A Look at this week's opponent: the Chaminade Eagles
The Eagles are ranked eighth in the state by CalHi Sports, fifth in the Southland by the Los Angeles Times and fourth in the CIF Southern Section Division I coaches poll. And there is good reason for their lofty rankings, as they have posted impressive victories over Oaks Christian (47-10), Mountain Point (AZ.) (36-24), Bakersfield (43-14), Crespi (39-7) and Mission League rival Gardena Serra (37-32). Chaminade’s lone loss was to state number-two ranked St. John Bosco on September 8. The Eagles kept it close against the Braves until the final quarter before finally succumbing, 31-17, but the Eagles established themselves as a contender for a deep run in the CIF Division I playoffs by their impressive effort.
There are two players who are having monster seasons for Chaminade, Boise State-commit Andrew Vanburen and Stanford-commit Michael Wilson. Vanburen is the centerpiece of the Eagles’ rushing attack. The 6-1, 215 lb. senior running back is both fast and powerful, having racked up 339 yards on 39 carries against Serra and 787 yards rushing on the season with a 6.6 yards per carry average and 14 TDs. Wilson (6-2, 185) is a burner at wide receiver with 22 receptions for 520 yards (23.6 yards per reception) and six TDs. Junior quarterback Ryan Stevens (6-1, 170) is an accurate signal caller. He has completed 79 passes in 137 attempts (58 %) for 1,320 yards and 10 touchdowns. The Chaminade offense, which averages 409 total yards per contest, operates behind a massive, veteran offensive line.
The Eagles are just as good on defense as they are on offense. Junior linebacker Blake Antzoulatos (6-2, 212) is the real deal. He leads the team with 80 tackles, including 31 solo stops. Junior outside linebacker Michael Erhart (6-2, 200) has made 37 tackles. Free safety Christian Rankins (6-0, 190) has three picks. Senior defensive end Parker Gissinger (6-4, 234) and corner Dallas Taylor Cortez (6-3, 178) are major college recruits. Senior kicker Jonah Lipel (6-0, 185) is perfect on extra point tries and is five-for-five on field goal attempts.
Loyola has to find a way to limit Vanburen’s run production, otherwise it will be along night for the Cubs’ ‘Wolfpack’ defense. The Big Blue offense needs to control the clock to prevent the Eagles’ offense from having multiple scoring opportunities, but Loyola also needs to put points on the board every time it get its hands on the ball. Chaminade is the best team Loyola has faced since Santa Margarita Catholic, but more is on the line Friday than it was against the team from Rancho Santa Margarita. Special teams may play a big role in the outcome. A lot is on the line for the Cubs on Friday.
The Cubs and Eagles first played one another in a 2007 non-league contest, with Loyola earning the win, 17-7. The Cubs routed Chaminade in a non-league battle in 2009, 44-3, and shot down the Eagles in 2015, 31-13, in one of the best performances by the the Cubs in a season in which they finished 9-3 and ranked 17th in the state (the Big Blue's best campaign since 2005). Chaminade blasted Loyola last season, 42-0, and beat the Cubs, 24-7, in their inaugural Mission League encounter in 2014. Loyola holds the edge in the series with a 3-2 record.
Loyola's CIF playoff prospects
At this point the Cubs may have to rely on the results of another team to make the CIF Southern Section Division I playoffs. Even if Loyola upsets Chaminade on Friday and defeats Crespi and Alemany in their final Mission League encounters to finish 4-2 in league play, and if Serra and Bishop Amat were to complete their league ledgers at 4-2, or one of them at 5-1, the Cubs would be the fourth place finisher in the Mission League (because of their heart breaking losses to the Cavaliers and Lancers), and only the top three teams would be guaranteed playoff berths. The consensus is that Chaminade is the top team in the loop.
There are 18 teams in Division I of the CIF Southern Section this season (based on formulae implemented before the 2015 season (which allows teams from the same leagues to be placed in different playoff divisions) which rate schools based on a number of factors). Sixteen schools will make the D-! playoffs.
Based on how things stand now, and barring multiple seismic upsets down the stretch, there are three squads in play for the 16th and final spot in the playoff field. It is assumed by most knowledgeable pundits that all six teams from the Trinity League will secure playoff berths. If that ends up being the case, the current three schools who will battling - and holding their collective breath - for the final playoff spot are Loyola (4-3, 1-2) Vista Murrieta (1-5, 0-1) and Alemany (2-5, 1-2).
According to the experts, the Cubs are decided underdogs in this Friday's contest against Chaminade, but Loyola will be the favorite in their final two battles against Crespi and Alemany, respectively. Even if the Cubs fail to pull off the upset of the Eagles on Friday, but win their final two conference games, they would still likely finish in fourth place. A Loyola victory over Alemany, which still has to play Chaminade and Bishop Amat before taking on Loyola, would eliminate the Warriors from playoff consideration, absent a stunning upset of Chaminade and/or Bishop Amat by the Warriors.
Assuming the results end up with the Cubs finishing fourth in the seven-team Mission League, Vista Murrieta (1-5, 0-1) would have to finish no higher than fourth in the six-team Southwestern League. The Broncos 1-5 record is deceiving. Their five losses were to the fifth ranked team in Georgia, Colquitt County (6-1), a AAAAAAA Region I power in the Peach State; Mission Viejo (7-1), the fourth-ranked Southern Section D-I squad; Trinity League power Orange Lutheran (5-1); JSerra (6-0), another top Trinity League outfit; and league rival Murrieta Valley (4-2) , which is likely to finish among the Southwestern League's top three.
On Friday, Vista Murrieta will be hosting Murrieta Mesa (6-0), which has played a comparatively weak schedule in compiling an undefeated record. Loyola fans need to be rooting for the Rams of Murrieta Mesa on Friday. Vista Murrieta will be favored in league games against Chaparral (4-2, 0-1) on October 20 and winless Temecula Valley (0-6) on October 27, and may be favored in their regular season finale against Great Oak (3-3, 1-0) on the road. The bottom line is that Vista Murrieta has to lose to both Murrieta Mesa Friday and Great Oak on November 3. A loss to Chaparral, albeit unlikely, would also help the Cubs' cause. If the Broncos lose at least two of their remaining four conference games, it is highly likely Vista Murrieta would end the regular season in fourth place in the Southwestern League with a 3-7 overall record. Even if the Cubs finish in fourth place in the Mission League, they would probably be awarded the sole remaining playoff spot, based on their overall record compared to that of the Broncos.
At this point, there is a lot of football yet to be played. Bottom line, root for Vista Murrieta to lose as many games as possible, and for Loyola to win as many as possible. A victory over Chaminade on Friday would be absolutely phenomenal.
Loyola long snapper earns scholarship
It is extremely rare for long snappers to earn college scholarships, but Loyola's expert snapper, senior JAC CASASANTE, reported yesterday that he accepted a scholarship offer to play for the Utes of the University of Utah. One of the nation's best long snappers, Casasante has been a big part of the Cubs' extra point, field goal and punt units. He had multiple college suitors before committing to Utah.
A Look at this week's opponent: the Chaminade Eagles