Cub Football - Loyola at half way point of regular season, big contests ahead starting Friday

Loyola's defense and special teams have played key role in 4-1 start, all the marbles on the table as Cubs play for Mission League title
First year Loyola head coach RICK PEDROARIAS '84 made defense and special teams high priorities when he took over the reins of Cub Football last spring, and indeed it has been those two phases of the game that have been pivotal in the squad's 4-1 start to the campaign. In Loyola's 52-7 opening game blasting of Fairfax (2-2), the Cub 'Wolfpack' defense allowed just 70 rushing yards. In the lopsided loss to Trinity League power Santa Margarita Catholic (4-1), Loyola shut out the high-scoring Eagles offense in the second half notwithstanding that Santa Margarita's first team offense stayed in the game until less than four minutes remained in the contest. The Cub stop unit held Cathedral's (3-1) prolific passing offense to a paltry 109 yards and 4.4 yards per attempt, 222 yards below the Phantoms' average. Loyola held Notre Dame's (4-1) powerful run game to 115 yards below its season average. Defensive coordinator MIKE GILHOOLY '88 deserves a great deal of credit for having his 'Wolfpack' ready to attack opposing teams' strengths.

Senior Whip linebacker JORDAN McMILLAN leads the squad with 45 tackles, while senior Stud linebacker JACK FITZGERALD has 35 stops. Senior outside linebacker JACOB McBRIDE has 31 tackles. Sophomore strong safety KEVIN PARADA has 24 tackles and junior outside linebacker TOMMY VANIS has recorded 22 stops. Senior defensive lineman BRAYDEN UTLEY, and junior d-linemen MARCUS AGUILAR and SCOTT KASE have been outstanding up front.

The Cubs' special teams have been nothing short of spectacular. Under the tutelage of special teams coach ZACH MURRAY, Loyola's kicking, punting, return and coverage squads have shined week after week. Against Notre Dame last Friday, senior NATHAN BUSTOS returned the opening kickoff 93 yards and shortly thereafter senior COLLIN FLINTOFT's soaring punt was fumbled by the Knights leading to an early second TD for what proved to be an insurmountable 14-0 lead. Flintoft averaged an impressive 47.1 yards - with tremendous hang time - on seven punts against the Knights. Junior kicker NICHOLAS BARR-MIRA has been perfect on every extra point try, is four of five on field goals, with a best of 48 yards, and four of his five kickoffs against Notre Dame resulted in touchbacks. McBride is averaging 16 yards per punt return. Long snapper JAC CASASANTE will earn a scholarship.

Huge challenges ahead, starting this Friday
Loyola will be taking a big step up in the level of competition starting this week as the Cubs host an angry Bishop Amat team Friday, followed by home games against talented Gardena Serra (2-2) on October 6 and league title favorite Chaminade (4-1) on October 13.  Chaminade is ranked sixth in this week's Los Angeles Times Southland rankings, and Serra (2-2) is ranked 17th. Loyola is ranked 23rd by the Times and is the 44th ranked team in California according to CalHi Sports after defeating formerly 48th ranked Notre Dame, 28-21, on Friday.

Loyola plays longtime nemesis Bishop Amat this week
Bishop Amat head coach Steve Hagerty will have had two weeks to prepare for Friday’s game with Loyola at Smith Field, and the Lancers needed the bye week to heal injuries and to regroup after playing an unimaginably difficult pre-league slate.  The Lancers have to be the best 0-4 prep squad in the nation, having lost to Mater Dei, the top-ranked team in the United States; Illinois’ tenth-ranked squad, Loyola Academy of Wilmette; JSerra, the ninth-ranked team in California; and Rancho Cucamonga, the eighth-ranked team in the Golden State. After that pre-league gauntlet, Bishop Amat is battle-tested for its Mission League schedule. Against Rancho Cucamonga on September 15, the Lancers’ top signal caller, junior Blake Archuleta (6-1, 180) who has thrown for 594 yards, injured his shoulder according to the San Gabriel Valley Tribune. His availability for Friday’s battle is unknown, but Amat needs him behind center as his understudy has thrown six interception in limited action.
The Lancers are hoping their beyond-tough non-league schedule will allow them to vie for Mission League supremacy. Junior running back Kenny Collins (5-9, 165) is averaging 7.8 yards per tote. Amat’s go-to receiver is Noah Guzman (6-0, 190) who has 24 receptions for 391 yards, and is averaging a solid 16.3 yards per catch.
The big thumper on defense for the Lancers is senior linebacker Dominic Barrera (5-11, 190) who leads the stop unit with 40 tackles, including 27 solo tackles. Junior middle linebacker Fidel Cabral (5-10, 190) has chalked up 35 tackles with 16 solo stops. Senior free safety Joshua Arconado (5-11, 170) has 30 tackles, including 19 solo stops. Senior defensive lineman Aaron Maldonano (6-3, 275) is an immovable force who has recorded 28 tackles, 22 solos and four sacks.
Outlook for Amat game
If Archuleta is healthy his presence will aid Bishop Amat’s cause significantly.  If he isn’t, the Lancer passing game may beless effective.  If Loyola’s ‘Wolfpack’ defense slows down the Lancers running game, and if the Cub offense can run effectively, Loyola will have a good chance of capturing a win. Loyola’s kicking and punting platoons may provide the Cubs an advantage. Whenever these two teams battle the hitting is intense.
The Loyola-Bishop Amat series
Loyola and Bishop Amat have played one another 39 times. Indeed the Lancers have been the Cubs' nemesis since the schools first played in 1968 when Lancer sophomores, quarterback Pat Haden and wide receiver J.K. McKay, led Amat to a 29-13 victory at Loyola’s old home sod, Sentinel Field in Inglewood. Amat is the only Mission League squad to hold an advantage over the Cubs in the win-loss column.  Last season’s 24-23 Loyola win in La Puente was one for the ages as the Cubs scored 10 points in the final 20 seconds of the contest to pull out a dramatic victory.

Cub grads making big plays at collegiate level
Loyola's 2015 Most Valuable Player MYLES BRYANT '16, an All-State Special Mention and first team All-Mission League defensive back, continues to impress as the University of Washington's starting nickel back. Bryant had a 35-yard pick six for the Huskies in Saturday's victory over Colorado and also made seven tackles, including one for loss, earning him UW's Defensive Player of the Week honors.

CHRISTIAN RECTOR '15 continues his outstanding play for USC. The former All-Mission League defensive end played both outside linebacker and defensive end for the Trojans in their win over Cal last weekend. The 6-5, 275 lb.Rector caused a fumble and had two tackles for loss.

STEFAN FLINTOFT '14 is UCLA's starting punter and is averaging over 41 yards per boot. The former Loyola kicker is the cousin of Loyola's current punter, Collin Flintoft.

Former All-Serra League lineman COLEMAN SHELTON '13 continues to excel at center for the University of Washington, where he is a team captain and Rimington Award Finalist for the sixth-ranked Huskies.  Also playing well is 2013 All-CIF offensive lineman and Loyola MVP CHRIS BROWN '14, who is the starting left offensive guard for USC.

A first team All-American, All-State and All-CIF Division I corner for Loyola in 2015, DAVID LONG is starting at corner for the University of Michigan.

Kickoff at Smith Field on Friday is at 7:00 p.m. Cub supporters need to be out in force. Fill the home stands!!