FIRST DOWN: The Ramblers (2-1) have no time to hang their heads after Saturday’s 17-12 loss to Mount Carmel at home. On Friday, they travel to Chicago to play Brother Rice (3-0) in the Catholic Blue.

The Crusaders are a much-improved team after finishing 2-7 and 0-4 in the league a year ago and will be looking for their first win over Loyola since a 16-13 victory in 2014. Brother Rice has size on both sides of the line and are headlined by senior David O’Keeffe, a 6-foot-3, 245-pound tight end who is verbally committed to Harvard.

“This is the year Brother Rice has been waiting for,” Loyola assistant coach Beau Desherow said. “They have a lot of seniors who had success on the lower levels.”

The Crusaders opened the season with a 20-16 win over Marist before beating Crete-Monee 54-16 and Fenwick 35-3.

“I know it’s cliché, but there’s a lot to learn from a loss,” Desherow said. “We know we have to get better.”

SECOND DOWN: Loyola’s defense was a bright spot in Saturday’s defeat. The Ramblers held Mount Carmel to 194 yards and 3.5 yards per play, and both of the Caravan’s touchdowns came after turnovers. One drive went 10 yards and the other 49.

An unknown in the offseason, the defensive line continues to progress, according to Desherow, who coaches the unit. Seniors Eddie Eastman, Conor Hough and Tim Thompson all never started before this year.

“They are coming together,” Desherow said. “Each week, they gain more experience. I thought they played well Saturday. There were times we could have done a better job, but we battled.”

The defensive line — which also includes junior Luke Desherow, Beau’s son — occupied enough blockers to enable Loyola’s linebackers and defensive backs to make plays. Senior inside linebackers Mike Kadus and Sam Schierloh and senior safety Jake Gonzalez all had huge games.

“We want to allow those guys behind us to be free to flow around,” Beau Desherow said.

Eastman came up with a big play late in the third quarter by sacking Mount Carmel senior quarterback Rad Premovic for a 6-yard loss on third-and-11. The Caravan settled for a 39-yard field goal to lead 10-6. It was his team-leading third sack of the season.

“He was working out to the strong side and able to get in a one-on-one situation and made an unbelievable play to beat the guard,” Desherow said. “That was a key play at the time.”

THIRD DOWN: For the third game in a row, the Ramblers stuck with their committee of running backs, alternating between senior Mike Gavric (pictured above), junior Trevor Cabanban and junior Tyler Flores.

In Saturday’s loss, Loyola ran for 79 yards on 29 carries. Flores finished with 13 carries for 37 yards and scored one TD. Gavric had four carries for nine yards, and Cabanban lost four yards on four rushes.

In three games, the Ramblers have totaled 280 yards on the ground, averaging 2.7 yards per attempt. Flores has 35 carries for 143 yards. Cabanban has 18 rushes for 93 yards, and Gavric has run 14 times for 61 yards.

“We haven’t been able to really get the running game going yet,” Loyola running backs coach Ryan Gallagher said. “You can’t point a finger at any one person because it’s everybody.”

Gallagher said the backfield’s depth of talent is as good as he’s seen at Loyola. It hasn’t been since 2015 when Dara Laja ran 278 times for 1,833 yards that the Ramblers have had a primary running back. Laja is the program’s career leader in rushing yards.

“We are trying to find the hot hand, but all three complement each other well,” Gallagher said. “Going forward, I think we’re going to be OK. The guys need more experience. We will get it.”

FOURTH DOWN: Senior receiver Rory Boos enjoyed the best game of his career Saturday, catching 13 passes for 182 yards. He scored Loyola’s first TD on a 7-yard reception in the first quarter. For the season, Boos is first on the team in catches (22), receiving yards (382) and receiving TDs (3).

In his third start, senior quarterback Matthew Schiltz finished 23-for-43 for 263 yards with one TD and four interceptions. He directed the Ramblers on a potential game-winning drive in the final 1 minute, 9 seconds and nearly got into the end zone on the last play.

Loyola’s offense is averaging 374.0 yards a game and 5.9 yards a play. The Ramblers have committed six turnovers.

Photo credit: Geoff Scott