Monday, August 24, 2015
Loyola will play its 2015...
For the first time in a decade, the Ramblers will don new uniforms. Traditionalists have nothing to worry about, though. The new Nike uniforms are sleek and stylish, but they pay homage to the program’s past. First class, all the way.
So let's take a look at that 2015 schedule, shall we?
August 29: Marquette
September 4: @ Maine South
September 12: Brother Rice
September 19: @ Fenwick
September 26: St. Ignatius
October 2: @ Providence
October 10: DePaul
October 16: @ St. Rita
October 24: Mt. Carmel
Before I get to my own thoughts on the 2015 season, let's look at what the Ramblers themselves have to say.
Marquette (Milwaukee, WI)
Saturday, August 29, 1:30 p.m.
Marquette's had its deepest playoff run in five years and won its second consecutive Greater Metro Conference (Milwaukee) championship in 2014. Is this proud program on the rebound? The Hilltoppers outscored their league opponents by a combined score of 253-64 last season, but gave up 44 points to the Ramblers in a Week One blowout loss. So far, none of the games in this series has been close. The MUHS program may be catching up, but it's still far behind Loyola. Coach John Holecek has never lost a season opener.
@ Maine South
Friday, September 4, 7 p.m.
This could be the first time these two state powers have met in the regular season. Maine South ended Loyola's season for three consecutive years in heartbreaking fashion (2008, 2009, and 2010). Jack Penn and the 2013 team did a lot to exorcise those demons with a 35-0 throttling of Maine South in the playoffs two years ago, in what may have been Holecek's finest performance as a head coach. The Ramblers will travel to hostile Park Ridge to play the Hawks this year, then Loyola hosts the match-up in Week Two of 2016. One other note: This is Loyola's seventh different Week Two opponent in 7 years (Montini, Evanston, O'Fallon, Edwardsville, etc.).
Saturday, September 12, 1:30 p.m.
This year, the Ramblers get Brother Rice at home. BR showed it can hang with the big boys in the CCL Blue last year, and announced its new presence when a junior-laden team upset Loyola in Week Three. Brother Rice brings back 14 starters. The Ramblers had trouble with senior RB Marcus Jones (5-foot-8, 185 pounds), a tough, game-controlling running back.
Saturday, September 19, 1:30 p.m.
This old rivalry has lost some of its luster over the last decade. This is a game to circle because of its potential significance to the Holecek’s legacy. If the Ramblers were to start the season at 3-0, this game could give Holecek a chance to win his 100th game. He’d become one of the fastest coaches in Illinois history to get to that mark. If that scenario presents itself, the team will have to work hard against a letdown. This could have “trap game” written all over it.
Saturday, September 26, 1:30
This has traditionally been viewed as a tune-up game for Loyola. Last season, every single Rambler in uniform saw action on the field, something that rarely happens. The team usually calls off the dogs in the fourth quarter leading by 50-plus points. You can expect the same kind of results this year.
Friday, October 2, 7 p.m.
This is the worst road trip on the schedule. Fans who want to go to New Lenox on a Friday night should leave around 3 p.m., otherwise the brutal traffic could cause you to miss part of the game. Seriously, it’s faster to go to Milwaukee from Wilmette than it is to go from Wilmette to New Lenox. This is the CHICAGO Catholic League, right? OK, rant over. This is a revenge game for Providence. Last season, Loyola provided the one blemish on the 13-1 Providence record. Providence is coming off of a 7A state championship, but they remember losing on the last second Mike Kurzydłowski kick. Providence was hit hard by graduation, and lost a lot of firepower from an offense that scored 40-plus points per game last year, but they do still have a stud running back.
Saturday, October 10, 1:30 p.m.
DePaul Prep can’t be overlooked. This team gave the Ramblers a scare last year, hanging close for the entire first half. In the second half, a motivated Loyola team pulled away for a blowout win, but it showed that Loyola can’t simply show up and beat a team. We’re at the point where we get every team’s best shot. There’s also the legacy factor in this game – so many people who have had an influence on Loyola’s program have come through the old Gordon Tech system (John Hoerster, Tim Feldheim, Scott Baum, and others).
@ St. Rita
Friday, October 16, 7 p.m.
This is where it gets real: Loyola’s final two games are against the toughest two opponents. Last year, the Mustangs went 7-5 overall, but only 1-3 in the Chicago Catholic League Blue Conference. They were much better than the league record indicated. They went to the second round of the playoffs (just like the Ramblers) and lost to an eventual state champion (just like the Ramblers). St. Rita boasts a big offensive line anchored by blue-chip prospect Drew Walega (6-foot-6, 275 pounds). The big question for them is do they have a decent quarterback to play behind that line? This will definitely be a state playoff team, and could be a legit state title contender.
Saturday, October 24, 1:30 p.m.
Speaking of state title contenders, it’s almost cliché to say it, but the Caravan will be ranked among the elite once again this year. Last season, Mt. Carmel defeated Loyola in a 10-7 must-win game, which denied the Ramblers a share of the CCL title, and a shot at a No. 1 playoff seed. Despite a 5-4 regular season the Caravan won six straight win-or-go-home games, and lost only to the 7A champion Providence team in the semifinals. The scary thing is that it was a junior quarterback winning all of those elimination games. Anthony Thompson is now a senior signal caller and added strength in the offseason (he’s 6’1” 195) and has already accepted a scholarship offer to NIU. Experts agree that this Mt. Carmel team will return to form with experienced stars Steve Wirtel, Avery Safford and Demetrius Lewis, among others. This one could be for all the marbles, as Frank Lenti and John Holecek add another page to the history of this outstanding rivalry.
Wow; that's pretty thorough! Hard to improve on it, except to say I think the Ramblers will go 7-2 this year, with sure-fire victories against Marquette, St. Ignatius and DePaul. I'll also give them the edge vs. Brother Rice and Fenwick. If the Wilmette squad can split the remaining four games -- Maine South, Providence, St. Rita and Mount Carmel -- that would get them to 7-2 and a decent seed in the 8A bracket. (It's really hard to run the table in the Catholic League Blue -- just ask Providence.) But after that, who knows? Is this the year the Ramblers go out to DeKalb and win the whole enchilada?
Next: mopping up.