MISSION LEAGUE CHAMPIONS! Loyola freshmen pummel Bishop Amat, win 2018 Mission League Championship

On a hot afternoon that morphed into a warm early evening Thursday at Smith Field on the campus at Loyola, the Cub freshman football team dominated arch rival Bishop Amat in the much anticipated 2018 Mission League heavy weight title bout, and came away with a 44-20 victory which was not as close as the final score.

The beat down of the Lancers was the first freshman victory over Bishop Amat in a long, long time, and the manner in which Loyola dispatched its nemesis was particularly gratifying to a group of ninth grade Cub players who have a bright future down the road in Loyola's storied football program.

Much has been written about the standout star athletes who have made spectacular plays throughout the course of the season, but the untold story of the team's march to its first conference title in well over a decade can be found in players such as 5' 7", 150 lb. (both may be generous numbers) center/nose guard HENRY KUPIEC, who has battled against much bigger opponents all season, not only holding his own but winning most of his play-by-play match ups with many players who outweighed him by 100 pounds, and in some cases more than 150 pounds. 

Kupiec is one of many undersized players on a Cub squad that was just plain tougher and more physical than every team it has played during the course of its nine game campaign. Suffice to say the linemen on both sides of the ball are a big reason Loyola is wearing the championship crown. Then, there is the story of starting offensive guard WILLIAM BLAIR, a backup linebacker, who through sheer will and perseverance, seized a starting position and helped open holes and kept opposing pass rushers at bay so the stars could make their plays.

On Thursday the Cubs wasted no time getting on the board against the Lancers in front of a large crowd, including a number of Loyola alumni who came out to see the team for the first time in its league title showdown.  The Cubs drove 64 yards in four plays on their opening possession which was capped by a six-yard scoring pass from quarterback JOE TATUM to running back TAHJ OWENS. JACKSON SHEA's PAT kick put Loyola up 7-0 less than two minutes into the contest.

The Cub lead was extended to 14-0 at the 2:08 mark of the first quarter when Tatum hooked up with wide receiver PETE VANIS on a perfectly executed pass play. Loyola's 'Wolfpack' defense put forth its usual outstanding effort, highlighted by a goal line stand in the early seconds of the second stanza.

Cub running back HARRISON ALLEN, who had a monster day running the ball with over 200 rushing yards, sprinted through traffic for a 24-yard touchdown at the 8:17 mark of the second quarter to put Loyola up 20-0. The Lancers finally answered with a four-yard TD pass on a fourth-and-goal play with a minute left before halftime, making the score, Cubs 27, Bishop Amat 7. Starting the ensuing drive with just 49 seconds left on the clock, Loyola ran a perfectly executed hurry-up offense, which included a long double pass completion from Tatum to Vanis to JACOBY KELLY, that ended with another beautifully thrown 23-yard TD toss from Tatum to Vanis. For all intents and purposes that was the dagger that ended the Lancers' hope for a comeback. The Cubs entered the halftime break with what proved to be an insurmountable 27-7 lead.

After the 'Wolfpack' held Amat for the third time on a fourth down try, Loyola took over at its 21 yard line early in the third quarter. On the second play of the drive Tatum threw a short pass to Kelly, who sprinted 82 yards down the home team's sideline to make the score 34-7 in favor of the Cubs. Following yet another Lancer punt, Shea converted on a 19-yard field goal to extend the league champions' lead to 37-7 with 5:22 left in the third quarter.

The Lancers scored on a 55-yard pass play at the 3:46 mark of the third stanza, but missed the two point conversion attempt, making the score 37-13. Loyola answered in short order, driving 84 yards, capped by another TD toss from Tatum to Vanis, this one from 20 yards out to make the score 44-13. With 1:33 left in the game, Amat scored on a 20-yard pass, making the final score, 44-20 in favor of the Big Blue.

As the final seconds were counting down, Cub head coach LEVI LINE was drenched with a bucket of ice water by his jubilant squad. The post game revelry was filled with joy as the Loyola players and coaching staff soaked in the magnitude of their triumph. One of the most noteworthy positives of an incredible season is the special team chemistry that helped propel this Cub team to greatness.

It appears that the final league game against Gardena Serra will not be played as scheduled next Thursday because there reportedly are not enough eligible Cavalier freshmen available to field a team. It is not known whether Loyola will be able to find another opponent for a tenth game.

The Cub freshmen, through nine games, have maintained an average score of 46-15. That is believed to be an all-time freshman football school record.