A WILD and CRAZY night of football with Brother Rice and St. Laurence

  • Written by By Phil Arvia and Jeff Vorva


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Photo by Jeff Vorva

Brother Rice’s Xavian Valladay breaks Crete-Monee’s Dabion Couch’s tackle attempt en route to a 55-yard touchdown run in a 61-44 victory Friday night in Chicago. It was the first of his five TDs on the night.




Crusaders make Warriors cry uncle


A year ago,a unique family dynamic factored in as Brother Rice running back Xavian Valladay played a secondary role, frequently blocking as a lead back for Clifton Taylor — who just happens to be his uncle.

“Nepheeeew,” Crusaders coach Brian Badke said with a smile, mimicking the way Taylor addressed Valladay last season. “He’s just a great kid. But we knew Xavian would step right in this year.

“(Valladay) did the work. He put on about 15 pounds this spring. He knows how to read in our zone scheme. He’s not a dancer — he’s just always moving forward.”

Friday, Valladay carried 36 times for 277 yards and five touchdowns in a 61-44 win over Crete-Monee that set a Rice record for combined scoring.

“He’s a big-time player,” Badke said. “He really showed it tonight — he’s like the Kansas Comet (ex-Bears great Gale Sayers). He’s a playmaker who really wants the ball in crucial situations.”

In the afterglow of his performance, one of the first people to come to Valladay’s mind was Taylor.

“I do miss that kid,” he said of his father’s brother. “I miss being around him. We’ve been growing up together since we were around six or seven years old.”

After his name-making performance, Valladay anticipated a chat with Taylor.

“The first thing I’ll tell him is we had a big start. We scored on the third play of the game. Like he’d always say, ‘Whatever you decide to do, depend on your offensive line.’”

After being stopped for no gain on the first play from scrimmage, then an encroachment foul against the Warriors, Valladay scampered 55 yards to the touchdown he insisted was his favorite of the night — though he later added scores 56, 8, 1 and 5 yards.

“Those were big blocks John Farano and Kyle (Mehok-)Doherty made for that cutback to just open up on the right side. I just flew through there,” the running back said.

Once Valladay got off and running, it seemed everyone was.

Combined, the teams racked up 1,008 total yards. The first quarter ended with Rice (2-0) up 35-19, and after the Warriors (1-1) closed to within 35-32 at the half, a pair of rushing touchdowns in the third left the Crusaders ahead 49-32 heading into the final 12 minutes.

Crete-Monee, ranked third in Class 6A by the Associated Press, got within 52-44 with 1:58 left, but Valladay set up his own 5-yard run for the final touchdown with a 46-yard burst on the preceding snap. The scoring wasn’t complete until Rice’s John Richardson kicked his second field goal of the evening, a 41-yarder, with 18.3 seconds left.

Crusaders quarterback Dino Borelli was 14-of-27 for 20 yards and two touchdowns, both to Branden Houston (6 catches, 84 yards). Crete-Monee’s Isaiah Rucker completed 29-of-51 passes for 430 yards and two touchdowns, both to Kevin Pate (11 catches, 195 yards), who also had rushing touchdowns of 1, 3 and 2 yards.

“That could’ve been the longest football game ever,” Badke said. “Crete-Monee is a very good football team, and they came ready to play. Obviously, we gave up a few big plays, but that team has big-play ability. What do they have, six Division I prospects over there?”

One of those is cornerback Juawan Treadwell, the brother of Minnesota Vikings rookie Laquon Treadwell. The younger brother was largely responsible for limiting Brother Rice wideout Ricky Smalling, an Illinois recruit, to 57 yards on four catches.

Valladay, too, has a D-I offer, from Western Illinois. Before the season began, Badke predicted more would come as Valladay moved into the feature back role.

“After tonight,” Badke said, noting scouts from the University of Wyoming were in the stands Friday, “it looks like I might be right.”




Muskrat love for Rowell and Knights in slugfest win over Vikings

There’s a lot of David and Goliath stuff going on in high school football so far.

In Week 1 of the season, St. Laurence, who could either be a Class 5A or 6A team come playoff time, beat a traditionally strong Class 8A team, Benet, on the road.

On Friday night however, the Associated Press’s No. 1 Class 3A team in the state, Immaculate Conception, came to Burbank and beat the Vikings (which was ranked ninth in Class 6A)) by a this-is-not-a-misprint score of 62-49.

As the disappointed Vikings left the field and went into the school to talk about the train that hit them, the Knights players and coaches were screaming “We shocked the world – we shocked the world!!!!”

Well, I’m sure that there are a few pockets of the world where a non-conference high school game in Illinois would not generate a second thought, but I was sure impressed.

The way this chain of events is going, IC better look over its shoulder because there might be a Class 1A team that is licking its chops, looking for an upset.

As the score indicated, this was a goofy game, maybe even goofier than that game at Brother Rice (a 61-44 victory over Crete-Monee) on the same night. There were fireworks shot off every time the Vikings scored and converted an extra point or two-point conversion. It was a good thing they didn’t shoot them off for both teams or the school would be in such a debt that only Donald Trump can get it out of with the snap of his smallish fingers.

Jordan Rowell, who ran for 207 yards and four touchdowns in the Knights’ 38-0 season opening win over defending Class 3A champ Bishop McNamara, rushed 19 times for 260 yards and four TDs against St. Laurence and caught five passes for 107 yards and a touchdown.

The pass reception for the score came in the third quarter after the ball was expertly tossed into his mitts from Luke Ricobene, who escaped on defender and was being wrestled to the ground by another.

“Our quarterback is a muskrat, you know?” Rowell said.

I’m not sure what that meant, but it sounded funny and the quarterback laughed when he heard it. The muskrat said he was happy with the TD.

“I don’t know quite what happened but I threw the ball toward Jordan when the guy was getting close to me,” Ricobene said. “I hit the ground and I got up and we said ‘we don’t know what happened, but it’s a touchdown.’ ’’

The Knights had 667 yards on the night. St. Laurence (1-1) had 447, including 167 yards and three touchdowns from Fayezon Smart. Quarterback Romello Washington ran for 78 yards and threw for 174.

To make things even more miserable for the Vikings, the heart and soul of their defense, Jimmy Burnette, had to be carted off the field with an apparent knee injury. He was a leading tackler last year that nabbed nine interceptions in 2015.

It was an entertaining night but not a good one for St. Laurence.

“Obviously IC has a very special team,” Vikings coach Harold Blackmon said. “But we made too many mistakes – too many mistakes all the way around. It’s not just the defense. We gave up an onside kick and we worked on that this week. They executed and we didn’t.’’

The Vikings host the aforementioned Bishop McNamara Friday night in their first Catholic League White conference game. Last year, St. Laurence beat the Kankakee team, 70-40.

Bishop McNamara, by the way, came close to pulling off a David/Goliath upset of its own during Week 2, dropping a 20-14 overtime decision to traditional Class 8A power Bolingbrook.

McNamara was missing Western Michigan receiving recruit Chris Bell, who injured his thumb and likely won’t play against the Vikings.

I guess the only thing I can advise it to not be surprised by anything that happens in this game.