The score is deceiving. Visting Brother Rice beat St. Rita 52-33 on Friday, but the No 3. Crusaders were thoroughly tested.
The Mustangs even led 17-10 after three quarters and 27-20 at the start of the fourth quarter. St. Rita was doing an excellent job controlling the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball and bending, but not breaking very often against Brother Rice’s high-powered offense.
Fumbles by the Mustangs on consecutive drives in the third quarter helped turn the momentum. Brother Rice (8-0, 3-0 Catholic Blue) cashed both turnovers in for touchdowns. But the difference in the game was senior quarterback Dino Borrelli. He was a commanding presence throughout the game, finishing 28-for-40 for 373 yards. He threw touchdown pass of one and nine yards and didn’t throw an interception.
“[The first half] was a little frustrating,” Borrelli said. “I just knew we had to score.”
The floodgates opened in the fourth quarter. The Crusaders took the lead for good on a 95-yard kick return by Aarion Lacy with 10:43 to play.
“God is good,” Lacy said.
Then Borrelli connected with Illinois recruit Ricky Smalling on a nine-yard touchdown pass. Smalling caught 12 passes for 155 yards and two touchdowns. He made a terrific, circus catch in the corner of the end zone on a one-yard pass in the third quarter.
“That was something,” Borrelli said. “He saved me twice.”
Borrelli completed passes to seven different receivers. Lacy caught seven passes for 88 yards and Branden Houston had three catches for 86 yards.
Brother Rice running back Xazavian Valladay had a difficult start to the game. He spent most of the second quarter on the trainer’s table with an injury but like the rest of the Crusaders offense, he came to life in the second half. Valladay finished with 17 carries for 113 yards and scored touchdowns on a four-yard and a 57-yard run in the fourth quarter. He also caught three passes for 19 yards.
St. Rita (4-4, 2-2) will need to beat Marmion next week in order to qualify for the state playoffs. The Mustangs have found themselves coming up a play or two short against some of the area’s top teams. They do have a signature win over Mount Carmel.
Senior running back Shaun Rule shouldered most of the load for the offense. He had 26 carries for 171 yards and one touchdown, but also fumbled twice.
St. Rita quarterback Jake Zylman rushed 12 times for 81 yards. The Mustangs clearly preferred to keep the ball on the ground, but were forced to air it out more in the second half. Zylman was 6-for-18 with touchdown passes of 28 and 80 yards.
The Crusaders’ win sets up a massive game next week against No. 1 Loyola, which is also undefeated. Was Brother Rice looking ahead a bit?
“No, I don’t think so,” Borrelli said. “We just came out soft at the beginning and weren’t playing the way we can.”