Photo by Jeff Vorva
Brother Rice’s Ricky Smalling stiff-arms Mt. Carmel defender Avery Saffold during a touchdown reception.
Brother Rice junior receiver Ricky Smalling has already dazzled some college scouts and local media in recent weeks.
He’s not a local secret any more.
His performance on Friday night showed a little more of the world what he is all about with more Chicago reporters present and Comcast SportsNet Chicago rolling its cameras.
Playing against favored Mt. Carmel, he caught 14 passes from the right arm of Cam Miller for 169 yards and three touchdowns in a 31-14 home win in the Catholic League Blue. Heading into the game, Mt. Carmel (5-1, 2-1 and ranked second in the state in Class 7A according to the Associated Press) gave up a league-low 28 points in its first five games.
But Smalling used his speed and some power (stiff arming a defender and juking two others) en route to a 17-yard score in the fourth quarter to impress spectators in the stands, watching from home or even on the field.
“He is ridiculous,’’ Miller said. “The kid is out of this world.’’
The same could be said for Brother Rice on this night.
The Crusaders (5-1, 1-1) have been strong this year, but had their flaws. They will likely get a generous seed in the postseason but the defense gave up 28 points in a 28-0 loss to Loyola, 33 points in a win over Wheaton St. Francis and 35 more in a win over St. Laurence heading into the Mt. Carmel game.
That was a problem.
But that’s a concern that seemed to be addressed by holding the Caravan (which averaged 36 points a game) to just two touchdowns and the first came after the Caravan recovered the ball at the Crusader 12 for a very short field.
“Everybody stepped up and played as a team,” Smalling said. “It was a wonderful thing just playing our game. It’s a great rivalry against Mt. Carmel, we just had to prove that we can also play with the big dogs.’’
Smalling, fellow receiver Julian Blain and running back Zavian Valladay picked up some defensive action in the game as well as the Crusaders nursed some defensive injuries.
“You put your best athletes on the field and defensively we had a pretty good scheme and guys stepped up,” Crusaders coach Brian Badtke said. “They had their responsibilities and they did their job. That all we ask them. Do your job. Don’t do anyone else’s job, just do your job.’’
Sophomore Brian Olsen led the Crusaders with nine tackles and Tahj Silas added eight. Aarion Lacy had an interception.
Rice had a 355-307 yardage advantage. Miller threw for 257 yards and the coach is wondering why his senior signalcaller is not getting as much love from colleges. Miller is 134-of-196 for 1,510 yards with 19 touchdowns in six games.
“Why are people waiting on Cam Miller?” the coach asked. “Dartmouth and Ivy League schools are looking at him but there should be more. I told people at the beginning of the year he’s the best quarterback in this league.’’
The Crusaders have a week off as their next scheduled opponent, Legal Prep Charter, will forfeit Friday night’s game and finish the regular season off hosting Providence (the defending Class 7A champions who are 2-4) on Oct. 16 and visiting traditional Catholic League Blue power St. Rita (which is also 2-4) on Oct. 23.
Mt. Carmel was led by A.J. Reis, who had 95 yards. Quarterback Anthony Thompson left the game late in the fourth quarter with an apparent leg injury.
The Caravan host Leo on Friday, will have a forfeit victory over Hales Franciscan on Oct. 16 and will have a showdown with unbeaten Loyola Academy Oct. 24 in Wilmette.