By James Sims
Following consecutive one-possession losses to St. Augustine and Cathedral, the 2-3 Cubs hope to regain their stride during Mission League play in order to clinch a second straight CIF Division I playoff berth. Despite starting their season with one win followed by three consecutive losses, the Cubs bounced back to beat Bishop Amat on Sept. 24 in their Mission League debut with a narrow 24-23 victory.
On Friday, Sept. 9, the Cubs, down by three points in the fourth quarter, gave up a costly interception in the final minute of the game that sealed a 14-17 loss against the St. Augustine Saints.
Senior quarterback Sean O’Malley completed 12 of his 22 passes for 109 passing yards for the night, finishing the game with two touchdowns and one interception, along with 20 yards on the ground. On the defensive end, senior linebacker Winston Anawalt finished with 12 tackles, two of which were behind the line of scrimmage.
On Friday, Sept. 16, the Cubs faced off against the Cathedral High School Phantoms for the first time since 1973 in a game that would be a battle for “the best view of downtown,” according to the LA Times. The Phantoms gained an early 21-3 lead over the Cubs by the end of the first half. During a second half resurgence by the Cubs, the Phantoms barely held onto their 21-19 lead as the final play of the game consisted of a missed potential game-winning field goal by senior placekicker Diego Cacho-Sousa.
Senior wide receiver Jack Webster registered 10 catches for 149 yards and a timely touchdown in the third quarter to give the Cubs much-needed momentum. On the defensive line for the Cubs, senior Sinjun Astani registered five tackles, including two sacks. With this 21-19 loss, the Cubs entered Mission League play with a 1-3 record.
Following close consecutive losses in weeks three and four, the Cubs entered week five with a completely fresh mentality, according to head coach Marvin Sanders. On Friday, Sept. 23, the Cubs faced off against the 3-1 Bishop Amat Lancers, then a top 10 California football team.
In a game that came down to the final possession, the Cubs overcame a 21-7 halftime deficit. After their first drive of the third quarter, the Cubs narrowed the Lancer’s lead to just two points after scoring a touchdown with 18 seconds left in the game. The Cubs then recovered an onside kick and Cacho-Sousa kicked a 49 yard field goal to pull off a 24-23 comeback win.
O’Malley completed 22 of his 35 passes, throwing for 247 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. He also spread the ball across the field, finding three different receivers for over 65 yards.
Coaching in his fourth season as Loyola’s head football coach, Sanders challenges his athletes mentally and physically to prepare them for any future opponent. Sanders, commenting on the status of his team, said, “We must approach every week differently. We have to forget the game before this, win or loss, and go into the next game with a lot of heart.”
Addressing how blessed he feels about this crop of seniors and juniors, Sanders said, “I love this group of guys. I believe that I help them become better players, and they help me become a better coach. I couldn’t ask for a better group of guys.”
Pointing out his recent success in the pocket, O’Malley said, “This is my team. I win with my team, and I lose with my team. I test myself every day, and I go out every day to compete to the best of my abilities. Win or lose, my team has my back, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.”
As a junior, senior linebacker Winston Anawalt led the team in tackles, managing a starting spot the entire season. Anawalt translated his play last year to this season, from filling the defensive gaps to tackling running backs to scrambling quarterbacks that step into his ten-foot radius. According to Maxpreps, Anawalt ranks in the top five Mission League players in tackles.
Explaining his intentions as a linebacker, Anawalt said, “I’m going to treat this season like last season. I have my objective: tackling ball carriers, filling gaps when I need to, playing my pass coverage and calling plays for the defense. I play each game the same, playing fast at all times until the whistle blows.”
The Cubs next game is away tonight against Serra High School at 7:00 p.m. Next Friday, Oct. 7, the Cubs will travel to Chaminade High School to face the Eagles before returning to Loyola on Oct. 14 to play against Notre Dame High School.