By James Sims
Following its first four wins, the Loyola varsity football team faced off against Serra last Friday at Loyola High School in their first Mission League contest. The Cubs lost the battle with a score of 35-17, making their record 4-1 overall and 0-1 in the Mission League.
Loyola entered the Mission League ranked second, trailing only Bishop Alemany High School. In addition to Serra, Loyola will host league rival Chaminade Eagles on Oct. 2 and the Bishop Amat Lancers on Nov. 6.
Due to the success of last year’s home game against St. Augustine High School, this year, Loyola will host all visiting teams on campus for the first time in 66 years.
Loyola began its Mission League schedule ranked as the No. 12 football team in California, according to MaxPreps. Following the loss to Serra, Loyola has moved down six spots to No. 18.
The Cubs hope to have a turnaround season after ending last season with a 4-6 record (0-6 in the Mission League).
Head coach Marvin Sanders discussed his views on the upcoming season: “We’re taking each game one game at a time. We have new players, ready for each game.”
This season’s team has had most of its success on the ground, averaging over 250 rushing yards per game. Sanders has tried to make changes from last year’s team. He said, “Every team has to make a change. We’ve changed things around and made plays for this current roster, and we will change things up next year.”
Loyola has a tradition of moving a handful of sophomores up to varsity for exposure to a more competitive environment and experience.This year’s varsity team is comprised of six 3-year senior veterans, Myles Bryant, David Long Jr., Jordan Riordan, Daniel Tolbert, David Tolbert, and Anthony Valdez. Along with the 3-year seniors, Loyola’s football team has five 2-year junior veterans, and one current sophomore who has been promoted to the varsity team after playing on the freshman team last season. Coach Sanders has confidence for this season’s 3-year veterans. “I have enjoyed the commitment these guys give to the team. This team has developed some great leaders. I’d like to see the 3-year veterans, along with the other seniors, show leadership on this varsity team.”
4-Star senior cornerback David Long Jr. Long Jr. is rated the No. 70 football recruit for the class of 2016, according to 24/7 Sports. Utilized as a wide receiver and a cornerback, David Long Jr., a 3-year veteran for Loyola, plays a vital role on the Loyola football team. He is also getting a lot of publicity in response to the verbal commitment he made to Stanford University before the beginning of the school year. People are coming to see what the seventh-ranked cornerback in the nation can do this season against Mission League receivers and defensive backs.
Long Jr. doesn’t dwell on the attention surrounding him, but instead, he cares about the success of this year’s team. Long Jr. is ready for this season. “I expect this team to win every game this year.” As a 3-year veteran, Long Jr. believes that the seniors have grown as leaders and teammates.
Junior Drake Beasley Jr. rushed for a team-high of 11 touchdowns in the first four games of the season, including two against Serra on Friday. Beasley Jr. thanks his teammates for his success in recent games. “I can’t do this by myself. I’m thankful for my O-Line and my team playing well, giving me the opportunity to play well.” Beasley Jr., currently playing his second year on varsity, leads all Mission League players in rushing yards. He talks about his expectations this year. “I think we will do better than last year, but I’ve got to contribute in my own way to help the team.”
Outside linebacker Jackson Sirmon is the only permanent sophomore on this year’s team and has already received an offer from the University of Washington. With four sacks in the first four games, Sirmon leads the team in sacks and is ranked second among Mission League defenders, only trailing Serra’s highly recruited defensive end Oluwole Betiku, a five star UCLA commit. Sirmon doesn’t mind being the only sophomore on the team. “I don’t really care about my age, I just care about the team.”
Senior captain Kelly Blake, a safety and wide receiver, publicly received an award from the National Football League Hall of Fame for his academic, athletic and community service achievements. Prior to the game against Serra, Kelly Blake led the team in solo tackles as well as interceptions with two. Blake commented on his outlook for this upcoming season, “I think we’ll do better than last season. This year’s team should do better with these seniors in their second or third year on varsity. Overall, I look forward to a great season for us.”
In addition to the upcoming home game against Chaminade on Oct. 2, the Cubs look forward to Loyola’s matchup against the Bishop Alemany Warriors at Alemany High School. Last season, Loyola came up short, losing 24-23 after winning 31-20 the previous year. Coach Sanders stood by his philosophy of focus as he said, “We approach every game with the same amount of focus. If you completely focus on one game, you completely overlook the other games. So the most important game for us is the next game.”
With two of the four home games at Loyola already played this season (one win, one loss), the Cubs hope to get all the support they can at Smith Field. This year’s team is motivated to be “One Team with One Mission” and to win the Mission League.