Loyola suffers another tough loss, looks to rebound against Valencia, Cub freshmen continue to roll

The cliche “ugly win” is often used to describe a team’s less than picture perfect victory. But a win is a win regardless of whether it merits style points. Unfortunately, the Cubs’ 30-7 loss to Cathedral before a huge crowd at Smith Field on Friday night was an “ugly loss”, and the second deflating defeat of such variety in as many weeks. No one who follows local high school football put much stock in Loyola’s 51-7 season opening win over a weak Fairfax team, but it is unlikely anyone foresaw what was to unfold in the two contests following the opener.

The Big Blue has not scored a single offensive touchdown on a scrimmage play in eight quarters. A brilliant tackle-breaking 94-yard kickoff return by senior captain HUNTER BALLARD in the second quarter on Friday, and a fumble return for a touchdown by junior outside linebacker DOMINICK BELISLE against St. Augustine in game two are the only touchdowns tallied by the Cubs in their last two outings. The offensive anemia which is plaguing Loyola appears to have a number of etiologies, thus making the treatment plan all the more challenging  The ‘Wolfpack’ defense has also had its own problems. The Phantoms averaged 4.6 yards per carry on the ground, and a mind boggling 26 yards per pass completion. Heading into this Friday’s tilt against a good Valencia squad, there is a sense of urgency in the program as to how to cure the malaise that has afflicted the Big Blue. At this point, the squad is in desperate search of a win-any win-“ugly”or not.

Ballard’s scintillating long distance kickoff return late in the second quarter against Cathedral pulled the Cubs within seven points of the Phantoms, and appeared to create some momentum for Loyola as it headed into the halftime break, down 13-7.  The spark ignited by Ballard’s sprint to the end zone was extinguished by the Phantoms’ physically dominant defense throughout the second half. A strip fumble on a sack was returned for a Cathedral score to effectively end any comeback bid by the Cubs. For the second consecutive week Loyola was unable to sustain its running game despite the determined, gritty efforts of Ballard and senior running back SPEED FRY, who had several big gainers late in the contest. In both losses, the offensive line has had difficulty against bigger, stronger defensive fronts with blitzing linebackers creating numbers mismatches. Loyola’s passing game has not fared much better.

Among the positives during the last two outings has been the outstanding kicking and punting efforts of senior captain NICHOLAS BARR-MIRA. Barr-Mira possesses truly elite talent. Unfortunately, when the best element of a team's performance is the kicking/punting game, the prospects for winning are not good.

The good news is that the Cubs have two non-league contests remaining before the battles in the Mission League commence. Expect head coach RICK PEDROARIAS and his staff to find cures for Loyola’s current ailments, and for the players to redouble their effort and commitment.

The prediction here is that Loyola will bounce back and right the ship against Valencia. The Vikings are also 1-2, so Friday’s tilt will be a referendum battle for both teams.

It is way too early to predict the final outcome of Loyola’s freshman football campaign, but if the first three games are any indication of the true prowess of what is unquestionably a talent-laden first year squad, the remainder of the season holds great promise.

On Thursday at Smith Field, the Cub freshmen pumelled Cathedral, 49-12. That was also the score at halftime, after which the reserves played for the remainder of the contest. The Phantoms opened the game with a kickoff return for a touchdown. Undaunted, Loyola drove 80 yards for a TD on its first possession, capped by a 10-yard pass from quarterback JOE TATUM to running back TAHJ OWENS. Shortly thereafter PETE VANIS raced 60 yards after fielding a Phantom punt to make the score 14-6 following CALVIN CARDENAS’s PAT kick. At the 4:32 mark of the first quarter, running back HARRISON ALLEN  bolted 14 yards for a TD,  Tatum followed up with a 33-yard scoring jaunt of his own. The Cubs led 28-6 at the end of the first quarter. 

JACOBY “CO” KELLY took a short pass from Tatum 53 yards to paydirt just seconds into the second quarter, and just like that the score was Loyola 34, Cathedral 6. The Phantoms answered with a 35-yard touchdown pass. It was the first TD the tough, swarming  first string frosh defense had relinquished in three games.

Tatum’s ten-yard scoring pass to Vanis and Owens’ four-yard TD scamper, following a Vanis interception, closed out the scoring for the Cubs.

The Loyola freshman team (3-0) hosts the Valencia freshmen on Thursday at 4:00 p.m. at Smith Field. The Cub frosh are a talented, spirited, close knit squad that is fun to watch. The Cub have won their first three games by the average score of 51-6.

On Saturday Loyola’s sophomore team suffered a heartbreaking, 42-40, defeat to the Cathedral JV team, which included varsity players. The Cubs were ahead 32-20 at one point before the older Phantoms pulled out the win.