Loyola kicks off the 2017 season at 7:15 p.m. Saturday against Phillips at Gately Stadium. Senior captain James Joyce, of Northbrook’s St. Norbert, is the third and final Joyce boy to play football for the Ramblers, and he’s ready to make his mark on the program. A 5-foot-10, 175-pound receiver, Joyce will be one of many new faces on offense this season. As a junior on Loyola’s Class 8A state runner-up team, he had four catches for 35 yards.
MAROON & GOLD: Loyola ended last season with a 27-17 loss to Maine South at University of Illinois in Champaign in the state final. How long did it take for the sting to go away?
JAMES JOYCE: It hung around for awhile, but it also fueled me that winter in the weight room and in the offseason. That gave me drive to want to go back there and the win whole thing. I’m really excited for this season and to finally get back out there and play again.
M&G: Your middle brother, Joe, lost in the 2013 Class 8A state final to Naperville Central as a senior. Did he offer you any advice about how you move forward?
JJ: He said it always stinks to lose, especially on that stage, but he said I still have another year to win it.
M&G: What was your favorite part of the offseason?
JJ: The beginning of the summer when we started playing football. The winter and spring are good because that’s when you get stronger, but it gets repetitive and boring. I was happy to get back into football.
M&G: Who is a player that impressed you during the offseason?
JJ: [Senior center] Ryan Hagedorn. He’s really taken charge on the offensive line and become a leader. I lifted with him a lot in the offseason and saw how hard he worked. He’s been that kind of player since he was a freshman.
M&G: As one of four captains — along with seniors Quinn Boyle, Marty Geary, Charlie Largay — what have you done or what will do as a leader of this team?
JJ: There hasn’t been one thing I’ve done or said yet. When we had all of the injuries this summer, the team was down. But we, as captains, had to remind everybody that we can still be good if we come together. I want to make sure every player is focused on our goals. I want to keep everybody in check and make sure they care as much as I do.
M&G: You said you’re not the loudest voice on the team. What are the other captains like?
JJ: Marty was quiet at the beginning, but he’s grown into someone who gives speeches. He did that when we were freshmen and sophomores. He’s getting used to it again. Charlie doesn’t say a whole lot. When he does talk, people listen. Everybody looks up to him and respects him. Quinn is our most vocal captain. He’s a competitor, and someone who brings that fire. When he steps on the field, we are confident he can make plays.
M&G: Your brother Joe’s touchdown catch in the closing minutes of Loyola’s 15-14 win at Stevenson in the 2013 Class 8A state semifinals was one of the most memorable moments in my nearly two decades of covering high school football. You were in eighth grade at the time. What do you remember about that game?
JJ: It was so cold. I was sitting in the end zone with Patrick Murray, who’s now a senior at Loyola and in charge of the student section. We stuck around for the whole game. Stevenson was really good, and it was a good fight. When [2014 graduate and quarterback Jack Penn] scrambled and threw it to Joe for the touchdown, the whole place went nuts. It was crazy. Joe still talks about that game. Jack talks about his big games, too. I hope I perform this year to have something to talk about. If we win the state title, I will have the best thing to talk about.
M&G: What are you most excited about this season?
JJ: It’s a mix of things. But redeeming ourselves after losing in the championship game last year is huge. I’ve played with these guys for four years. We talked about winning a state title when we were freshmen. I can’t wait for the opportunity to do that.
Photo credit: Geoff Scott