HEAD COACH: John Holecek, 13th season (135-27)
2017 SEASON: 12-2 (4-0 Catholic Blue), lost to Lincoln-Way East 23-14 in Class 8A state final
PRESEASON RANKINGS: No. 3 by Chicago Sun-Times, No. 3 by Chicago Tribune
CAPTAINS: Rory Boos, sr., WR; Jack Fallon, sr., QB; Jake Gonzalez, sr., DB (pictured above); Joe Naselli, sr., OL
RETURNING STARTERS: Eddie Auer, sr., K; Rory Boos, sr., WR; Patrick Daniels, sr., LB; Armoni Dixon, sr., LB; Jake Gonzalez, sr., DB; Noah Jones, sr., WR; Joe Naselli, sr., OL; Trevor Cabanban, jr., RB; Peter Gianaris, jr., OL; Christopher Kelly, jr., OL; Thomas Schafer, jr., P
RETURNING STAT LEADERS: Rory Boos, sr., WR (45 receptions, 827 yards, 11 TDs); Michael Gavric, sr., RB (52 rushes, 206 yards, 2 TDs); Patrick Daniels, sr., LB (76 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, 4 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 1 INT); Armoni Dixon, sr., LB (10 tackles for loss, 7 sacks, 3 pass break-ups, 2 forced fumbles); Jack Fallon, sr., QB (20-for-36, 290 yards, 5 TDs, 0 INTs); Jake Gonzalez, sr., DB (109 tackles, 8 tackles for loss, 4 pass break-ups, 2 sacks, 2 INTs, 1 forced fumble); Noah Jones, sr., WR (19 receptions, 308 yards, 4 TDs); Trevor Cabanban, jr., RB (47 rushes, 319 yards, 3 TDs)
NOTABLE PLAYERS: Jack Burke, sr., DB; Michael Byrne, sr., DB; Artie Collins, sr., WR; Michael Gavric, sr., RB; Jack Fallon, sr., QB; Conor Hough, sr., DL; Jared Lombardi, sr., Mike Kadus, sr., LB; RB; Nick Pomey, sr., DB; Sam Schierloh, sr., LB; Matthew Schiltz, sr., QB; Luke Desherow, jr., DL; Tyler Flores, jr., RB; Matt Mangan, jr., WR; Nate Van Zelst, so., K
RAMBLERS WILL BE SUCCESSFUL IF: Like almost every season, the Ramblers are replacing most of their starters. But Loyola head coach John Holecek has proved he reloads, rather than rebuilds, and the Ramblers do have experienced playmakers back on both sides of the ball to make a run at a fourth consecutive trip to the Class 8A state final. … Headlining the defense are senior outside linebackers Patrick Daniels and Armoni Dixon and senior safety Jake Gonzalez, a three-year starter who is verbally committed to University of Pennsylvania. All three are difference-makers with the ability to make game-changing plays. The most turnover comes on the defensive line, where senior Conor Hough is the only player back who took significant snaps last year. Loyola head coach John Holecek said the 6-foot-3, 225-pound Hough, the brother of former defensive lineman Jack Hough (Class of 2016), will be an important player. At 6-4 and 210 pounds, junior Luke Desherow, son of defensive line coach Beau Desherow, also will be one to watch. The secondary was dealt a blow when senior safety Hugh Kelly, a starter last season, tore his ACL during the summer. The development of senior cornerbacks Michael Byrne and Jack Burke will be key. … Offensively, Loyola will start its sixth quarterback in six seasons with senior Jack Fallon, the fifth signal-caller from Glenview’s Our Lady of Perpetual Help since 2012. Two of Fallon’s top targets are senior receivers Rory Boos and Noah Jones. But players like senior Artie Collins and junior Matt Mangan give the Ramblers pass-catching depth. Loyola also is loaded in the backfield, where senior Michael Gavric and juniors Trevor Cabanban and Tyler Flores all should get carries. In his second varsity start, Cabanban ran for 186 yards and two touchdowns in Loyola’s 30-10 win over Marist in the Class 8A quarterfinals. Some of the best news is the return of senior lineman Joe Naselli, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in the second game last year. He will be joined by juniors Peter Gianaris and Christopher Kelly, both of whom started as sophomores. … It can’t be understated that kickers Eddie Auer, a senior, Thomas Schafer, a junior, and Nate Van Zelst, a freshman, all return.
KEY GAMES: Similar to last year, the Ramblers won’t be able to ease into the season. After traveling three-plus hours to play Rockford (Michigan) in Week 1, they play at New Trier, at home against Mount Carmel and at Brother Rice. All four are good programs that will test Loyola. The Ramblers will be a better team as a result of their early schedule. A fun game comes in Week 5 when the Ramblers visit St. Ignatius, where Loyola graduate and former standout receiver Charlie Dowdle (Class of 2012) is in his second season as an assistant coach with the Wolfpack. Loyola plays six of its nine games on the road.
THEY SAID IT: “We have a lot of returning talent, and we have the best coaches in the state. We are really pumped to see what we can do this year.” — Rory Boos
Photo credit: Geoff Scott