Column

Loyola spoils the party in win at Notre Dame

Eric Sondheimer
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Jacob McBride, 5 feet 6, 170 pounds, is an outside linebacker for Los Angeles Loyola. Walking around campus, you’d never guess he plays football.

“I try to wear tight fitting shirts to look bigger,” he said with a chuckle.

McBride is one of the unsung players who has helped Loyola win four of its first five games and put itself in position to possibly return to the Southern Section Division 1 playoffs.

On Friday night, when host Sherman Oaks Notre Dame had hoped to celebrate a 300th career coaching victory for Coach Kevin Rooney, it was the Cubs playing the role of spoilers. They came away with a 28-21 victory in a Mission League opener.

“I told Kevin, ‘I want you to get your 300th, but not against us,’” Loyola Coach Rick Pedroarias said.

Pedroarias spent 30 years coaching in the Loyola football program until taking over this season.

There’s a little Steve Grady in the way the Cubs are playing. The former coach’s teams were tough, had discipline and won even against more highly regarded teams. Just ask McBride how the Cubs are doing it.

“We all dig down deep,” he said. “We’re not as talented as last year’s team, but we all have a second motor.”

Loyola opened a 21-0 first-half lead and hung on. Junior Hunter Ballard rushed for 107 yards and scored on a 25-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter for a 28-7 advantage.

Notre Dame quarterback Noah Taylor broke off an 80-yard touchdown run and passed 47 yards to McKel Broussard for another touchdown in the fourth quarter, but the Knights (4-1) could not make up their deficit.

Helping Loyola was terrific specials teams play. Kicker Nicholas Barr-Mira had three kickoffs into the end zone. Punter Collin Flintoft came through with a 48-yard punt in the fourth quarter and also a punt that forced the Knights to start their final drive on the eight-yard line.

McBride had a 12-yard touchdown run, contributed a punt return and several tackles on defense. Nothing fazes him. “It’s all in the heart,” he said.

The first half couldn’t have gone much worse for the Knights.

Loyola’s Nathan Bustos started the game by returning the opening kickoff 87 yards to the 13-yard line.

That set up an eight-yard touchdown reception by Alex Blake from Nathan Priestley.

The Cubs led 21-0 by the second play of the second quarter on a Dakota Smith two-yard touchdown run.

Taylor finished with 182 yards passing and 108 yards rushing. But Loyola’s defense was good enough in the end to deny the Knights when needed.

“We try to outwork you and be physical,” Pedroarias said. “I’m a fan of Ara Parseghian,” he said of the Hall of the Fame coach at the University of Notre Dame who died in August.

“His model was we have no breaking points. These kids fought hard.”

As for McBride, he was running off the field proudly wearing his No. 1 jersey. He let everyone know how good a player he truly is.

eric.sondheimer@latimes.com

Follow Eric Sondheimer on Twitter @latsondheimer

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