tough schedule ahead for Loyola

Loyola’s varsity football team is in search of an elixir for what has been a dreadful 1-3 start to the 2018 season. And the silver bullet needs to be found in a hurry as the Cubs are preparing to make a 180 mile round trip on Friday to play surging Vista Murrieta (2-2) which routed the fourth-ranked team in San Diego County last Friday. The Broncos led Madison 34-0 at halftime en route to a 34-6 victory. The impressive win propelled Vista Murrieta to the number 29 spot in this week’s CalHi Sports state rankings.

Following the long trek to Murrieta, Loyola will begin its arduous march through the treacherous Mission League on September 28 with a trip to Mission Hills Alemany (4-1). Each Mission League team will be a favorite when it meets the Cubs if the rankings stay the same as they are this week. Loyola is not among California’s top 79 teams as ranked by CalHi Sports.

After drubbing Cathedral, 42-21, a team to which the Cubs lost by 23 points, league favorite Bishop Amat (4-1) rocketed up from the number 20 to the number 12 position in the state Top 25. The Lancers lost to Mater Dei by a lopsided score (but MD forfeited the win for using an ineligible player) and lost a heart breaker by a single point to number nine-ranked JSerra of the Trinity League.

Serra of Gardena (2-2) is ranked number 35 in the latest state poll, and Chaminade (2-3) is slotted at number 45, but two of the Eagles’ losses were to state top five-ranked teams, Folsom and St. John Bosco. Both Alemany and Notre Dame (2-2) are listed by ClaHi Sports among the other 29 teams receiving consideration after the top 50.

There are 18 teams in the CIF Southern Section Division 2 playoff eligibility field, and 16 of those squads will receive playoff invitations. Loyola will have to win at least two games in conference play to be considered for a playoff invitation. Somehow the Cubs have to find a way to get the arrow pointing up, and this Friday’s final non-league contest will provide an opportunity to get the Big Blue back on track.

The Broncos (2-2) appear to be hitting on all cylinders after their impressive victory over highly regarded San Diego Madison last Friday. Vista Murrieta is averaging 180 yards per game on the ground and 111 yards through the air. Senior quarterback Michael Jimenez (6-2, 200) is a talented field general. The Broncos’ run game is powered by the threesome of senior Theo Gearring (5-9, 175, 6.7 yards per carry), who was named the Player of the Game against Madison; junior Robert Coleman (6-0,180, 5.7 yards per carry); and junior Raqueal Wagstaff (5-8, 195, 7.6 yards per carry).

The Broncos ‘ top wide receiver is blazing fast senior Alex Hill (5-8, 170, 20.1 yards per catch). Senior wideout Rickie Johnson (6-3, 175, 14.4 yds. per reception) is a tall, reliable target.

Among the standout players on Vista Murrieta’s defensive platoon are senior outside linebacker Samuela Mo’unga ((6-0, 215), who leads the Broncos with 38 tackles; senior OLB/DL Nathan Bolton (6-3, 215, 24 tackles); and senior outside linebacker Brock Berry (6-0, 195), 23 tackles). Junior corner Tyreese Shakir (5-10, 170) is one of the best athletes the Cubs will see for the remainder of the campaign.

In addition to the Madison win, the Broncos have an impressive 38-35 victory over Los Alamitos. Vista Murrieta lost 42-17 to an outstanding Orange Lutheran squad and fell to powerhouse Norco 30-27 before last Friday’s demolition of state-ranked Madison.

The Cubs do not match up very well with the Broncos on either side of the ball, at least based on what has transpired in the last three games for Loyola. It is imperative that the Cubs establish a running game. If Loyola cannot control the clock and play solid defense the prospects for a celebratory bus ride back to Los Angeles do not look promising. Vista Murrieta is talented, disciplined, fast and physical. It is probably the best team the Cubs have faced to this point. That being said, the Big Blue might just need a trip away from home to spark a turnaround.

Loyola and Vista Murrieta have never met in football. The Broncos have won CIF titles at lower divisions, and are chomping at the bit to defeat a storied program from Los Angeles in the schools’ first encounter.