Loyola football season preview

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2014 schedule
Aug. 30 at Marquette (Wisconsin) 1:30 p.m.
Sept. 6 Edwardsville 3:30 p.m.
Sept. 12 at Brother Rice 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 20 Fenwick 1:30 p.m.
Sept. 26 at St. Ignatius 7 p.m.
Oct. 4 Providence 1:30 p.m.
Oct. 11 at DePaul Prep 12:45 p.m.
Oct. 18 St. Rita 1:30 p.m.
Oct. 24 at Mount Carmel 7 p.m.

Best game on the schedule: Loyola at Mount Carmel at Gately Stadium, 7 p.m. Oct. 24

This game could very well decide the Catholic Blue championship. Although the Caravan have won consecutive state titles (Class 8A in 2012 and Class 7A in 2013), the Ramblers were the only team to beat Mount Carmel each of the last two seasons. The last time these two powerhouses met in Chicago, Loyola quarterback Peter Pujals threw an 8-yard touchdown pass in overtime to lead the Ramblers to a 30-27 win in 2012.

Best-case scenario: Loyola has played for the Class 8A state championship two of the last three years, and there’s no reason to believe the Wilmette school can’t get back to the final weekend of the season and finally win the program’s second state title.

Best teammate: According to coach John Holecek and several Ramblers, senior linebacker Emmett Russell is the perfect example of a player who puts others first. “He will stick his neck out for you, have your back, stand up for you,” senior receiver Owen Buscaglia said of the 6-1, 210-pound Russell. Added senior Tom Dreher, “I imagine he’d be the first guy to come to the aid of a teammate.”

Best student-athlete: Tom Dreher, a 6-foot-2, 245-pound defensive lineman, scored a 32 on his ACT and is looking at playing football somewhere in the Ivy League. “I think what I do academically transfers over to football,” said Dreher, a starter for the Ramblers who is thinking about studying biomedical engineering. “Everybody has roles, and everybody needs to know what they are doing on the field. I can recognize certain things and see things happening quickly.”

Best member of the secondary: Ryan Zinkula can do it all in the defensive backfield. The 6-0, 190-pound safety is a player who can cover the pass as well as defend the run. He also is one of the team’s best hitters and is known to blitz the quarterback on occasion. As a junior starter last season, Zinkula helped the Ramblers reach the Class 8A state final. “He doesn’t say much, but he lets his play talk for him,” Holecek said.

Best season: Loyola picked up its lone state title in 1993 under the direction of coach John Hoerster. That season, the Ramblers went 12-2 and beat Downers South 7-0 in the Class 6A championship game.

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2013 record: 12-2 overall, 3-1 Catholic Blue

2013 playoffs: Lost 13-10 to Naperville Central in Class 8A final

Head coach: John Holecek, entering ninth season

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