FIRST DOWN: After Saturday’s 28-27 loss to Montini at home, the Ramblers are 3-3 and 0-2 in the Catholic Blue. Starting with Friday’s game at De La Salle, they need two wins in their final three games to qualify for the state playoffs. It’s a position they haven’t been in since 2005. That year, they were 3-3, then 3-4 before they won the last two games to get into the postseason.

“Right now, the most important thing is that we believe in each other and believe we are a good team,” Loyola senior offensive lineman and captain Joe Naselli said. “The coaches tell us to not give up and to keep fighting, and that’s what we are going to do.”

The Ramblers were in prime position to pick up a win Saturday after racing out to a 21-0 lead. Montini mounted a comeback, beginning with a 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. Two of its other three TDs came on fourth downs, including the game-winner with 5 minutes, 18 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter.

“It stinks,” Naselli said. “Everybody was upset that we let that game slip out of our hands.”

Anger turned to ambition Monday, according to Naselli.

“All we can do is focus on Friday,” Naselli said. “We are still in control of our situation. We can get to the playoffs, and then anything can happen.”

SECOND DOWN: The loss notwithstanding, Saturday was a special day for senior kicker Eddie Auer (pictured above). For the first time in his career, he was at midfield for the coin toss. What’s more, Auer shared the moment with his cousin, Bobby Russell, an honorary game captain.

Russell (pictured above) was one of dozens of Misericordia residents at Loyola to cheer on the Ramblers against Montini. This was the seventh year the school hosted Misericordia, a Chicago-based non-profit organization focused on caring for those who are developmentally disabled.

“Bobby and I are super close,” said Auer, who’s known Russell his entire life. “He’s always cheering me on. He tells me to be tough, and he always blesses me before games. I thought it was really nice to be out there with him.”

Russell’s younger brother, Patrick Russell, was a major contributor to both the football and basketball teams before graduating in 2018.

THIRD DOWN: Although junior running back and team’s leading rusher Tyler Flores was on the bench Saturday with an apparent knee injury, the Ramblers ran for a season-high 188 yards against the Broncos, averaging 4.9 yards per attempt.

Junior running back Trevor Cabanban had his best game of the year, totaling 77 yards on 19 yards. His first TD of the season — a 5-yard run with 1:04 left in the first quarter — put Loyola ahead 14-0. Cabanban helped keep the drive alive on third-and-11 by delivering a block in the open field that freed senior quarterback Jack Fallon for a 16-yard gain.

In his first start since Week 1, Fallon finished with 10 carries for 81 yards. He missed three full games with a separated right (throwing) shoulder.

Cabanban scored Loyola’s lone offensive TD. Senior defensive lineman Eddie Eastman gave the Ramblers a 7-0 when he recovered a fumble in the end zone after senior defensive lineman Tim Thompson knocked the ball loose from Montini’s quarterback. Loyola’s other TD was a result of senior Jared Lombardi’s 40-yard punt return.

FOURTH DOWN: De La Salle enters Friday’s game 4-2 and one win away from reaching the necessary win total to qualify for the state playoffs for a second consecutive season. The Meteors are headlined by senior Steven Hawthorne, a 6-foot-4, 220-pound receiver who is verbally committed to University of Cincinnati.

De La Salle is winners of two in a row after last week’s 40-14 victory over Marmion at home. The Meteors are 2-1 in the Catholic Green.

The last time Loyola played De La Salle the Ramblers came away with a 48-0 win in 2013.

Photo credit: Geoff Scott