O’Brien: Brother Rice knocks off Mount Carmel in thriller

SHARE O’Brien: Brother Rice knocks off Mount Carmel in thriller

Touchdowns were everywhere on Friday night at Brother Rice. Two of the area’s best athletes, Crusaders wide receiver Ricky Smalling and Mount Carmel quarterback Alek Thomas, took turns showcasing their eye-popping skills.

But in the end it came down to three defensive stops, and it was the Brother Rice defense that stepped up in the clutch to help the Crusaders seal a 49-42 win over their Catholic League Blue rivals.

Mount Carmel was driving in the final thirty seconds, but Brother Rice defensive back Aarion Lacy picked off a pass at the Crusaders 5 to end the threat.

Brother Rice’s offense has been one of the state’s most impressive units all season. Smalling, an Illinois recruit, may be the area’s most electrifying player. Quarterback Dino Borrelli has been racking up the passing yards and running back Xavian Valladay is an explosive workhorse.

All three had massive games. Smalling finished with 10 receptions for 170 yards and two touchdowns. The second score, a 55-yard touchdown reception, was one of the season’s true highlight moments. Smalling caught the ball at the 50 and dodged and darted his way past seven different Mount Carmel defenders.

“That’s just speechless,” Brother Rice coach Brian Badke said. “He’s really developed into a better leader. [Illinois] has a special player.”

That tied the game at 35 late in the third quarter. Valladay, who finished with 18 carries for 140 yards and two touchdowns, scored on an 11-yard run early in the fourth quarter to give the Crusaders (6-0, 2-0) a 42-35 cushion.

Thomas tied things up at 42 with a five-yard touchdown run with 7:09 to play. Brother Rice fumbled the ball away on the next possession and the Caravan (3-3, 0-3) recovered the ball. Mount Carmel drove down to the Brother Rice 24 but were eventually stopped and turned the ball over on downs.

The Crusaders took advantage, eventually scoring on an 13-yard run by Valladay with 4:59 to play. It would be the final score of the game.

Thomas took over at quarterback for Mount Carmel in the second half of last week’s loss to St. Rita. Expect him to stick at the position. He was 14-for-23 passing for 212 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. He carried the ball 11 times for 97 yards and one touchdown.

“He’s a phenomenal athlete,” Badke said. “He’s probably going to be one of the top [Major League Baseball] draft picks out of high school.”

Mount Carmel running back Michael Kennedy had 20 carries for 146 yards and one touchdown, a 47-yard scamper.

Borrelli finished 25-for-33 for 388 yards and four touchdowns.

“Dino every week has gotten better,” Badke said. “He has really developed into a very good quarterback and he’s a winner.”

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