Loyola junior running back DAKOTA SMITH sprinted for two long distance touchdowns covering 52 and 70 yards in the fourth quarter last Friday night at Smith Field in a must-win come-from-behind, 28-17 Mission League victory over Crespi Carmelite. Smith had been converted to wide receiver in the offseason after playing running back as both a freshman and sophomore. The decision to move the 6-2, 190 lb. athlete back to the tailback position prior to Friday’s game proved to be a good one as he finished the evening with 131 yards on five carries for an-eye popping 26.2 yards per tote average. Meanwhile, Smith’s classmate JACOB McBRIDE had a very strong rushing effort yet again with 133 yards on 16 carries for an 8.3 yards-per-carry average. Smith has been solid on defense all season at one of the end positions, while McBride has been stellar at nickel.
The Cubs trailed 17-7 at halftime with their lone touchdown coming on a three-yard run by senior PATRICK O’REILLY at the 3:13 mark of the first quarter to close the gap to 10-7 in favor of Crespi, but the Celts were able to tack on another TD before intermission to increase their lead to 17-7. A different Big Blue team took the field after intermission. Senior quarterback SEAN O’MALLEY bolted into the end zone from three yards out with 4:24 left in the third quarter to make the score 17-14 before Smith’s 52-yard sprint gave Loyola its first lead, 21-17, with 8:33 left in the fourth quarter. Smith’s game-clinching 70-yard romp came with just a little over four minutes remaining in the contest to make the final score 28-17. Senior corner JACK WEBSTER had a big interception followed by a long distance return to set up O’Malley’s third quarter TD run. The win improved the Big Blue’s league record to 2-2.
The Cubs are off this week before hosting Alemany a week from Friday. The Warriors have a high powered offense that scored 62 points in a triple overtime loss to Oaks Christian, tallied 45 points against Notre Dame, scored 27 points against JSerra of the Trinity League in a one-point loss, and put 35 points on the board against Santa Margarita.
Loyola cannot afford to wait until the second half - as it has had a propensity to do - to play a complete game in the looming battle with an underrated and very talented Alemany squad. The contest presents yet another must-win situation for the Cubs. The loser of the game could be eliminated from the CIF Southern Section Division 1 playoff hunt. It appears to be the consensus that only three Mission League teams will be guaranteed playoff berths
Looking at the playoff picture
Serra leads the Mission league with a 4-0 record with games remaining at Crespi and at Alemany. The Cavaliers will be favored in both contests. Chaminade and Alemany are currently tied for second with 2-1 records. Chaminade will be favored in each of its three remaining games against Notre Dame, at Bishop Amat and Crespi. Alemany has a much more daunting slate remaining as it hosts Bishop Amat Friday, travels to Loyola on October 28 and hosts Serra in its final conference tilt. Bishop Amat and Loyola are tied for fourth place with 2-2 records. The Lancers are at Alemany this week and host Chaminade the following week. Crespi and Notre Dame are tied for sixth in the seven team loop with 0-3 records. Crespi hosts Serra, plays at Notre Dame and finishes at Chaminade, while the Knights travel to Chaminade, entertain Crespi and take the road to Loyola.
If the Cubs win out they will finish no worse than third in the league. If Alemany loses to Bishop Amat, beats Loyola and loses to Serra, it would have a 3-3 record; and if Loyola were to lose to Alemany and defeat Notre Dame, the Cubs would likewise finish 3-3. In the event of that scenario, Alemany would get preference over Loyola in CIF Southern section Division 1 playoff selection. If Bishop Amat defeats Alemany and loses to Chaminade, there could be a three way tie for third place which would necessitate a coin flip to determine the conference’s third through fifth place finishers. If Alemany were to notch a win over Amat, beat Loyola and lose to Serra, the Warriors would conclude conference play with a 4-2 record and finish in no worse than third place, meaning Loyola and Amat could be vying for fourth place. If that were to occur, Loyola’s dramatic win over Amat, in which it scored 10 points in the final 20 seconds of the game on September 23, would allow it to secure the fourth place spot in the final conference standings, assuming the Cubs defeat a competitive Notre Dame team on November 4. A fourth place finish, however, would not guarantee a playoff invitation. The bottom line is that if the Cubs win their final two games, they are in the playoffs.
Cub sophs win defensive battle against Crespi
Head coach Ric Flores was effusive in his praise of his entire sophomore defensive unit for its play in a fiercely fought defensive battle, culminating in a 10-3 Loyola victory against Crespi last Thursday in Encino. Flores lauded running back HUNTER BALLARD for his hard nosed effort. Ballard also aided the defensive gem with an interception. Also earning special mention was punter CHRISTIAN SIDES who boomed several 40+-yard punts and played well in the secondary. Quarterback DANIEL HAYES continued his solid play behind center. Outside linebacker WILL KUPIEC was also praised as a defender who contributed some big hits. The victory over Crespi improves the sophomores’ record to 6-2 overall and 3-1 in league.
Loyola freshmen down Celts 19-14
Loyola’s freshman squad defeated Crespi, 19-14, at home last Thursday. Quarterback DAVIS WARREN had another solid outing as did running back KEVIN PARADA. The frosh improved their league record to 2-2.