Cub Football - Loyola loses to loaded team, but fights to the end

The Cubs had just scored on a quarterback sneak early in the fourth quarter after a long drive engineered by senior captain TOMMY VANIS in just his second varsity start behind center. The highlight of the drive was a well placed Vanis pass to junior receiver ALEX BLAKE which got Loyola inside the Chaminade five-yard line. The PAT kick by NICHOLAS BARR-MIRA cut the Cubs' deficit to 27-14 - and suddenly the momentum was shifted in the Big Blue's direction. Vanis had completed a TD pass late in the first half to sophomore wide receiver KEVIN PARADA to keep his squad in striking distance. Meanwhile he continued his stellar play as a starting outside linebacker. The stage was set for a comeback.

The home fans at Smith Field were energized, and what Loyola needed was an Eagles' turnover.  The Cub 'Wolfpack' defense delivered in short order, causing and recovering a fumble near midfield. Unfortunately, Loyola's offense was stymied by Chaminade's behemoth, athletic defensive front seven, and for all intents and purposes, as they say, the ball game was over. The Eagles extended their lead to 37-14 late in the contest, but the Cubs were still fighting - and fighting hard - until the final gun.

The final score (37-14) was a disappointment against the number eight-ranked team in California and number five team in the Southland, but the effort put forth by Loyola was not. Once again the 'no breaking point' ethos embraced by the team was evident in the final two stanzas.

The Cubs gave up just ten points after intermission to a team (the Eagles scored 17 in a loss to heralded St. John Bosco in the second half) that was simply better than the Big Blue, but Loyola never quit, and Chaminade kept its starters in until the waning moments of the fourth quarter.

Through eight contests the Cub 'Wolfpack' defense has relinquished just 113 points, and only 38 points after halftime - and that is with Santa Margarita Catholic and Chaminade (to whom Loyola suffered its worst losses) keeping their first units in the games until the final minutes of the fourth quarter.  That is an average of 4.7 points allowed in the second half, including zero given up against Santa Margarita, which is still a contender for the Trinity League crown, Bishop Amat and Serra.

The 'Wolfpack' has given up the fewest points in eight games (not including the 12 points scored against the offense on two pick sixes) since the 2004 stop unit. For the 31 seasons from 1974 though 2004 Loyola relinquished over that point point total a single time in 1980, the only losing season in that span. It is easy to see why the coaching staff has made defense a priority - and it is paying off.

The Cubs have two conference games remaining on the slate, this Friday at Encino Crespi, and, following a bye week, the Mission League finale against Alemany in Mission Hills on November 3. Loyola will likely be favored in both contests. Both are must-win games.

The Cubs were hoping Vista Murrieta of the Southwestern League would lose its game against Murrieta Mesa on Friday, but that did not happen, as the Broncos (3-5) defeated the Rams, 48-20. Based on realistic projections, that means Vista Murrieta Most likely will finish third in its conference and therefore earn an automatic playoff berth. Assuming that scenario plays out and Loyola runs the table, the question becomes would the CIF select the sixth place team from the Trinity League with a 0-5 conference record and overall 5-5 ledger over a 6-4 Cub squad.

Servite looks to be the Trinity team most likely to end up winless in its loop. The Friars (5-2) have Orange Lutheran, St. John Bosco and Mater Dei left on their schedule, while Orange Lutheran has Servite, Mater Dei and Santa Margarita remaining in league competition. Bottom line, Loyola will be rooting for a Trinity school - whether it be the Friars or the Lancers - to finish 0-5 in league.

Loyola would certainly have a good argument that a fourth place conference finish with a 3-3 record and an overall 6-4 ledger should trump a 0-5 Trinity League slate and a 5-5 overall record.

The Cubs (4-4, 1-3) cannot do anything at this point but win their final two Mission League contests and hope for a playoff invitation.

One thing is certain. Loyola will get off the bus ready to compete in Encino on Friday.