Senior Anthony Romano, a 6-foot-2, 220-pound middle linebacker, was a key cog on last season’s state-championship defense that produced six shutouts and allowed 8.8 points a game. He finished with a team-best 125 total tackles to go with eight tackles for loss, seven pass break-ups, three sacks, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and one interception.
In a regular feature on Maroon & Gold, I spent five minutes with Romano (pictured to the right), one of Loyola’s four captains.
MAROON & GOLD: How long did you celebrate the Class 8A state title before turning your attention to the 2016 season?
ANTHONY ROMANO: We were working out in the weight room pretty soon after the season ended [in November], so we already started preparing at that point. But we had a lot of activities throughout the winter that kept us all together talking about the state title, which was a lot of fun. I thought maybe after we watched the season highlight tape and we raised the championship banner in January that it was kind of over and time to move on and focus on this season.
M&G: What was the best part of the offseason and two-week preseason that ended Friday with an intra-squad scrimmage?
AR: When we started summer practice with everybody, the energy was down and the focus wasn’t there. The coaches talked to us about that. Then, the players had a team talk. We said we can’t rely on what happened last year. What was so important about last year was how the seniors and juniors bonded with each other. We had to do more stuff together as a team. That meeting was a pick-me-up for this team. I could tell the intensity going into the mini-camp [in August] was so much higher than it was going into summer. The guys were really focusing in on football. Everybody seemed to take that talk in the summer to heart.
M&G: What makes you and senior middle linebacker Graham Repp such a dynamic duo?
AR: Graham and I have been playing together since our freshman year. To be able to start on varsity last year as juniors and win a state title and now be seniors, captains and leaders is really special. We complement each other so well on the field. He’s one of the best linebackers in the state, and I love playing next to him. I’m a little more of a loose cannon because I like to fly around the field. Graham is more about technique and is more cerebral. He has great form and always is in the right position. Me, I’m more of a freelancer. Together, we are able to make plays off of our different styles.
M&G: You and Repp were starters on the sophomore team that went 9-0. Last year, you two helped the Ramblers go 14-0. Who else is part of that core group, and how do you think this season’s team will handle the pressures of being defending state champs?
AR: It was me, Graham, [senior outside linebacker] Mickey Kane, [senior receiver] Jake Marwede, [senior cornerback] Ian Swenson and [senior running back] Kyle Rock who all played together on that sophomore team that won a Catholic Blue title. We have felt like we’ve had a mark on our back since freshman year. But we are used to winning and used to preparing how to win. Unlike most programs who win state titles and then maybe have a down year, Loyola is consistently good every year. Loyola is used to teams bringing their best to try and beat us.
(photo credit: Melissa Krein/Loyola)