Second half of league opening loss shows promise - Loyola freshman win thriller

High school football teams play four twelve minute quarters in a game. Since the conclusion of Loyola’s 51-7 shellacking of Fairfax in the season opener on August 24 the Cubs had not scored an offensive touchdown in 227 minutes and four seconds of game action until junior quarterback DAVIS WARREN passed to senior running back and team captain HUNTER BALLARD in the right flat for an 11-yard touchdown at the :56 mark of the third quarter in their league opener against Alemany on Friday Mission Hills. The successful venture into paydirt ended a painful 18 quarter offensive touchdown drought. 

Davis was inserted into the lineup behind center to start the second half. His quick release and accurate passes, often under pressure, seemed to energize the entire Loyola operation. Even the moribund running game found life with the passing game suddenly showing rhythm. An inspired effort by the Cub ‘Wolfpack’ defense was highlighted by a tackle of Alemany’s quarterback in the end zone to notch a safety, allowing Loyola to outscore the Warriors 8-6 in the second half.

There was optimism in the Cub camp heading into the first conference contest based on the sterling performance of the defense against Vista Murrieta the week before. Loyola had held the 29th ranked squad in California to just two field goals. Unfortunately, the Cubs fell victim to a veritable landslide of Warrior passing yards in the first half. Alemany’s quarterback threw for a staggering 385 yards in the first two quarters, helping the Warriors roll to a 28-0 lead before intermission. 

The change behind center allowed Loyola to build momentum in the second half on both sides of the ball. An offense that had been woeful for the four previous games suddenly showed promise. The ‘Wolfpack’ allowed only 62 passing yards in the second half. Whether there will be carry over as the Cubs host red hot Sherman Oaks Notre Dame next Friday remains to be seen, but the energy created by a promising second half effort against Alemany provides hope for the remainder of the Mission League campaign. The final 34-8 score does not look good, but the final 24 minutes of inspired effort did.

The race for the Mission League championship and three guaranteed playoff berths is wide open after the first week of league competition. Title favorite Bishop Amat (5-1, 1-0), ranked eleventh in the state, scored a late TD in North Hills to notch a nail biting 28-27 victory over Chaminade (2-4, 0-1), which probably played the CIF Southern Section’s toughest non-league schedule with games against state number two-ranked St. John Bosco, fifth-ranked Oaks Christian and sixth-ranked Folsom. Notre Dame (4-2, 1-0) walloped Gardena Serra, 38-7, notching a victory over the athletic Cavaliers for the first time since 2007. To make the Div. 2 playoffs Loyola will have to find a way to notch at least two wins in its final four contests.

Loyola‘s freshman football team travelled to Mission Hills on Friday afternoon for a showdown game against undefeated Alemany, which came into the contest with an average winning score of 39-9. The Warriors are huge up front with several linemen tipping the scales at over 300 pounds, a 6-5 wide receiver/ defensive end and another 6-4 defensive lineman. In addition to incredible size, Alemany possesses better speed than any squad the Cubs had faced in their first five games. But, as has been the case all season, Loyola was not intimidated by the apparent advantages possessed by the host squad.

Following an interception by Cub outside linebacker JACK WYNPERLE on the Warriors’ first possession, Loyola drove 63 yards, scoring on a 1-yard pass from JOE TATUM to TAHJ OWENS with 4:09 left in the first quarter. 

At the 6:01 mark of the second stanza the Warriors returned a punt 50 yards for a TD. A two-point conversion attempt was stuffed by the Cubs, making the score 7-6 in favor of Loyola.

With 2:29 left in the half, Owens, who had a huge afternoon running and catching the ball, powered into the end zone from six yards out. Alemany came storming back, scoring on an 11-yard pass just before halftime. The two point conversion attempt succeeded, tying the score at 14-14 as the teams headed to the locker room.

The Warriors scored first after intermission, connecting on a 33-yard pass on a third-down-and-23-yards-to-go play with 4:47 left in the third quarter, making the score, Alemany 20, Loyola 14.
JACOBY KELLY, who had an incredible outing, put the Cubs back in the lead, 21-20, with a spectacular catch of an 18-yard Tatum pass with 1:29 left in the third stanza. 

Suspense continued to build in the taut, hard hitting see-saw contest entering the final quarter. The Warriors scored on a 16-yard pass with 10:50 left on the clock. A successful two-point conversion attempt put Alemany up, 28-21.

Undaunted, Loyola came back with a vengeance, scoring on a perfectly executed 15-yard double pass with Tatum throwing to slot receiver PETE VANIS, who then connected with Kelly. The PAT kick tied the score, 28-28, with 7:33 remaining in the game. 

The tension on the field was palpable when, with just over three minutes remaining, the Warriors went for it on fourth-and-short at the Cub 48 yard line. Loyola’s defense held as the huge momentum swing turned in the Cubs’ favor. Loyola was driving successfully before an interception seemingly looked to end the Big Blue’s chances.

Shortly thereafter, though, Alemany attempted a deep pass which was intercepted by Vanis, another star of the day, setting the Cubs up with one more propitious opportunity near midfield with just over a minute remaining on the clock. The key play on the drive was another double pass, this time from Tatum who threw a lateral aerial to Vanis, who in turn threw the ball down the middle to a wide open Tatum. With 4.9 seconds remaining in the contest, and the ball on the Warriors 16 yard line, JACKSON SHEA nailed a 26-yard field goal to win the game for Loyola, 31-28.

The entire offensive line should be lauded for its effort, especially tackles  SAM YOON and JOSEPH TAYLOR. It would be difficult to name a player of the game for the Cubs, as it was a spectacular, gutsy effort by the entire TEAM which continues to impress everyone who is fortunate enough to see them compete with uncommon focus and intensity week after week. Loyola (5-1, 1-0) will host Notre Dame’s freshmen on Thursday at 4:00 p.m.