Did Cubs turn a corner?

Lost amidst the post game dejection that washed over the Loyola football team following a failed 49-yard field goal attempt which would have won the game after a furious comeback effort against Cathedral in front of a capacity crowd at Bob Smith Field on Friday night was the very real possibility that the Cubs just may have turned the proverbial corner.

After entering the locker room with a 21-3 lead at halftime it looked like the Times’ number 23-ranked Phantoms might run away with a lopsided win in the first game between Loyola and Cathedral in 43 years. But the Cubs found their compass in playing their best half of football thus far in the 2016 campaign in the final non-league contest before they prepare for their opener in the rugged Mission League on Friday against fast-rising arch rival Bishop Amat on the road.

The Phantoms entered Friday’s much ballyhooed contest having scored 47, 51 and 50 points, respectively, against their first three foes. After their 21-point first half effort, it looked like the visitors’ side of the scoreboard might very well light up after intermission. But Loyola came out of the locker room with vengeance. The Cub ‘Wolfpack’ defense held Cathedral’s fast and talented offense scoreless in the final two quarters, playing with impressive physicality in the process. Senior defensive lineman SINJUN ASTANI had two pivotal sacks of the Phantoms’ quarterback, and the entire Loyola defense swarmed to the football. Meanwhile senior quarterback and team captain SEAN O’MALLEY paced the offense, completing 16 of 20 passes for 206 yards including a beautiful third quarter completion to senior receiver JACK WEBSTER, who caught the ball in stride and raced to the end zone for a 55-yard touchdown. Later O’Malley hooked up with senior tight end CONNOR BEADLES for a ten-yard TD to draw the Cubs within two. The two-point conversion pass attempt was just complete but the tackle was made just short of the goal line.

Loyola had possession on the game’s final series and drove to the Phantoms’ 32-yard line, setting up the 49-yard field goal attempt on the game’s final play. The snap was a little high, upsetting the timing on the hold, and All-CIF senior kicker DIEGO CAHO-SOUSA really had no chance as a consequence. Cacho-Sousa’s earlier 32 and 33-yard field goals had helped put the Cubs in position to win the contest at the end.

Mistakes need to be cleaned up and a number of things must continue to be fine tuned if Loyola is to make a run for a CIF Division 1 playoff berth, but the second half of Friday’s battle migh very well end up defining the trajectory of the campaign.

Loyola sophomores win impressively

It was an old school slugfest at Hank Hernandez Field Saturday morning as the Loyola sophomores played their most impressive game of the season in downing a big, physical Cathedral JV squad, 27-7 to improve to 3-1 on the season.

Head coach RIC FLORES said afterward, “All 43 players made this work.” Flores accorded special recognition to his defensive platoon. Corner CONNOR ROGGERO had two interceptions, including a 60-yard pick six. Other stalwart performances were turned in by linebackers MARCUS AGUILLAR, CHASE BRANIGAN, WILL KUPIEC and DAVID ANAWALT. Nose guard COLE MILLER was a force up front. Flores also lauded the play of DB ALEX BLAKE.

Offensively, running back HUNTER BALLARD ran very hard against some very tough defenders. Quarterback DANIEL HAYES was solid, and Flores credited offensive guard SCOTT KASE for his efforts.

Cub freshmen suffer setback

One can only say that if the squad Cathedral brought to Hernandez Field on Thursday afternoon was really composed entirely of ninth graders, the Phantoms may be able to compete at the small college level in a couple of years. 

 Suffice to say, the Cub freshmen were overmatched physically and did not adjust to the physicality and maturity of Cathedral’s squad until it was way too late to mount a comeback in a one-sided 38-9 loss, which dropped Loyola’s record to 3-1. It did not help the cause that one of the Cubs’ best two-way players suffered an injury in the first quarter and did not return to the game.

The silver lining is that it is unlikely the frosh will see a more physical and big “freshman” team for the rest of the season. Playing such a rugged group was actually a good thing in the squad’s developmental process.