FIRST DOWN: Not since the first two weeks of the season had Loyola been tested like it was in Saturday’s 35-32 win over New Trier on Saturday in the first round of the Class 8A state playoffs.
The Ramblers led 14-3 at the half and 35-10 with 11 minutes, 14 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. Then, it started to unravel.
A combination of big passing plays by the Trevians and a Loyola offense that failed to get a first down in three full possessions of the fourth quarter conspired to make the game close.
After New Trier scored with 1:10 to go to leave the score 35-32, Loyola junior receiver Rory Boos recovered an onside kick to clinch the victory.
It was the 11th consecutive season the Ramblers won at least one game in the state playoffs. The last time they lost in the first round was to New Trier in 2006.
Loyola (9-1) hosts Hinsdale Central (8-2) in the second round at 1 p.m. Saturday. The Red Devils beat Stevenson 33-21 in the first round at home.
“Every week is a new week,” Boos said. “We will fix what went wrong.”
SECOND DOWN: By almost every measure, Loyola controlled the first half.
The Ramblers scored touchdowns on two of their first three possessions, and the defense held the Trevians to 70 total yards and kept them out of the end zone. Loyola has not allowed any points in the first quarter this season and only 31 in the first half.
But the Trevians exploded for 230 yards and 22 points in the fourth quarter. On one scoring series, they threw a 37-yard pass on third-and-11 and completed a 14-yard pass on fourth-and-8.
“Too many mental errors,” Loyola head coach John Holecek said. “We left too many guys uncovered, and we didn’t make plays on the ball. It was a lack of execution, too many blown assignments. We were playing on our heels. We didn’t make enough plays.”
Loyola committed nine penalties for 128 yards. On New Trier’s first touchdown drive, the Ramblers were flagged twice for pass interference. Loyola averaged 3.9 penalties per game during the regular season.
Despite its lackluster fourth quarter, Loyola’s offense totaled 274 yards on the ground and 161 through the air, averaging 6.7 yards per play.
Senior running back Hamid Bullie ran 14 times for 89 yards, while senior quarterback Quinn Boyle carried the ball 14 times for 82 yards. Boyle finished 6-for-12 for 88 yards. He had one touchdown and one interception before leaving in the third quarter with an undisclosed injury.
Junior Jack Fallon showed why he’s been a suitable understudy to Boyle. He went 3-for-4 for 73 yards and one touchdown. For the season, he’s 20-for-35 for 290 yards with five touchdowns. Most notably, he has no interceptions.
“It was fun,” Fallon said of seeing action in his first playoff game. “I am prepared to play whenever.”
In his first full game, junior Noah Jones led the receivers with four catches for 104 yards and two touchdowns.
“I felt 100 percent,” he said. “It’s good to be back out there.”
THIRD DOWN: Sophomore running back Trevor Cabanban (pictured above) made his varsity debut Saturday. Other than his smallish stature, he looked like he belonged on the big stage, running 10 times for 84 yards and scoring one touchdown, all in the second half. Nine of his 10 runs went for positive yardage, the other was a 1-yard loss.
Loyola running backs coach Ryan Gallagher said Cabanban reminds him of Dara Laja, who played on the 2015 Class 8A state title team and is the program’s all-time leading rusher.
“The way he sees the field, the way he runs,” said Gallagher, who estimated Cabanban is 5-foot-7 and 150 pounds. “I think he’s better than Dara at this age.”
A starter on the sophomore team all year, Cabanban made an impression in Week 9 against Brother Rice when he scored four touchdowns, including one from 80 yards.
“We were on the sidelines, and our mouths were on the floor,” Gallagher said. “Right then, I said we need that speed.”
On Saturday, Cabanban got his first carry on Loyola’s first series of the third quarter and gained five yards. Later in the quarter, after senior safety Charlie Largay intercepted a pass, Cabanban scored from 39 yards out on the first play of the possession to give the Ramblers a 28-10 lead with 3:13 left in the third quarter.
“He stayed behind his blockers, got bogged down and then broke away,” Gallagher said. “He has very good acceleration. He has that extra gear.”
According to Gallagher, Cabanban’s responsibilities will increase this week.
“We gave him some homework to do,” Gallagher said. “He’s a hard-working kid, so he will get it.”
FOURTH DOWN: Holecek is one win away from matching legendary Loyola head coach John Hoerster for most career victories.
Hoerster, the namesake of Loyola’s field, went 133-57 from 1987-2002. He won the Class 6A state title in 1993 and took second in Class 6A in 1992.
In 12 seasons, Holecek is 132-26, winning the Class 8A state championship in 2015. The Ramblers were Class 8A runners-up in 2011, 2013 and 2016.
Photo credit: Geoff Scott