Navy SEALs put Cubs through the ropes

The unified cry of Hooyah, the United States Naval expression designed to build morale and acknowledgment was heard early and often throughout the sweltering morning of Wednesday, August 8, as Navy SEALs put the Cub varsity and sophomore teams through a grueling physical - and mental - four hour training session. It was one element of Camp Dawson chosen by head coach Rick Pedroarias to build mental and physical toughness as the Loyola football program continues to undergo cultural change in Pedroarias's second year at the helm.

Navy SEALs are considered among the toughest warriors in the United States Armed Services. SEALs are the Navy's primary special operations force. Their motto is, "The only easy day was yesterday. It pays to be a winner."

The SEALs training session was made possible through the efforts of Cub graduates, Navy Rear Admiral MIKE SHATYNSKI '75 and his brother, Navy Commander STEVE SHATYNSKI '78, both of whom were standout All-League football players at Loyola and graduates of the United States Naval Academy. Admiral Shatynski gave a "Code of the Warrior" presentation following the conclusion of the SEALs training session.

Loyola lineups coming into focus as season opener against Fairfax is less than two weeks away
The Cub 'Wolfpack' defense gave up the fewest average points per game in fourteen seasons in Pedroarias' inaugural stint as head coach last fall. Defensive coordinator MIKE GILHOOLY's '88 stop unit is expected to continue its stingy ways in the 2018 campaign. What was missing from the success equation last season was a potent offense, but by all indications Loyola's offensive attack should be exponentially better this fall. The season opens at Fairfax on Friday, August 24. Here's a look at the squad's top players.

Offense
Senior quarterback NATHAN PRIESTLEY (6-4, 210) missed his entire sophomore season due to an off-season injury that required surgery and missed a large portion of his junior year due to another unfortunate injury. He rehabilitated with a vengeance, and the strong-armed, unflappable field general is poised to have a monster senior campaign. Going into the 2017 season, Priestley was named the MVP at both the Washington and Cal football camps. He holds several scholarship offers and more will be on the way if he has the year many predict. Junior DAVIS WARREN (6-2, 180) will back up Priestley. He would start for a lot of teams. 

Senior running back HUNTER BALLARD (5-10, 180) is ready for a breakout season. He has all the natural traits of a prime time running back: great vision, toughness, superb cutting ability, and speed. Senior SPEED FRY (6-1, 180) will complement Ballard well in the backfield. The speedy back was the Los Angeles Area MVP on Loyola's third consecutive Southern Section championship lacrosse squad. Fry brings uncommon athleticism to the backfield.

Bruising senior MARCUS AGUILAR (6-0, 215) is the starting fullback. He possesses high octane power and surprising speed. Look out for junior STEVEN ARELLANO (5-10, 180). He blends power power and deceptive speed as well as any player on the team. His physical style of play stood out on both sides of the ball throughout camp. Junior CARTER LINK (6-0, 185) is another talented athlete who will contribute his skills to the backfield. Expect to see more than a few two-back sets.

The wide receiver corps is top notch. Senior ALEX BLAKE (6-1, 190) has all the tools. Sophomore CEYAIR WRIGHT (5-11, 165) is a star in the making, as is his classmate ZAKHARI SPEARS (6-3, 173). Adding talent to the receiving group are senior PATRICK LARSON (6-0, 190), junior MICHAEL JONES (5-10,155) and junior CAMERON BENDETTI (5-11.5, 155).

The tight end position is also one of strength, led by seniors DAVID ANAWALT (6-0, 200) and OSAZE ODIASE (6-1, 230) and junior BRENDAN PERNECKY (6-4, 225).

The offensive line is expected to be improved over the 2017 contingent. Returning senior EA'SUS JIMENEZ Y WEST (6-0, 250) will start at right tackle. Athletic junior SAM DOMINGUEZ (6-3, 240) will man the left tackle position. Converted senior linebacker ALEX FEOLA (6-0, 220) is leading the battle for the right guard slot. He is being challenged by junior NICK ANDERSON (6-0, 265).

