FIRST DOWN: Loyola can’t catch a break when it comes to keeping its players healthy.
While some starters — senior running back Hamid Bullie, senior left tackle Charlie Gross, junior receiver Noah Jones — returned to full action Friday in the team’s 13-6 win over Bishop Amat (La Puente, California), four defensive starters sat out. Senior safety Charlie Largay, senior cornerback John Gierut, senior linebacker Christopher Scott, senior linebacker Peter Kennedy and senior tight end Alex King all missed the game.
Although Scott is close to returning from a concussion, Kennedy is done for the season with an ACL injury. The statuses of Largay (knee injury, Gierut (dislocated shoulder) and King (ankle) are uncertain.
Making matters worse, junior offensive lineman Joe Naselli injured his knee on Loyola’s first series Friday. His status as of Saturday is unclear.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Loyola head coach John Holecek said.
SECOND DOWN: With all of the injuries, it’s enabled other players an opportunity to see the field.
Senior cornerback Patrick Russell and junior linebacker Patrick Daniels are two who have stood out in the first two weeks. Daniels replaced Kennedy and Russell subbed in for Gierut. Both Kennedy and Gierut were hurt during Week 1’s loss to Phillips.
“Holecek always talks about the next man up,” Russell said. “The coaches do a great job of getting the backups prepared to play. Patrick and I were thrown right in there [against Phillips].”
Russell recently returned to full strength after tearing ligaments in his left elbow during the summer. He missed more than a month before practicing for the first time since the injury the week of the Phillips game.
Daniels also has been a pleasant surprise on defense. Holecek said he wasn’t counting on him to play much this season.
“He’s a baseball player, so he missed a lot of time this summer,” Holecek said. “But he’s a good athlete, so he picked everything up quickly. He’s played well.”
On the offensive line, sophomores Peter Gianaris and Christopher Kelly have filled in nicely.
“We didn’t want to have to rely on some of these guys this soon, but circumstances have changed,” Holecek said. “For them to come in and play as well as they have says a lot about them.”
THIRD DOWN: Bullie (pictured above) got his first carry of the season Friday, running for four yards on Loyola’s fourth play of the game. His best series came on the possession to start the second half. He ran seven times for 26 yards on the drive that led to a touchdown and a 13-3 lead. Bullie finished with 43 yards on 14 carries.
But Bullie lost a fumble midway through the fourth quarter on a first-and-goal run from the 5 with Loyola leading 13-6. On the sideline, he sat on the bench with his head in his hands before senior quarterback Quinn Boyle came over to reassure him.
“I got a little loose with the ball,” Bullie told the Pioneer Press’ Wilmette Life. “I was trying to do too much. Trying to get something out of nothing instead of just eating it. I should have thought about it more. But that’s just something I need to get better at. You can’t do something like that to your team. We need points. Turnovers are no way to stay on the field. I need to be more aware of that in practice.”
FOURTH DOWN: Loyola showed considerable improvement on its third- and fourth-down conversions Friday.
In the 20-14 loss to Phillips in Week 1, the Ramblers were 1-for-9 on third downs and 1-for-4 on fourth downs. In their 13-6 win over Bishop Amat, the Ramblers were 5-for-12 on third downs and 3-for-5 on fourth downs.
On its touchdown drive in the third quarter that put Loyola ahead 13-3, Boyle kept the series alive early with a 7-yard pass to senior receiver Dillon Grant on third-and-4. Bullie then got a first down on fourth-and-1. Boyle scored on a 6-yard run two plays later.
Photo credit: Melissa Krein/Loyola