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O’Brien: Brother Rice’s Dino Borrelli, Ricky Smalling sparkle at Soldier Field

Brother Rice's Ricky Smalling.

Very few high school quarterbacks have the luxury and pressure of making their debuts at Soldier Field. That was Brother Rice senior Dino Borrelli’s task on Sunday at the Kickoff Classic and he took it in stride, helping the Crusaders to a 31-7 win over rival Marist.

“Dino is a heck of a football player, he just needs to get some experience with us,” Brother Rice coach Brian Badke said. “Having his first start in this type of setting is pretty intimidating but he did a great job. He’s a good kid and a leader, I’m really proud of him.”

Borrelli was 9-for-19 for 155 yards with two touchdown passes and a two-yard TD run. Illinois recruit Ricky Smalling, one of the area’s star attractions, grabbed a 56-yard touchdown pass on the Crusaders’ first drive.

“He’s awesome,” Borrelli said. “Having him definitely made my first start easier.”

Smalling caught a 39-yard pass for a TD in third quarter and finished with five receptions for 107 yards.

“It’s just amazing,” Smalling said. “I’ve wanted to play at Soldier Field a long time and it’s special to come out here and get the win against Marist.”

Smalling did most of the work on the first touchdown, catching a short pass and then breaking a tackle and outrunning the rest of Marist’s backfield. But the second score, a long perfectly-timed pass, highlighted the connection between Smalling and Borrelli.

“Dino is different,” Smalling said. “He’s one of my closest friends so we just have that connection. He’s very open to things. If I say I see something he’ll trust me and go right to me.”

The Brother Rice defense was stout throughout. Senior Aarion Lacy’s interception in the third quarter seemed to take the air out of any comeback hopes from Marist.

“It was great to get my first interception of the year in an NFL stadium, that was amazing,” Lacy said. “We came here and wanted to shut them out. We let up one score. Without being disciplined and going hard for the last six months this wouldn’t have happened.”

Crusaders running back Xavion Valladay gained 121 yards on 16 carries and had a spectacular 71-yard TD run in the second quarter.

Junior Morgan Taylor showed flashes of promise in his first start at quarterback for Marist. He completed 14-of-19 passes for 133 yards, including a 57-yard TD pass to TJ Ivy.

“Beating our rival and in this setting, it’s a great way to start the season,” Borrelli said.