FIRST DOWN: No matter who starts at quarterback for Loyola this season, it will be someone new for the sixth year in a row. As of now, it appears Jack Fallon, a 6-foot-2, 185-pound senior and one of four captains, is the leading candidate for the job after he served as a backup to Quinn Boyle (Class of 2018) last season.
“He’s looking really good,” Loyola offensive coordinator Tyler Vradenburg said. “He’s worked his butt off. He’s put on some weight and added strength. He has a great arm.”
As a junior, Fallon finished 20-for-36 for 290 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions.
“Sometimes, I fear the younger kids think when it’s not their turn, they wait to put in the work,” Vradenburg said. “That wasn’t the case with Jack. When he got his opportunities, he shined. That’s how you could tell he was paying attention.”
Fallon will be the team’s fifth starting quarterback from Glenview’s Our Lady of Perpetual Help since 2012. Peter Pujals (Class of 2013), Jack Penn (Class of 2014), Emmett Clifford (Class of 2016) and Boyle are the others. Loyola’s last two-year starter at quarterback was Malcolm Weaver (Class of 2012).
“Physically, Jack is terrific,” Vradenburg said. “Mentally, he’s coming around. He’s really taken on the leadership role well. He’s going to be a fun kid to watch.”
Senior receiver Noah Jones said the Ramblers are in good hands with Fallon under center.
“He looks really comfortable in the pocket and throwing the ball,” Jones said. “He’s taking control of the offense and has good relationship with all of the receivers. I know he can take us places this year.”
SECOND DOWN: Making Fallon’s life easier is the return of several players who made major contributions on offense last season.
Among those is senior Rory Boos, who led the Ramblers in receiving yards (827) and receiving TDs (11) in his first varsity season. A captain this year, he was second on the team with 45 catches. In the Class 8A state final, a 23-14 loss to Lincoln-Way East, Boos (pictured above) caught eight passes for 84 yards and one TD.
He will be joined by Jones, a three-year varsity veteran who’s been hampered by injuries throughout his career. Last year, it was his left hamstring that sidelined him for most of the season. Jones finished with 19 receptions for 308 yards and four TDs after catching five passes for 77 yards and one TD as a sophomore. When healthy, Jones was a threat, evidenced by his eight catches for 135 yards in the state final last year.
“I didn’t realize how bad it was until I came back too early,” Jones said. “It nagged me all season. I am healthy now, but I still am rehabbing to make sure that I am strong enough to play every game.”
At 6-2 and 200 pounds, the speedy Jones is a target for many Division I programs. According to Rivals.com, he already has 14 offers.
“I don’t know where I want to go yet,” he said. “My main focus is helping the team in every way I can. I’m in no rush to make a decision.”
Senior lineman and captain Joe Naselli and junior linemen Peter Gianaris and Christo Kelly all started games last year. Naselli suffered a season-ending knee injury in Week 2, but Vradenburg said he continues to show positive signs with his rehab.
Senior receiver Artie Collins and junior running back Trevor Cabanban are two more skill players back with experience. Called up from the sophomore team for the playoffs, Cabanban ran 47 times for 319 yards and three TDs in three games before sitting out the semifinal and final with an injury. In limited action, Collins caught eight passes for 115 yards and one TD.
THIRD DOWN: It took some searching, but the Ramblers finally found a Week 1 opponent. They will travel 200-plus miles to play Rockford (Michigan) on Friday, Aug. 24.
The Rams, who are from the greater Grand Rapids area, have been a solid program for the last several decades. They own 23 consecutive winning seasons and captured state championships in 2004, 2005 and 2008. They finished 7-4 last year.
San Francisco 49ers offensive tackle and six-time Pro Bowl selection Joe Staley is part of Rockford’s Class of 2003.
FOURTH DOWN: In Week 2, the Ramblers will play New Trier in Northfield in the first game of a two-year series. Loyola beat the Trevians 35-32 in the first round of the Class 8A playoffs last year in Wilmette. The Ramblers then host Mount Carmel in Week 3. It will be a non-conference game as the Caravan exited the Catholic Blue for the Green this year. Loyola will see a familiar face in Week 5 when the Ramblers visit St. Ignatius. Charlie Dowdle, a 2012 Loyola graduate, is in his second season as a varsity assistant with the Wolfpack.
The rest of the schedule can be found at goramblers.org.
Photo credit: Geoff Scott