Cubs lose to Alemany in season finale - again, controversial play proves the ultimate difference

Loyola's season ended in a close, 27-24, loss to Alemany in Mission Hills on Friday night. The improbable, shocking outcome included three touchdowns being scored in the final two-and-a-half minutes of the contest. The Cubs were victims of yet another controversial turnover in the first quarter that resulted in a score by the home team to put the Warriors ahead 13-0. Those six points would ultimately spell the difference in the game.

Loyola partisans were shaking their heads in disbelief as a third down screen pass to a Cub running back clearly appeared to be incomplete, but no whistle was blown. An Alemany defender picked up the ball and raced half the distance of the field for what was ruled a touchdown, putting Loyola behind early by two touchdowns. The play was reminiscent of a phantom fumble in the final seconds of the Bishop Amat game on September 29 when a Cub runner was clearly down at the Lancers' one-yard line, but the officials ruled he had fumbled the ball after his knees had come in contact with the ground, allowing Amat to escape Smith Field with a 7-3 league victory.

Senior captain DAKOTA SMITH ran for a five-yard TD at the 5:35 mark of the second stanza and caught a beautifully executed 19-yard back shoulder touchdown pass from freshman quarterback MILLER MOSS with 20 seconds remaining in the first half. Junior NICHOLAS BARR-MIRA's extra point put Loyola up,14-13, at intermission. The home team drew first blood on a long pass completion early in the first stanza after a Loyola defensive back fell down in coverage.

Barr-Mira nailed a 36-yard field goal in the third quarter to increase the Cubs' lead to 17-13. After Loyola's 'Wolfpack' defense forced Alemany to give up the ball late in the forth quarter it looked like the Cubs would hang on for the victory notwithstanding a booming Warrior punt that was downed at the Loyola 12 yard line.

With two-and-a-half minutes remaining in the game, the Cubs were faced with third-and-one at their 21 yard line. Disaster befell the the Big Blue as an errant pitch behind the running back was picked up by an Alemany defender and returned for a touchdown. Following the PAT kick, the Warriors had taken a 20-17 lead before an utterly stunned visitors' sideline with 2:25 remaining.

Following the ensuing kickoff, Alemany scored on a 60-yard sprint up the middle to put the Warriors ahead 27-17, but it wasn't over. Senior NATHAN BUSTOS returned the Alemany kickoff 99 yards for six points on an incredible display of open field running to close the gap to 27-24 with a minute left.  A well executed onside kick was recovered by the Warriors, and underdog Alemany hung on to secure just its third win of the season.

Among the stat leaders for Loyola were junior HUNTER BALLARD who finished the night with 104 yards rushing. Moss completed 12 of 18 passes for 104 yards and a TD. Smith caught four aerials for 40 yards, and sophomore receiver KEVIN PARADA had four catches for 55 yards. Senior corner ALEX JOHNSON nabbed his fourth interception of the season.

It was a painful end to the campaign, but as was the case all season there was no quit in the Cubs. Loyola ended the year with a fourth place finish in the Mission League and an overall record of 5-5. The Cubs relinquished just 154 points (15.4 points per game) in ten contests, and the 'Wolfpack" gave up 131 points (13 ppg).

Head coach RICK PEDROARIAS '84 and his staff were successful in emphatically changing the direction of the program. The future for Loyola football holds great promise as preparations for the 2018 season will commence this week. The complete buy-in by the players and significant contributions of a dedicated senior class will long be remembered as what laid the foundation for a new era of Cub Football.

Even if Loyola had defeated Alemany, it is highly unlikely the Cubs would have been granted an at-large berth in the CIF Southern Section Division I playoffs which get underway Friday, as Orange Lutheran had more points, 4-1, in the criteria used by the CIF for at-large playoff selection under the comparative equity formula.