys the ball in space and see what they can do.”

Badke has three holes along the offensive line. Only two starters return in juniors Patrick Hosty and Dan Berry. Badke is hoping sophomore Matt Bravo will step in to fill another spot.

“We have some spots to fill on the line,” Badke said. “We’re hoping some people step up once practice starts.”

Defensively, the Crusaders return a pair of quality linemen in senior Dan Scanlon and junior Mike McGinley. Senior Matt Cusack and junior Tre Pierce return at linebacker, as do seniors Eric Leisur and Bobby Sullivan in the secondary.

“I think a big key for us, on both sides of the ball, is to stay healthy,” Badke said. “The senior class is one of the smallest the school has ever had. We have about 50 guys on our roster.”

A season ago, the Crusaders needed a win in Week 9 against Leo to qualify for the Class 8A playoffs. They were rewarded with a first-round match-up against eventual state champ and Catholic Blue nemesis Mount Carmel.

The one-and-done state playoff experience led to an invitation to the Prep Bowl. Brother Rice advanced to the championship game, falling to Simeon 14-12 in overtime.

This season figures to be another battle to qualify for the postseason. With Mount Carmel, Loyola, Providence and St. Rita looking as good or better than a year ago, Brother Rice will have its work cut out. The Crusaders especially have to watch out for St. Rita, which is sure to have a chip on its shoulder after absorbing two losses to the Crusaders in 2012.

Brother Rice opens up the season Aug. 30 at Shepard.

“The talent pool in the Catholic League is unbelievable this year,” Badke said. “It’s like a playoff game every week. We’ll be ready. We’re looking forward to the competition.”

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