On Saturday, the Cubs had a forgettable outing at the premier 7-on-7 passing tournament of the summer, the Battle at the Beach hosted by Edison High School in Huntington Beach. The mood was gloomy after Loyola finished 0-4 in morning pool play, but after some time for objective reflection, the end result really was not all bad.
The Cubs are starting new players at every secondary position and every wide receiver position - with some starting slots still up for grabs - and there were some costly miscues and mistakes made which will be corrected during the final two months of summer practices leading up to the first game. Among the positive observations were senior quarterback SEAN O’MALLEY connecting with senior wide receiver WILL McCRACKEN early and often down the middle of the field in the fourth pool play contest, which Loyola lost to Charter Oak, 25-22, on the final heartbreaking play of the game.
Senior tight end CONNOR BEADLES was money, consistently catching well-thrown passes. He will be a real go-to weapon in the fall. Senior wide receiver JACK WEBSTER hauled in a long distance pass from O’Malley for a TD, and just missed on another deep catch for a touchdown when he collided with a fence at the back of the end zone, causing a break-up.
Junior speedster ALEX JOHNSON got behind the secondary of Corona del Mar, the second seeded team in the afternoon eight-team Gold Division playoffs, to haul in a spectacular 40-yard TD grab while stretching out the entire length of his 6-1 frame. Loyola lost to the Sea Kings, the champions of three summer passing tournaments, 19-9, but the game was neck-and-neck until the final three minutes when CdM scored a late TD thrown by its Cal-bound senior QB. Gritty junior JACOB McBRIDE showed that he will be a valuable contributor at both receiver and nickel on defense. Loyola snagged three interceptions in four games.
The Cubs did not employ gimmick passing league plays or formations as so many teams do in 7-on-7 tournaments, but stayed in their regular offensive and defensive alignments, and multiple players - including non-starters - got reps throughout the pool play competition. Loyola’s only lopsided loss was to undefeated tournament champion, Mater Dei (7-0), who has a Division I title-contending squad. Two early interceptions, one of which was thrown when the Cubs were at the MD one-yard line, doomed the Big Blue after they started out well against the Monarchs.
When the initial disappointment of the venture to Orange County began to wear off, the positives became more apparent. It was notable that perennial passing tournament titans, Hart of Newhall and Santa Margarita of Rancho Santa Margarita, also went 0-4 in their respective pools. Neither of those teams made the afternoon playoffs, and Loyola archrival Bishop Amat (1-3) also was left out of the playoff field. That says something about the caliber of the teams in attendance.
Two things to keep in perspective, 7-on-7 is not real football, and Loyola senior running back DRAKE BEASLEY who has gained 2,000 yards in his career was not churning out the yards as he will in the fall. Competing in the elite talent-laden event, though, provided valuable experience for an inexperienced team at the skill positions, but the Cubs may well prove to be significantly better than some are predicting come the opener on August 26.