Loyola’s football program is way past counting moral victories.
But given the losses to graduation and all of the offseason injuries, Saturday’s 20-14 defeat to Phillips at Gately Stadium was about as close as the Ramblers will come to one.
Down 20-7 entering the fourth quarter to the best Chicago Public League team and a contender for the Class 5A state title, the Ramblers were one yard away from tying the game and winning it with an extra point.
“There were times we showed we can be a great team,” Loyola senior safety and captain Charlie Largay said. “But we have a lot of room for growth, which is a nice thing to see.”
Senior running back Vernon Green got the Ramblers within a touchdown on his 2-yard scoring run with 8 minutes, 15 seconds remaining in the fourth.
After Largay’s third tackle for a loss forced a three-and-out on Phillips’ ensuing possession, the Ramblers started their potential game-tying drive on its own 33 with 5:43 to go in the fourth.
Senior quarterback and captain Quinn Boyle led Loyola into scoring position with his 31-yard pass to junior receiver Artie Collins to Phillips’ 23-yard line. Boyle later ran for six yards to set up first-and-goal at the 3 with 1:44 left.
But the Ramblers couldn’t find the end zone on four runs, the last of which ended the game.
“This team showed they have character,” Loyola head coach John Holecek said. “They battled back. It sucks to be on this losing end, but someone has to lose after a great ballgame.”
Despite missing the two weeks of preseason practice with a broken right (throwing) thumb, Boyle started Saturday. He proved he’s capable of leading the offense. On Loyola’s second series, he threw a 42-yard pass to junior receiver Rory Boos on third-and-2 to Phillips’ 4. He then scored the game’s first points on a 5-yard run with 21.4 seconds to go in the first quarter.
“Unbelievable. No fear,” Holecek said. “You certainly want to play for a guy like that. Kids will rally around that.”
Boyle, who was under extreme pressure behind a rebuilt offensive line, finished 11-for-18 for 166 yards with one interception. He ran 23 times for 54 yards and one touchdown.
“Quinn played a heck of a game, and I’m proud of him,” Largay said.
Loyola, which had as many as 14 players injured this offseason, started Saturday without senior left tackle Charlie Gross, senior running back Hamid Bullie, senior defensive lineman Jordan King and junior receiver Noah Jones. Senior linebacker Peter Kennedy and senior cornerback John Gierut both got hurt early in Saturday’s game and didn’t return.
“We are a better team than how we played, but we are not at full strength,” Holecek said. “But we may not be at full strength all year.”
Saturday was Loyola’s first regular-season loss to a non-Catholic League team since a 30-29 defeat to Dallas Jesuit in 2012. That game was played in Dublin, Ireland.
“We have to move forward,” Holecek said. “We can’t feel sorry for ourselves. We have to get to work.”