Calpreps.com uses algorithms to project the scores of high school football games across the nation. The pick for Loyola’s showdown with Chaminade (3-2, 0-1) in West Hills on Friday night has the Eagles routing the Cubs by a score of 34-17. After Loyola’s dramatic come from behind 24-23 victory against Bishop Amat on a 49-yard field goal as time expired two weeks ago in the Mission League opener, the vibe was positive heading into last week’s battle with Serra in Gardena. The Cubs took a 30-27 lead in a see-saw fray early in the fourth quarter, but ultimately could not hold on in a 41-30 loss that saw five lead changes. Despite gaining nearly 500 yards in the team’s best offensive effort of the campaign, multiple miscues and key defensive breakdowns were too much to overcome.
So now Loyola prepares for Chaminade, a popular preseason choice to win the Mission League title, as a prohibitive underdog, at least according to Calpreps’ mathematical projection. The Big Blue is bristling at Calpreps’ pick. You could call it a referendum game of sorts. The Eagles could very well be the best of the Cubs’ remaining Mission League opponents. Having lost to Serra, 30-28, and coming off a bye, Chaminade is 0-1 in league play and cannot afford another loop loss if it hopes to keep its championship aspirations alive. And Loyola needs to make a statement that despite early season adversity it is still in the league title hunt and playoff contention. On paper the Eagles probably have an edge, but the Cubs have closed ranks and their offense is trending in a very positive direction. Loyola (2-4, 1-1) has to do three things to pull out the win: make zero critical mistakes (i.e. no turnovers, allow minimum big chunk plays defensively, etc.); contain Chaminade junior running back TJ Pledger, the best back in Division 1; and consistently outperform the Eagles in all phases of special teams play.
Alemany transfer Brevin White (6-2, 175) is calling signals for Chaminade. The junior QB has thrown for 936 yards and nine touchdowns. The Eagles also play talented sophomore Ryan Stevens behind center on occasion. Junior receiver Michael Winston (6-2,180) has a whopping 628 receiving yards. While Chaminade is traditionally a pass-oriented offensive team, the centerpiece of the Eagle attack is Pledger. With multiple offers from the likes of Notre Dame and USC, Pledger combines power with speed better than any back in the CIF Southern Section. He has rushed for 660 yards in 85 carries (7.8 avg.) and has 131 receiving yards (13.1 yds. per reception). Chaminade will probably run right at the Cubs with Pledger with the intention of setting up big play action opportunities. In addition to Pledger, the Eagles like to bludgeon opponents with bruising junior RB Andrew Van Buren (6-1, 215). Chaminade is very imposing up front with nine linemen tipping the scales in excess of 250 pounds and four weighing over 295 lbs.
Defensively, the Eagles are led by very active inside linebacker Kyle Bilchik (5-10,205), who sets the standard for the stop unit with 66 tackles. Chaminade has not been as stout on the defensive side of the ball as it is productive on offense. The Eagles relinquished 65 points to Oaks Christian and 30 to Serra. The Eagles, though, played shut down defense in an impressive 49-7 win over St. Bonaventure and a 42-15 victory over a good Valencia squad.
Cub quarterback SEAN O’MALLEY has thrown for 1,073 yards and nine TDs, including an impressive 372-yard outing against Serra last Friday. The senior field general has also rushed for 215 yards. Loyola’s top receiver has been fast, athletic senior JACK WEBSTER, who has 34 receptions for 487 yards (14.3 avg.). Senior tight end CONNOR BEADLES has made 12 catches for 142 yards and junior DAKOTA SMITH has 12 receptions for 129 yards. A player who is really emerging on the offensive side of the ball is TOMMY VANIS. The junior RB/WR had two TD catches against Serra, including one that went 59 yards, and a 13-yard TD run against Amat. Junior RB JACOB McBRIDE is averaging over five yards per carry.
The Cub ‘Wolfpack’ defense is paced by inside linebacker WINSTON ANAWALT, who has 61 tackles, including 30 solo stops. Fellow inside linebacker Tommy Vanis is the second leading tackler with 39, and junior nickel Jacob McBride has 31 tackles, including 18 solo stops.
What will it take to defeat Chaminade? Loyola’s best, cleanest (as in minimal mistakes) and most physical effort of the season thus far.
Chaminade is located at 7500 Chaminade Avenue, West Hills, CA 91304. Kickoff is at 7:00 p.m.
Cubs in Football Bowl Subdivision updates
Former All-Serra League corner CAMERON WALKER ‘13 had eight tackles from his nickel position for Cal in the Bears’ big win over Utah last weekend. All-Serra League offensive tackle COLEMAN SHELTON ‘13 is excelling for number five-ranked Washington at center, where he is a RImington Trophy candidate. Shelton helped lead the Huskies (5-0) to a 44-6 rout of Stanford last Friday. All-Serra-League kicker CONRAD UKROPINA ’12 is seven-for-seven on PATs and has hit six of six field goal attempts for Stanford. Cub MVP MYLES BRYANT ‘16 saw significant playing time at corner as a true freshman for Washington in the Huskies’ win over Stanford. All-Serra League receiver CHAZ ANDERSON ’12 has 141 receiving yards for Boise State.
Loyola in NFL
All-CIF Div. I safety CHRIS CONTE ’07 is the second leading tackler for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with 30 stops, including 24 solo tackles. Former Loyola star ANTHONY BARR is a Pro Bowl starting linebacker for the undefeated Minnesota Vikings.