Loyola football exceeds expectations
Heading into Friday's showdown with longtime rival Notre Dame at the Knights' home field in Sherman Oaks, there is a distinctive, positive vibe surrounding Cub Football that has not been felt in a long, long time at 1901 Venice Boulevard.
You almost have to blink your eyes to assure yourself that what you are seeing is not a mirage or some kind of illusion. Focused players wearing black cleats walking onto the field before pregame drills in single file . . . strict attention to detail by the coaching staff and team alike . . . palpable "buy-in" to the powerful messages being delivered by new head coach RICK PEDROARIAS '84 and his exceptional staff . . . the quarterback lining up behind center with a fullback in the backfield . . . flying to the ball on defense . . . and, dare we say it, a little of the edge and swag that was a hallmark of Loyola football for generations.
Is this 2004, the last of former head coach Steve Grady's '63 twenty-nine stellar seasons at the helm? No, it is 2017, but things are sure looking a lot like they did both culturally and on the field during one of the best three-decade runs in Cub gridiron history. There is no doubt that this team is performing well beyond the expectations of those on the outside who predicted the Big Blue would finish last in their league and finish with a 2-8 record. As it turns out Loyola just made an appearance in the Los Angeles Times' top 25 - at the number 24 spot - for the first time since 2015 and is ranked 48th in the state.
Can the Cubs maintain the momentum they built in their 17-7 victory over then number 22-ranked Cathedral last Friday, in which they held the Phantoms' prolific passing attack to just 109 yards and a measly four yards per passing attempt after they came into the game averaging 347 yards per outing through the air, their 41-0 rout of St. Augustine in San Diego on September 8, and their second half shutout of Santa Margarita's high-scoring offense on September 1? Can Loyola continue the defensive dominance in which it relinquished just seven points in the last ten quarters? Can the Cubs keep their power running game going?
Those questions will be answered starting with this Friday's critical Mission League opener in Sherman Oaks against an undefeated Notre Dame team which will be desperately trying to notch its head coach's 300th career win at the school. The Knights would love nothing better than to deliver victory number 300 to their head coach against Loyola. Suffice to say, as the late, great Cub defensive coordinator JON DAWSON used to say, "Just tell them, we will get off the bus." Translated, the Cubs will come to play on Friday.
Last week the Loyola staff designed a defensive game plan that worked to near perfection in shutting down Cathedral's aerial assault. It will have to devise a similarly effective plan to stop Notre Dame's high octane rushing attack that had gained 1,054 yards at a 10.3 yards per carry clip going into last Friday's 29-0 rout of San Fernando. The Knights rolled up over 300 yards rushing yet again against the Tigers.
Take this missive as a call for beefed up fan support for the Cubs on Friday. Notre Dame football alumni will be out in droves to support their head coach in his quest to notch a milestone win. Loyola needs the same support to make sure Notre Dame does not win number 300 for its coach until sometime later in the season.
Rest assured, the Cubs WILL get off the bus on Friday.
Mission League off to interesting start
Who would have thought Bishop Amat would be 0-4 going into Mission League play before the season began, but that's what the Lancers' record is entering their bye week before they travel to Loyola on September 29. In Bishop Amat's 31-7 loss to Rancho Cucamonga last Friday, its starting quarterback injured his shoulder according to the San Gabriel Valley Tribune. His replacement threw several picks. Despite the Lancers' record, they are still a team with which to be reckoned as all of the setbacks were to top tier teams.
Notre Dame is the Mission League's lone undefeated team with a 4-0 record. The conference's best team - for now at least - is Chaminade (3-1). The Eagles' only setback was to powerful St. John Bosco, to whom they gave a real scare before bowing, 31-17, late. Gardena Serra is a surprising 1-2, with an upset, 17-14, rivalry loss to L.A. City Section favorite Narbonne and a high scoring, 56-42, defeat at the hands of Honolulu Punahou, The Cavaliers play Alemany in Gardena this Friday. Loyola takes on Notre Dame sporting a 3-1 non-league record. Crespi is struggling with a 1-3 record. The Celts host Chaminade on Friday. Alemany is also 1-3, but has played a much stronger schedule than Crespi.
As of now, outside of heavy favorite Chaminade, currently ranked sixth by the Los Angeles Times, it looks like the league race is wide open.
Notre Dame is the opponent Loyola has played most in its storied football history
Sherman Oaks Notre Dame is a comparatively new school, founded in 1947 by Brothers of the Congregation of Holy Cross, compared to Loyola which is the oldest continuously operated secondary school in Southern California, tracing its roots back some 152 years. But the the Cubs have played the Knights more times - 50 - than any other school. Loyola leads the series, dating back to 1950, with a record of 32-18. Cathedral (the Cubs lead the series with the Phantoms 31-12-1) is the school the Cubs have played the second most often and St. John Bosco is third (Loyola leads the series 30-10-1).
Cub grads update
CHRISTIAN RECTOR '15, a 2014 All-Mission League defensive end at Loyola, caused a fumble in the second overtime to set up USC's dramatic game winning field goal against Texas on Saturday.
Loyola football exceeds expectations