Smalling comes up huge on the big stage

  • Written by Jeff Vorva





Photo by Jeff Vorva

Ricky Smalling caught two touchdown passes in Brother Rice’s 31-7 victory over Marist Sunday at Soldier Field.


OK, it’s no secret that Brother Rice receiver Ricky Smalling is good.

He proved that last year with a monster season of 1,165 yards and 15 touchdowns and became Lovie Smith’s first verbal recruit at Illinois.

So he’s not sneaking up on anybody this year.

Chances are, whatever stadium he plays at, everyone in the joint, including the mothers and fathers boiling the hot dogs and popping the corn at the concession stand, will know who he is and will be wondering how in the heck to stop him.

His first game since going from Ricky Smalling to RICKY SMALLING came on Sunday night against neighborhood rival Marist at Soldier Field in a non-conference battle in the Kickoff Classic and he proved that with or without hype, he is dangerous.

He’s not going to be left alone much and he will have defensive company breathing down his neck all year. Yet he caught a 56-yard touchdown pass on the second play from scrimmage from Dino Borrelli, later caught a 39-yard TD pass in the third quarter and finished with five catches for 110 yards as the Crusaders beat Marist, 31-7 in the season opener for both teams. Marist, which has two Division I recruits on defense, figured to be a good test for Smalling and the Crusders.

“Big-time players step up in big-time games,” Brother Rice coach Brian Badke said. “I’m glad he’s on my side.’’

In some circles, Smalling has been called the best receiver in the state. But he said that’s not something he worries about.

“I don’t have anything to prove,” he said. “We got the win. That’s all that matters.’’

Borelli’s second TD pass to Smalling came under heavy pressure on the QB.

“He makes everything so much easier on a quarterback,” said Borrelli, who threw for 185 yards. “I knew he was going to catch that second one. It’s awesome to get smashed and still throw a touchdown.’’

The Crusaders also had big playmakers in Xavian Valladay (a 70-yard touchdown run) and Aarion Lacy (a third-quarter interception after Smalling’s TD put Brother Rice ahead, 21-7).

Both teams will return to action with just four days of practice as Marist hosts Chicago Public League power Simeon on Friday while Brother Rice hosts Crete-Monee, a team that finished second in the state in Class 6A last year.

“We will have to show some resiliency,” Marist coach Pat Dunne said. “It looks like we have a lot we have to fix quickly. This is the quickest turnaround I’ve ever been a part of, but I think we’ll get through it.’’

Morgan Taylor’s 57-yard touchdown strike to TJ Ivy in the first quarter was the lone score for the RedHawks.

The game was a part of a tripleheader at the home of the Bears.

The opening game featured a wild contest as St. Patrick from the East Suburban Catholic Conference outlasted Catholic League Blue for Taft, 47-44.

In the second game, Catholic League Blue power Mt. Carmel was able to force a running clock in the third quarter en route to a 49-7 rout over Taft from the Chicago Public League.