This will be the first offseason since Loyola won the Class 8A state title in 2015 that the Ramblers enter summer workouts without a quarterback with varsity experience.
But the defending Class 8A state champion Ramblers are looking to fill more than the quarterback position when they have their first official practice Thursday. According to Loyola head coach John Holecek, who’s heading into his 14th season, the Ramblers return fewer starters than he can remember.
Nonetheless, he’s not sounding any alarms.
“The cupboard isn’t bare,” Holecek said. “We won’t have many multi-year starters this year, but we have talented sophomores and juniors who could have unbelievable careers. And we always have seniors who step up when it’s their turn.”
The offense welcomes back three starters on the offensive line in seniors Peter Gianaris and Christo Kelly and junior Josh Kreutz and veteran skill players in senior running backs Trevor Cabanban and Tyler Flores and senior tight end Matt Mangan. Junior Nate Van Zelst is coming into his second season as the starting place-kicker and punter.
Cabanban finished first on the team in rushing yards with 586 to go with four touchdowns. Mangan is the top receiver back after catching 23 passes for 285 yards and two TDs. Holecek said Flores should be fully healthy for Aug. 31 opener after tearing his ACL in Week 5 last year.
On defense, senior Luke Desherow (pictured above) is the lone returner with significant snaps. The 6-foot-5, 225-pound end is a college prospect, Holecek said.
Other seniors expected to join Desherow on the rebuilt defense include defensive backs Daniel O’Flaherty, Jack Mimesheim and Kyle Zupek as well as linebackers Anthony Kozlowski and Frank Schurer. Junior linebacker Liam Conaghan is another newcomer to watch.
Juniors Owen Boos, Aidan Brownlee and Logan Lindeman and sophomore James Kyle will compete for playing time as pass-catchers. Meanwhile, junior Vaughn Pemberton and sophomore Marco Maldonado will get opportunities in the backfield.
“Our priority right now is gaining great skill and technique and learning the schemes through tons of repetitions,” Holecek said.
Loyola has won two of the last four Class 8A state titles and finished second twice since 2015. None of that matters as the Ramblers prepare for the season ahead, according to Van Zelst.
“Everyone is excited, but Holecek told us to forget about last year,” he said. “This team hasn’t done anything yet. We have to prove ourselves.”
Photo credit: Geoff Scott