Cub Football - A turnaround season despite last two losses

Loyola has proven it is headed back to prominence in football
There can be no argument that there is a distinct - and powerful - difference in how Loyola is playing football this season compared to the manner in which it competed in the majority of campaigns dating back to 2004 . . . There can be no argument about the fact that the hallowed traditions of Cub Football have been embraced rather than ignored . . . And, finally, there can be no argument that the future of the program is looking bright.

Yes, the record (4-3 to date) is not necessarily impressive, but the style of play is. A big step up has undeniably been taken.

Inspiration from former Cub stars
First year head coach RICK PEDROARIAS '84 has arranged for former Loyola football standouts from multiple generations to address the team every Thursday after practice beginning in the summer to share the essential elements (to date the topics have been: team that turns it around, hard work, toughness, practice makes permanent, the will to succeed, commitment to excellence, perfection, courage, sacrifice, accepting challenges, mental toughness and attitude) that made Cub Football one of the most successful programs in California prep history.

His most recent speaker was former All-CIF Division I defensive back WESLEY WILLARD '98, who was appointed to and played football for Army West Point, went on to become an Army Ranger and a commander in the Iraq War and earned a Bronze Star.  Willard was a standout running back, DB and special teams player on the 1995 and 1996 CIF Div. I finalist teams and the semifinalist squad that finished 12-1 in 1997. With motivation and inspiration from former Big Blue gridiron warriors, it may be no coincidence that this team has played with the passion, toughness and tenacity of those who competed during the Twentieth Century and in the early years of the New Millennium. 

Loyola has a coaching staff that understands what it means - and what it takes - to play the brand of football that created the tremendous championship legacy of which so many graduates, fans and supporters are immensely proud.

Two close losses actually affirm ascendancy of program
The Cubs' two close, heartbreaking losses to Bishop Amat and Gardena Serra proved not that recent history is repeating itself, but rather that Cub Football is on its way back to prominence. Why? Because the team competed with the same grit, tenacity, toughness and passion for a full 48 minutes as the championship squads of the past did.

Serra came into the game on Friday, averaging 463 yards of total offense per outing with a supporting cast of players that looked and played like they belonged on college rosters. After a Loyola tipped pass resulted in an interception that was returned for a touchdown on the first play from scrimmage, senior team captain TOMMY VANIS (about whom a feature article appeared in the Los Angeles Times last Friday - and is a must read) got the nod at quarterback, a position he had not played since his sophomore campaign two years ago. A third generation Cub athlete, Vanis calmly and effectively led the Big Blue offense, completing eight of eleven passes (73 %) for 126 yards (15.8 yards per completion) and tacking on an additional 58 rushing yards, while notching seven tackles on defense at his starting outside linebacker post.

The power of belief
Loyola was not at all fazed or intimidated by the bigger, faster athletes on the Cavaliers' roster - as often was the case in the recent past when it faced formidable opponents. Rather, the Cubs believed they would win and expected to win.  And that belief and that expectation are among the primary reasons this Loyola team is setting a new standard and has the program heading in a new direction.

Stellar defense has been the norm
Serra must have appreciated that the Cub 'Wolfpack' defense was the best it faced this season. And the numbers back it up.

Loyola held the Cavaliers, who came into the contest averaging 34 points per game, to just seven offensive points, and relinquished only 184 yards of total offense - a staggering 279 yards below Serra's 463-yard average against top flight opponents before the Mission League showdown. 

The Cubs out-gained Serra 246 yards to 184.  The early pick six and a fumble late in the first half following a long pass completion spelled the difference in the painful 13-10 loss, which came on the heels of a 7-3 defeat the week before to arch rival Bishop Amat when a phantom fumble on the Lancers' one-yard line was called as Loyola was about to secure the win in the waning moments of the contest.

The stellar defensive play of the 'Wolfpack' has been consistent throughout the season.  And great defense was one of the hallmarks of championship-caliber Loyola teams.

The Cubs held Fairfax (4-2), the L.A. City Section's Western League title favorite, 26 points below the Lions' scoring average in their other five games.

Loyola allowed Cathedral (5-1), the Angelus League's top team, a mere 164 yards of total offense. The Phantoms have averaged 483 yards of total offense in their other five contests with their average score being 49-7. The Cubs defeated Cathedral 17-7 in a defensive masterpiece.

Loyola held Trinity league power Santa Margarita Catholic (4-2) 111 yards blow its standard. Mater Dei's vaunted defense gave up 55 more yards to the Eagles last Friday than the 'Wolfpack' did in the second non-league contest. 

St. Augustine (3-3) is averaging 29 points per game against other foes. The Saints were shut out, 41-0, by the Cubs.

Notre Dame (5-2) was held 14 points below its scoring average in other games, and Bishop Amat was held to an average of 2.4 yards per rushing attempt in a game the Lancers won, 7-3, with help from the officials. 

Loyola has one of the premier defensive platoons in the CIF Southern Section - about that, there can be no doubt. The Cub 'Wolfpack' has relinquished just 77 points in seven games.  Last season, through seven contests, Loyola had allowed 196. In 2015, the number of points relinquished in seven contests was 103 and in 2014, 136. 

Vanis's two-way role was a Loyola first
Tommy Vanis's impressive debut at quarterback against Serra on Friday was the first time a Loyola linebacker operated behind center during the same game in the modern history of Loyola varsity football.  It indeed was a stalwart performance.

Junior quarterback NATHAN PRIESTLEY, who played well in his first two starts, unfortunately is sidelined with a season-ending injury suffered against Bishop Amat, but freshman MILLER MOSS is expected to see considerable action behind center during the regular season's final three games, beginning with the Chaminade tilt at Smith Field this Friday. But with Vanis'sperformance against Serra, he may well be the starter down the stretch, notwithstanding his first string status on the other side of the ball.