Opportunity Lost in Gardena

After an incredible second half comeback triumph over Bishop Amat in Loyola’s first Mission League game, the Cubs were confident they could play with - and vanquish - any team in the ultracompetitive Mission League. But they also knew that the margin for error was razor thin. Unfortunately, on Friday in Gardena, Loyola exceeded that slim margin in falling to the Serra Cavaliers, 41-30. The Cubs rolled up 460 yards of total offense, and led early in the fourth quarter, 30-27, but several critical miscues and the inability to consistently contain the Cavaliers’ quarterback ultimately prevented Loyola from notching a win. The blunders included an interception deep in Loyola territory early in the third quarter after which Serra scored on the next play, a lost fumble, a missed field goal and a missed extra point. Key defensive breakdowns also contributed to the loss. But the Cubs clearly demonstrated that they have what it takes to remain in a highly competitive league race that is far from over.
 Loyola got on the scoreboard first at the 4:42 mark of the first quarter as DIEGO CACHO-SOUSA kicked a 31-yard field goal following an interception by junior corner ALEX JOHNSON. The Cavaliers answered with a touchdown to put them ahead, 7-3. Cub quarterback SEAN O’MALLEY threw a 51-yard TD pass to JACK WEBSTER, who caught the ball in stride, to put Loyola up, 9-7. Serra scored twice thereafter, making the score 20-9, but with just over a minute and a half left in the first half, O’Malley threw a 17-yard touchdown aerial to junior running back TOMMY VANIS, and connected with tight end CONNOR BEADLES for the two point conversion, to cut the Cavaliers’ lead to 20-17 at intermission. The TD drive was set up by an interception by senior safety RYAN PARKS.
 It appeared that Loyola had the momentum entering the second half, but a mishandled ball on the kickoff return pinned the Cubs at their own 10 yard line. Shortly thereafter Serra made an interception on a tipped ball. A 13-yard TD run on the Cavs’ first offensive play upped their lead to 27-17 with just 21 seconds gone in the third quarter. The Cubs, though, were undeterred and came storming back with O’Malley sneaking in from one yard out at the 7:01 mark of the third quarter to cap a long, well executed touchdown drive to close the gap to 27-23 in favor of Serra. Loyola’s ‘Wolfpack’ defense stiffened, forcing a punt. O’Malley then hit Vanis with a short toss in the flat and the junior RB raced into the end zone from 54 yards out. The PAT kick put the Cubs ahead, 30-27, eleven seconds into the fourth quarter. The Cavaliers answered at the 9:25 mark on a 30-yard pass off a fourth down scramble to retake the lead, 34-30, and tacked on another score late to make the final tally, Serra 41, Loyola 30. The Cubs’ furious second half comeback efforts of the previous two weeks were unfortunately not replicated in this contest which saw five lead changes.
 Among the highlights of the game for Loyola were O’Malley’s 372 passing yards (1,073 on season, nine TDs), a career high, three TD passes and one rushing touchdown; and Webster's 140 receiving yards on eight receptions. Defensively, nickel JACOB McBRIDE (11 tackles) continued his sure tackling efforts. In the end, just like last year, it was big plays by Serra dual threat QB, junior Jelani Eason (three passing and two rushing touchdowns), that proved the difference.

 Mission far from over
Loyola (2-4) now stands 1-1 in the Mission League with four games left to play. If the Cubs win out they will be guaranteed a spot in the CIF Southern Section Division 1 playoffs. If they win three out of four, a trip to the post season is highly likely. The road, though, does not get any easier. This Friday, Loyola travels to West Hills to battle Chaminade, picked by many in the preseason to win the Mission League title. The Eagles had a bye last week and nearly pulled off a comeback victory over Serra in their Mission League opener before falling, 30-28. Chaminade runs a balanced offense and may have the best running back in Division 1 in junior TJ Pledger.
 On Friday, Alemany downed Crespi, 13-11, in a very physical game that went down to the wire, and Bishop Amat defeated a dangerous Notre Dame squad, 17-14, with a late field goal in Sherman Oaks. Those scores demonstrate the parity of the Mission League programs. As Serra coach Scott Altenberg told the Daily Breeze after his team’s victory over Loyola, “Every win in the Mission League is a tough one.”
 Serra and Alemany are both 2-0 in league play, Loyola and Bishop Amat are 1-1, Crespi and Chaminade are each 0-1 and Notre Dame is 0-2. The league race is wide open.

 Loyola sophs whip Serra 27-6
Loyola’s sophomore team improved to 4-2 on the season and 1-1 in the Mission League with a decisive 27-6 rout of Gardena Serra on Thursday. The Cubs led 17-0 at halftime.
 Head coach Ric Flores lauded the play of his defensive unit led by end WILL KUPIEC; linebackers DAVID ANAWALT, MARCUS AGUILLAR and CHASE BRANIGAN; DB PATRICK LARSON (interception); and DL COLE MILLER. Quarterback DANIEL HAYES had his best outing of the season thus far, running back HUNTER BALLARD was solid as usual and NICHOLAS BARR kicked a 49-yard field goal for Loyola. Wide receiver/safety ALEX BLAKE played well on both sides of the ball.

 Cub frosh fall on desperation TD pass
The freshman squad led Serra 21-7 at half time, but ended up falling to the Cavaliers, 35-28, on the final play of the game on a desperation heave into the end zone following a Cub punt that covered just seven yards. It was a tough setback for a club that is playing without several key players who are sidelined by injury. The Cubs are 3-3 overall.

 Thank you, Father Quinn
Special thanks to Father John Quinn for his professional action shots of Cub Football. See the link below.