MATT ALONZO (5-9, 210) is the front runner at left guard. He is backed up by tough junior MARIANO UY (5-8, 205), who holds a black belt in martial arts. Mammoth junior SHANE STROYKE (6-4, 303) is in the lead in the competition for the starting center position, but senior DANNY DIXON (5-11, 265) is keeping the pressure on. Senior SCOTT KASE (6-2, 230) will back up both tackle positions.

Defense
Just as last year the Cub 'Wolfpack' will be strong up the middle. The inside linebacker duo of seniors MARCUS AGUILAR (6-0, 215) and CHASE BRANIGAN (5-10, 205) will set the tone. Both are tough as nails and athletic. Junior STEVEN ARELLANO (5-10, 180) will see time at inside and outside linebacker.

Senior nose guard COLE MILLER (5-9, 180) may be on the smaller side, but he is as strong as a bull and quick as a cat. His motor runs non-stop. Senior DANNY DIXON (5-11, 265) will man the nose guard position against certain fronts, Junior SAM DOMINGUEZ (6-3, 240) and senior SCOTT KASE (6-2, 230) are the starting tackles with solid support from strong junior BARRET KELLY (6-1, 225) .  

The outside linebacker posts will be manned by highly athletic junior DOMINICK BELISLE (6-1, 175), senior DAVID ANAWALT (6-0, 200) and junior CARTER LINK ( (6-0, 185). OSAZE ODIASE ( (6-1, 230) is expected to see action on the outside as well.

The corners will be sophomore CEYAIR WRIGHT (5-11,165), and juniors GREG THOMAS (5-10, 145) and MICHAEL JONES (5-10, 155). The starting safeties are returning senior ALEX BLAKE (6-1, 190) and senior PATRICK LARSON (6-0, 190). Senior HUNTER BALLARD (5-10, 180) will provide support in the secondary as will precocious sophomore ZAKHARI SPEARS (6-3, 173).

Kicking game
Senior NICHOLAS BARR-MIRA (6-0, 180) is one of the top prep kickers in the country. This fall he will also handle the punting duties. His punts soar to the stratosphere.

The kick and punt return crew will include HUNTER BALLARD, ALEX BLAKE, CEYAIR WRIGHT and MICHAEL JONES.

Outlook
A vastly improved offense coordinated by Pedroarias should complement a strong defense and stellar kicking game, making the prospects for a successful campaign promising. Last fall the Cubs lost three games by a combined total of 10 points. Pedroarias and his talented staff hope to turn the close losses into wins in 2018.

Cub captains chosen
Loyola's team members voted for the captains who will lead the team this fall. The well deserving honorees (in alphabetical order) are MARCUS AGUILAR (linebacker/fullback), HUNTER BALLARD (running back/defensive back), SCOTT KASE (OL/DL) and NATHAN PRIESTLEY (QB).

Loyola ranked 25th by Los Angeles Times
The Los Angeles Times published its preseason rankings over the weekend, and the Cubs were in the 25th spot. Four teams Loyola will face are also ranked in the top 25, with Mission League rivals Bishop Amat (8th), Gardena Serra (10th) and Chaminade (12th) expected to vie for the conference crown.

Non-league foe Valencia was ranked 22nd. Cathedral and Vista Murrieta, two additional non-league opponents the Cubs will play this fall, were listed among the other teams to watch.

There is no question Loyola has a tough schedule to navigate. The Cathedral, Valencia and Bishop Amat contests will all be played at Bob Smith Field.

Join the Loyola Gridiron Vanguard
Loyola's football support group encourages you to join its membership. Go to loyolagridironvanguard.com on a home or office computer and click on Membership. Among the benefits of membership: two tickets to home games, reserved parking for home games, reserved seating at home games, pre-game tailgate for a home game (TBD), pre-game tailgate for an away game (TBD), post spring team BBQ, Complimentary ticket to annual Spring Vanguard Dinner.