There are moments throughout a season that can define a team.
Loyola’s goal-line stand in the fourth quarter of Friday’s 35-28 win over Mount Carmel at Gately Stadium could be one such instance.
“I think so,” Loyola senior middle linebacker and captain Graham Repp said. “That can give us a lot of energy. It can give us a lot of momentum going forward.”
A week after allowing 43 points — the most in Loyola head coach John Holecek’s 11 seasons — the Ramblers found themselves struggling to stop the Caravan offense in the second half.
Once ahead 35-14, Loyola (3-0, 1-0 Catholic Blue) led 35-28 when Mount Carmel (2-1, 0-1) took over at the 50-yard line with 4 minutes, 28 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. The Caravan converted a halfback pass — their second of the second half — on third-and-7 to the 16. They moved the ball to the 11, where they faced fourth-and-5.
With junior playmaker Alek Thomas at the Caravan’s disposal, senior quarterback Dan Trudeau instead threw a pass over the middle. Loyola had it covered, and the ball sailed high and through the end zone with 1:56 to go.
“We knew a pop pass could be coming whenever [Terrance Taylor] comes into the game,” Loyola senior defensive back Ian Swenson said. “That stop is up there among the best I’ve been a part of.”
The Ramblers were able to run out the clock on junior tight end Alex King’s 9-yard run.
Talking about the turnover on downs, Holecek kept it simple.
“That’s big,” he said. “We did some stupid things, too. There is a lot of stuff we can do better on, and we are not there yet. But good teams find ways to win, and we are doing it.”
Mount Carmel scored on the game’s first possession, marching 80 yards on 10 plays, nine of which were runs. The Caravan ran to the left, to the right and up the middle. They scored on Trudeau’s 4-yard pass to Thomas.
But Loyola held Mount Carmel to 28 yards and forced two turnovers on its next three drives. Junior cornerback Charlie Largay recovered a fumble, and Swenson intercepted a pass. Both takeaways led to Loyola touchdowns and a 28-7 advantage.
The Ramblers surrendered a respectable 318 yards of offense, 221 of them coming on the ground, for an average of 6.4 yards per play. Thomas finished with 106 rushing yards on 11 carries, 48 receiving yards and 18 passing yards. He accounted for three TDs.
“Everybody settled down,” Repp said after Mount Carmel’s opening scoring series. “We were more focused. Once everybody got into the zone, we played well. But we are far from perfect, and we have a lot of room to improve.”
Game notes: Loyola offensive coordinator Tyler Vradenburg promised he would use senior Jake Marwede in multiple ways this season. After catching seven passes for 129 yards and two TDs and throwing a 77-yard TD last week, the 6-foot-5, 238-pound Duke commit ran the ball 17 times for 80 yards and scored three TDs from the Wildcat formation. Twice he converted fourth-and-1 in the first half, including his 3-yard TD run on Loyola’s first series. … The Ramblers’ drive to start the third quarter was as close to perfection as an offense can get with a 14-point lead. They covered 80 yards on 15 plays, scoring on senior quarterback Tommy Herion’s 2-yard run on fourth down. Most importantly, the possession took off 5:49 from the clock. … Junior running back Hamid Bullie carried the ball 13 times for a team-best 84 yards. … The win was Loyola’s 20th in a row. The last loss was a 24-21 defeat to Stevenson in the second round of 2014 Class 8A playoffs.
Photo credit: Melissa Krein/Loyola