Cub Football - Loyola wins Mission League opener

On the day of the autumnal equinox it could be said that Loyola officially turned the corner in returning to the culture and disciplined, fundamentally sound ways of yore, as the Cubs defeated Sherman Oaks Notre Dame, 28-21 at the loser's home stadium Friday before a spirited, near-capacity home crowd that was desperately hoping the Knights would notch win number 300 of its head coach's 38- year career. 

Loyola senior NATHAN BUSTOS took the opening kickoff back over 90 yards.  In his first varsitystart 6' 4" junior quarterback NATHAN PRIESTLEY threw a six-yard touchdown strike to junior wide receiver ALEX BLAKE shortly after Bustos' impressive kick return, and just like that the Cubs were up 7-0, a lead they would never relinquish.

Once again, one of the stars of the evening was Loyola senior punter COLLIN FLINTOFT, who averaged 47.1 yards on seven booming punts, the first of which was muffed by Notre Dame and recovered by the Cubs deep in Knights' territory. Senior running back JACOB McBRIDE, who had an outstanding night on offense, defense and special teams, raced into the end zone at the 5:53 mark of the first quarter.  Junior NICHOLAS BARR-MIRA's PAT kick gave Loyola a 14-0 lead. Senior running back DAKOTA SMITH ran three yards for a TD five seconds into the second quarter to put the Cubs up 21-0. Loyola's 'Wolfpack' defense played lights out until it finally allowed a Notre Dame score just before halftime.

The Cub defense stopped the Knights on fourth down on the Loyola 22 yard line after a scoreless third quarter, and Loyola promptly drove the ball 78 yards, capped by a nifty 25-yard TD romp by talented junior running back HUNTER BALLARD with 9:43 left in the final stanza, upping the score to 28-7.

The Big Blue were breathing easy until Notre Dame's QB raced yards for six points just 14 seconds later to make the score 28-14. With less than three minutes remaining in the contest, the Knights completed a wobbly pass, which was misjudged by the Cub secondary, for an improbable touchdown to narrow the margin to 28-21. The ensuing on side kick was recovered by Loyola junior OSAZE ODIASE. Despite some anxious moments in the final minutes the Cubs notched their first all-important Mission League win.

McBride led the defense with 10 tackles and had three punt returns for 40 yards, along with an impressive performance at running back. He certainly was the top candidate to earn the game ball. Defensive linemen, senior BRAYDEN UTLEY and junior MARCUS AGUILAR, were stalwart in slowing down Notre Dame's running game. Utley also had two sacks. Senior inside linebackers JACK FITZGERALD and JORDAN McMILLAN each recorded nine tackles. Ballard finished the night with 108 yards rushing on 21 carries. In his first start Priestley completed seven of nine passes. Senior tight end TOMMY VANIS hauled in five passes for 37 yards.

One of the key components of the Cubs' success this season has been the play of all phases of special teams. Four of five Barr-Mira's kickoffs resulted in touchbacks. Flintoft continues booming punts with great hang time. Senior long snapper JAC CASASANTE is one of the most talented long snappers in the nation, and of both the kick and punt return units have been a strength.

The road does not get any easier for Loyola. The Cubs have three tough league home games coming up against historical arch rival Bishop Amat on Friday, speedy Gardena Serra the following week and Mission League favorite Chaminade on October 13.

The Cubs have shown they have the heart and grit to meet the challenges ahead.

The Cub freshmen defeated Notre Dame, 23-7, on the road Friday in a game that was not as close as the final score.  The Cub sophs lost to the Kights' JV team, 21-0, on Thursday.