Brother Rice enjoys life in the fast lane

  • Written by Phil Arvia


Photo by Jeff Vorva

Brother Rice’s Brendan Houston break’s Providence’s Joe Markasovic’s tackle attempt during a 56-yard touchdown reception Friday night in New Lenox.

After a display like the one put on Friday by Brother Rice in its 45-21, Chicago Catholic League Blue win at Providence, there was really only one question to ask the Crusaders:

Who’s the fastest guy on this football team?

There was a crowded field of candidates on an evening in which the Crusaders authored more big plays than Rodgers and Hammerstein. 

In an incredible three-minute stretch at the beginning of the third quarter, Rice (5-0, 1-0) had its offense on the field for just  19 seconds, yet scored three touchdowns to snap a 14-all halftime tie. 

The Crusaders scored six touchdowns, none shorter than Aarion Lacy’s 28-yard interception return to cap that third-quarter burst. He also went, untouched, 70 yards around left end for another score on his only carry of the evening.

“He’s amazing,” quarterback Dino Borrelli said of Lacy. “He’s a beast. He’s a savage.”

Sure, but is he the fastest? After all, Branden Houston also had two touchdowns, turning a pair of short Borrelli tosses into 56- and 33-yard touchdowns; Illinois recruit Ricky Smalling had a 30-yard scoring grab; and star running back Xazavian Valladay highlighted his 13-carry, 183-yard game with a 72-yard dash to the end zone.

“It’s between me, Xazavian, Ricky and Branden,” Lacy said. “OK — it’s Ricky. He’s the fastest.”

Of course, Lacy did note that Houston’s 40-yard dash time was the same as Smalling’s (4.4 seconds), just a tick ahead of Lacy and Valladay.

“I’ve got to say it’s me,” Houston said. “But we never raced or anything. That’s just what I think.”

Crusaders coach Brian Badke added another name to the list of speed merchants — wideout Michael Butler-Kindle — but he was happy not to have a clear-cut winner.

“Speed kills,” he said, smiling. “We’ve got, obviously, a lot of weapons. We can get you either way, running or passing — but it all starts up front.”

The offensive line — Friday’s starters were center Brian Gannon, guards Dan Sullivan and Brendan Hosty and tackles Nick Marozas and John Farano — was especially impressive on Lacy’s run, Valladay’s touchdown and Houston’s second scoring catch. Providence (2-3, 0-2) never touched the ball-carrier on those plays.

“All glory goes to the o-line,” Houston said. “That’s just blocking. Those guys were opening up huge holes up front.”

The unbeaten Crusaders host Mt. Carmel (a 31-28 victim to St. Rita) Friday night.

Early, the Celtics’ line was doing it better.

Providence marched 80 yards in eight plays on the game’s opening possession. Five of those were Richie Warfield carries, the last a burst up the middle for a score from 28 yards out.

Warfield finished with 132 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries, but he was held out of the end zone and had just 15 yards on eight runs in the second half.

“In the first half, honestly, we just weren’t executing,” Badke said. “The kids really dug deep in the second half.”

First, Houston (four catches, 98 yards) got them back in the game, answering the opening score by taking a short Dino Borrelli pass and breaking several tackles en route to a 56-yard score.

Rice made it 14-7 at the 9:57 mark of the second quarter, when Valladay, needing only a slide step left at the line, went untouched for 72 yards up the middle.

Providence tied it 2 1/2 minutes later. Warfield capped a 60-yard drive with a seven-yard scoring run off right tackle.

The Crusaders put the game away quickly in the third, starting with Lacy’s 70-yard scoring dash on the first play from scrimmage. He entered the game with just three receptions and one carry, totaling 42 yards, in Rice’s first four games.

“Lacy, he’s one of the most explosive players in the state of Illinois,” Badke said. “Other than (UConn recruit Ian) Swenson from Loyola, I think he’s the best DB in the Catholic League — and he’s definitely a guy we’ve got to use on both sides of the ball.”

Three plays and a shanked punt after Lacy’s score, Borrelli (12-of-19, 196 yards, 3 TD) hit Smalling (6 catches, 69 yards) with another short pass turned into a long score by a shifty receiver. And two plays after the ensuing kickoff, Lacy broke in front of a Jared Drake pass for his fourth interception of the year and took it to the house.

Houston added his second touchdown at 2:33 of the third, patiently waiting for blocking up the sideline on a swing pass to the right side. John Richardson capped Rice’s scoring with a 37-yard field goal in the fourth quarter.

Borrelli conceded his offense’s big-play propensity surprises him almost as often as it does opposing defenses.

“We’ve just got great athletes,” he said. “You never know when they’re going to break one.”