With the first on-campus varsity game to be played in 64 years and the second year of head coach Marvin Sanders building the program, Loyola of Los Angeles is looking for a breakout season in the new Mission League.
We received this outlook from Pat Jacobs, longtime Loyola public relations consultant, fan of the school and historian. Sure, Pat loves his Cubs but we’re glad to get his updates and Loyola alums everywhere should be glad there is someone like him doing what he does.
The Cubs were 4-6 last season under first-year head coach Marvin Sanders, a former defensive coordinator at Nebraska (his alma mater) and North Carolina. He came to Loyola after coaching the USC secondary in 2012. The Cubs’ biggest and most impressive win last fall was a well-executed 31-20 road triumph over league champion Alemany, which advanced to the CIF Southern Section Pac-5 semifinals. The youthful Cubs lost in double overtime to L. A. City Section champ Crenshaw and let the Notre Dame and Bishop Amat games slip out of their hands. Seven sophomores started and/or played multiple minutes for the Cubs in 2013. Suffice to say, those young players are now battle tested.
A young team last fall is a year older with seven talented juniors who were baptized by fire as sophomores and now have the knowledge and experience to compete consistently at the Pac-5 level. There are a total of 11 returning starters. The gem of the senior class is nationally recruited All-Serra League defensive end/tight end CHRISTIAN RECTOR (6-5, 238). Rector is strong and fast with close to 20 offers from the likes of UCLA, USC and Nebraska. All-league running back DAVID COOPER (5-10, 192) was named by the Los Angeles Times as an under-the-radar player who is likely to earn a college football playoff division scholarship. He started as an outside linebacker where he will remain. It is expected that Cooper will get help at the running back position from sophomore phenom DRAKE BEASLEY (5-11, 180), who was a terror on the freshman level. Beasley has a real explosive second gear and should be one of the best underclass backs in California.
The offensive line should be excellent, with three returning starters. The anchor is returning senior right tackle JOE BOLIN (6-6, 290), another under-the-radar prospect who has had a great offseason. Senior guard AARON CASTILLO (6-2, 271) is experienced and strong. The best athlete on the line might be senior left tackle TYLER NICHOL (6-4, 243), who played very little last season due to injury. Nichol is the only lineman who can consistently keep Rector out of the backfield in practice.
The Cubs have exceptional talent at the skill positions. Two athletes in particular are as good as they come. Junior WR /DB/ATH MYLES BRYANT (5-9, 168, 4.5) was named to the Cal-Hi Sports All-State sophomore team at the conclusion of last season. He is flat out electric (with offers from Colorado and San Jose State) as is junior wide receiver/corner DAVID LONG (6-0, 175, 4.5), who already has 10 offers from such schools as UCLA, Miami (Fla.), Arizona State and Washington. It is expected that the coaching staff will find creative ways to get the ball in Bryant’s hands early and often. In the same rarified air as that duo in the skill category are junior WR /DB DAVID TOLBERT (5-9, 170) and his twin brother, RB/Safety DANIEL TOLBERT (5-9, 172). Junior WR/safety JORDAN RIORDAN (5-10, 171) is a “catch everything” wide out.
One of the keys to the season’s success will be the improvement of junior quarterback TRE POLAMALU (6-1, 191) who started all 10 games for the varsity last fall. The nephew of Pittsburgh Steelers’ safety Troy Polamalu and the son of UCLA running backs coach Kennedy Polamalu, he was instrumental in leading Loyola to the championship of the 30-team Santa Fe Tournament of Champions, the lone 7-on-7 tournament the Cubs played in this summer. Polamalu was 10-for-10 in his last series of the tournament title clash, won by the Cubs 30-16.
The head coach expects his defense to play fast and aggressively. The consensus is that there are six players who possess College Football Playoff division-level talent in the secondary. Senior corner JASON BAKER (6-1, 181, 4.5), the brother of current Arizona RB Jared Baker, who was a two-time Serra League Most Valuable Offensive Back at Loyola, possesses an impressive set of tools. He was hampered by injury last season, but will be a key factor in the success of Loyola’s stop unit this fall. Look out for junior defensive end KEVIN QUISIMBING (6-2, 218), who has a non-stop motor and comes to the collision point with a serious attitude. A player who could really surprise is senior inside linebacker TROY DIXON (6-3, 207) who can cover ground in a hurry and has seen his weight room work, following a standout lacrosse season, reap big results.
The new Mission League is a veritable gauntlet of unyielding dimension, but it would not be a surprise at all to see the Cubs be in the thick of the race for a Pac-5 Division playoff spot. The big nonleague tilt is game three against San Diego Section power St. Augustine at Loyola, the first varsity contest held at the school in 64 years. Portable stands and lights are being brought in to the 97-year old campus.
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