FIRST DOWN: Loyola head coach John Holecek liked a lot of what he saw from the Ramblers in Friday’s 27-7 win over Rockford (Michigan) on the road in the season opener. The Ramblers led 17-0 at the half and were never threatened by the Rams, a traditionally strong program from the Grand Rapids area.
“The first team played physical and fast,” Holecek said. “I didn’t think we had a lot of mental errors, even with all of the inexperienced people. Everybody answered the bell and came out ready to go.”
Holecek, along with several of his assistant coaches, talked about how good the defense looked. A unit with three returning starters — senior linebacker Patrick Daniels, senior linebacker Armoni Dixon and senior safety Jake Gonzalez — allowed 139 yards and 3.2 yards per play and forced three turnovers. Rockford scored its lone points late in the fourth quarter.
“The defense played extremely well,” Holecek said. “We knocked them back, and we didn’t give up much.”
In their first season as starters, senior cornerback Jack Burke returned an interception for a TD, and senior defensive lineman Eddie Eastman recorded a sack and a quarterback hurry. Senior inside linebackers Mike Kadus and Sam Schierloh — both first-year starters — each performed at a high level, according to Holecek.
“The defense looked great,” Loyola offensive coordinator Tyler Vradenburg said. “They were physical, tough and prepared as I would expect from a Loyola defense.”
SECOND DOWN: Senior quarterback and captain Jack Fallon left the game in the first half with a separated right (throwing) shoulder. But the offense was in good hands with senior Matthew Schiltz.
On his second series, Schiltz threw a 22-yard touchdown pass to junior receiver Matt Mangan to put the Ramblers ahead 17-0. Schiltz finished 13-for-22 for 192 yards with one TD and no interceptions.
“He’s talented, and he was prepared as we knew we would be,” Holecek said. “We have all confidence in the world in him.”
Fallon, who served as backup to Quinn Boyle (Class of 2018) last season, showed what he can do on the opening possession of the game, leading Loyola on a lengthy scoring drive, highlighted by his 38-yard TD pass to senior receiver Jared Lombardi.
“The quarterbacks executed the game plan well,” he said. “Some missed opportunities, for sure. Some very good decisions, without a doubt. These are two heady kids who I trust and know what they are doing. Their poise and control of the offense will carry them through.”
As of Tuesday morning, Vradenburg said Fallon’s status is unclear for Friday’s game at New Trier.
THIRD DOWN: The Ramblers proved Friday they have plenty of playmakers on offense. They rushed for 127 yards and passed for 235, averaging 5.4 yards per play.
It all starts up front, and Holecek and Vradenburg both agreed the offensive line was effective.
“The line came out really strong and had a very good game,” Holecek said. “There were not a lot of glaring weaknesses.”
That allowed junior running back Tyler Flores to gain 77 yards on 13 carries. Senior running back Michael Gavric ran five time for 23 yards, and junior running back Trevor Cabanban finished with six carries for 16 yards.
Senior receiver Rory Boos caught seven passes for 97 yards. Mangan had five receptions for 56 yards and one TD, while Lombardi finished with two catches for 65 yards and one TD. A first-year starter, Lombardi also served as a kick returner.
“Jared’s shifty, dynamic and poised,” Holecek said. “He has good hands and some good acceleration. He has a knack for making a big play.”
FOURTH DOWN: After not playing since the 2006 postseason, Friday will mark the second time in two seasons the Ramblers and Trevians have squared off against each other. The game is set for 7:30 p.m. at New Trier’s Northfield campus, which is less than one mile from Loyola. A year ago, the Ramblers beat the Trevians 35-32 in the first round of the Class 8A playoffs.
“It’s a game we’ve been looking forward to since it was announced, but we had to take care of business last week first,” Gonzalez said.
In Week 1, New Trier beat York 21-13 in Elmhurst. Senior running back Brian Sitzer ran 18 times for 189 yards and scored two TDs.
He’s joined in the backfield by senior quarterback Carson Ochsenhirt, who started the last seven games last season. The offensive line is anchored by senior Terry Zapf, a 6-foot-6, 275-pounder who is being recruited primarily by Ivy and Patriot League programs.
New Trier’s best player is 6-5, 255-pound senior Duke Olges, a Northwestern University commit who plays both tight end and defensive line. He’s projected to play defense in college.
“They are big, physical and have size everywhere,” Holecek said. “They have some special players with speed on offense. The Northwestern kid is big and can run. They definitely look the part of a good team.”
The last time Loyola and New Trier played in the regular season was 2005 when the Trevians earned a 24-21 victory.