Loyola’s second half effort in its heartbreaking loss to Cathedral last Friday in its final non-league game was the best 24 minutes of football it has played thus far. The Cubs shut out the Los Angeles Times’ 20th-ranked team in the final two quarters, while scoring 16 points in the 21-19 heart stopping defeat that came down to the final play. The Phantoms were averaging 47 points coming into the contest behind the exploits of a bevy of fast, athletic skill position players. Loyola’s impressive second half performance just might prove to be a harbinger of good things to come as the Cubs open play in the Mission League this Friday against arch rival Bishop Amat in La Puente.
There is only one league team that has historically had the Cubs number since the two schools began competing on the gridiron in 1968, and that is Bishop Amat. Loyola must put together a nearly flawless effort in all three phases of the game to notch a victory. The Lancers are 3-1 with their lone defeat coming at the hands of what may be one of Mater Dei’s best teams of all time in the season opener. Ranked ninth in the Times’ top 25, Amat recorded a 14-10 victory over 15th-ranked Servite in game two and outscored 11th-ranked JSerra, 35-28, in its third contest. The Lancers recorded a forfeit win over St. Paul last week because the Swordsmen did not have enough personnel to compete after multiple St. Paul players were ejected and disqualified from playing following a melee in their game against Riverside Notre Dame the previous week.
Whether Amat’s layoff last week will prove a positive or negative is unknown, but one thing is absolutely certain – the Lancers will play a very physical brand of football against the Cubs, as is they invariably do. Amat has been uncharacteristically non-prolific on offense thus far. Sophomore quarterback Blake Archuleta has completed 65% of his passes for 414 yards in four games, but the Lancer running game - usually a team strength – has averaged only 85.7 yards per outing. The lack of offensive production, though, can be attributed in large measure to the first class quality of the four opponents Amat has faced. For the Big Blue to pull out a win, Loyola’s ‘Wolfpack’ defense must play with its hair on fire for 48 minutes, and the Cub offense must pick up where it left off in the second half of last Friday’s battle.
The Lancers and Loyola met in a seven-on-seven passing tournament last spring, and Amat was exceptionally physical and disciplined in spanking the Cubs. Loyola has not forgotten that encounter. The Cubs will have to match - and probably exceed - Amat’s level of physicality to have shot at an all-important Mission League victory. It’s a tall order, but the arrow is pointing in the right direction.