FIRST DOWN: Loyola’s new-look offensive line showed some good signs in Saturday’s 20-14 loss to Phillips at Gately Stadium. Senior and Fordham recruit Charlie Gross is the lone returning starter, but the 6-foot-5, 270-pound left tackle sat out after suffering a concussion during the offseason.

Saturday’s unit consisted of senior Ryan Hagedorn, senior Josh Green, junior Joe Naselli, sophomore Christopher Kelly and sophomore Peter Gianaris. Senior tight ends Charlie Gilroy and Alex King also bolstered the line. Together, they helped the Ramblers to two drives of 66 yards or longer, including the potential game-tying possession late in the fourth quarter.

“They communicated well on the sideline and were able to make adjustments,” Gross said. “I thought they showed a lot of promise on that last drive. There is definitely room for improvement.”

Trouble is, Loyola’s early-season schedule doesn’t allow for an easy transition to the varsity game for the newcomers. On Friday, the Ramblers play Bishop Amat (La Puenta, California) at New Trier. The Lancers are one of the top teams in southern California. In Week 3, Loyola hosts Mount Carmel.

“The loss left a bad taste in our mouth, but we should be able to learn from it,” Gross said. “We know we don’t want to feel that way again. It’s going to push us harder and make us want to get better ever week.”

Gross said Sunday his status for Friday’s game still is to be determined.

SECOND DOWN: After suffering a torn ACL in his right knee in Week 9 a year ago, senior running back Hamid Bullie was back in uniform for Loyola’s season opener. Wearing a knee brace, the 5-11, 190-pound Bullie even saw the field in the first half.

“Starting on Aug. 7, I prepared like I was going to play,” he said.

Like any competitor, Bullie said he wished he played more Saturday. He finished the game without touching the ball. The majority of the carries went to senior Vernon Green and sophomore Tyler Flores.

“I am not all the way back to the same player I was last year, but I feel I am ready to play,” Bullie said.

Nevertheless, Bullie said he understood why the coaches are being careful with his return.

“They are taking it easy with me because we have plans on competing for another state title, and they want me healthy for the end of the season,” he said.

As a junior, Bullie rushed for 610 yards and seven touchdowns, averaging 6.9 yards per carry.

THIRD DOWN: Judging by Saturday’s performance, it seems as though the Ramblers have several capable pass-catchers after they graduated players who combined for 180 of the team’s 202 receptions.

Senior James Joyce, junior Rory Boos and junior Artie Collins (pictured above) all turned in solid games. Boos led the way with three catches for 85 yards, while Collins finished with three receptions for 53 yards and Joyce caught four balls for 22 yards.

The receiving corps will get a boost whenever junior Noah Jones recovers from his hamstring injury.

FOURTH DOWN: On the other side of the ball, it was impossible not to notice senior Charlie Largay, a two-year starter in the defensive backfield. The 5-9, 179-pound safety finished with three tackles for loss, including two on third downs.

“Smartest, toughest, smallest,” Loyola head coach John Holecek said. “He’s definitely a leader.”

Photo credit: Geoff Scott