“No one else could have made that play,” said Loyola receivers coach Pat Naughton as he walked to the back parking lot at New Trier after Friday’s 13-6 win over Bishop Amat (La Puenta, California).
He was talking about Loyola junior safety Jake Gonzalez, who made a touchdown-saving tackle after a 52-yard run on Bishop Amat’s first possession of the third quarter. The 6-foot-2, 195-pound Gonzalez chased down running back Kenneth Collins from across the field to keep him out of the end zone.
The Ramblers (1-1) then stopped the Lancers (0-2) on four downs to force a turnover and preserve their 13-3 lead with 2 minutes, 14 seconds left in the third quarter. Loyola made two more fourth-down stands in the fourth quarter to earn its first win of the season.
“Unbelievable play,” Loyola defensive backs coach Pete Devine said. “He has no quit. That was one of the plays of the game and led us to the win.”
Loyola head coach John Holecek said he didn’t think Collins, who had a sizable headstart on Gonzalez, could be caught.
“That speaks volumes to Jake’s effort, to his character,” Holecek said.
Gonzalez, who attended Saint Andrew School in Chicago, got off to a good start Friday. On Bishop Amat’s first play, he made a tackle for a 3-yard loss. On the next play, he teamed up with senior linebacker Anthony Rodriguez to stop the Lancers for a 1-yard loss.
On his highlight-reel tackle in third quarter, Gonzalez simply said he tried to run his fastest.
“I just want to be the known as someone who always gives 100 percent effort,” he said.
Despite playing without four starters, the defense made the stops it needed to Friday. While the Ramblers surrendered some big plays on third and fourth downs, they kept the Lancers out of the end zone. Senior safety Charlie Largay, senior linebacker Christopher Scott, senior linebacker Peter Kennedy and senior cornerback John Gierut all sat out Friday with injuries.
Bishop Amat had one final chance to score with 2:12 remaining on the clock. But the Ramblers held quarterback Blake Archuleta to a 3-yard run and three incomplete passes, the last one broken up by senior cornerback Patrick Russell.
“Our kids showed a lot of heart and character,” Holecek said. “They never gave up out there.”
Like they did in Week 1, the Ramblers took an early 7-0 lead, scoring on sophomore running back Tyler Flores’ 4-yard run at the 3:00 mark of the first quarter. The Lancers kicked a 28-yard field goal in the second quarter, and Loyola went into the half up 7-3.
The Ramblers added to their advantage on the first series of the second half. Senior quarterback Quinn Boyle connected with senior receiver Dillon Grant four times for 39 yards, and senior running back Hamid Bullie ran seven times for 26 yards on the 14-play, 73-yard drive. Boyle ran it in from 6 yards to lift Loyola to a 13-3 lead.
“It’s a young group, and we didn’t want things to turn south with another loss,” Holecek said. “We’ve had two exciting games, but it’s nice to be on this side of it.”
Photo credit: Melissa Krein/Loyola