Mater Dei's Billy Blanton tried, but the state's second-leading high school passer couldn't engineer a comeback Saturday night against Loyola.
Mater Dei, Orange County's top-ranked team, spotted Loyola a 14-point halftime lead and then fell short in its comeback bid, 28-20, in an Angelus League game watched by 6,500 at Glendale High.
Blanton led two second-half touchdown drives, but when the game was on the line, Loyola's defense rose to the occasion, sacking Blanton on Mater Dei's final scoring bid.
Blanton, who finished with 255 yards passing and two touchdowns, drove Mater Dei to a first down at Loyola's 31 with 4:30 remaining, but consecutive sacks by Loyola's Chris Eccon and Paul Rodarte ended the threat.
Mater Dei (8-1, 1-1) will likely fall from its top ranking in the county next week, thanks to a lackluster first half.
"It was a funny situation, but for some reason, we didn't display any emotion in the first half," Mater Dei Coach Bruce Rollinson said. "They played their best football game, and we didn't. We missed an extra point, we missed a field goal, and we allowed those (five) sacks. It was one of those nights."
Loyola (5-2, 1-1) combined a strong defense with 193 yards rushing and 140 yards passing to earn the upset and avenge last year's 3-0 loss to Mater Dei. Running back Michael Brown gained 76 yards in 18 carries and scored two touchdowns for the Cubs.
"We tried to change our defensive coverage to confuse Blanton," Loyola Coach Steve Grady said. "He's something special . . . the best pure passer I've ever seen. Every time he went back to pass, you held your breath. He's just deadly."
Loyola, which had two weeks to prepare for the game, looked more than ready for a big upset. The Cubs scored three touchdowns in the second quarter, taking advantage of a fumble and a short punt for two of them.
Trailing, 6-0, Loyola drove 80 yards for its first touchdown early in the second quarter, with Brown racing past three Mater Dei defenders for a 38-yard touchdown that got the Cubs off and running.
Blanton went straight to the air after the Loyola touchdown, connecting with Ray Jackson on a 21-yard pass play, but Jackson fumbled, and Loyola defensive end Anthony Hovorka recovered. It took the Cubs seven plays to reach the end zone, Brown scoring his second touchdown on a three-yard run.
Mater Dei gave Loyola a big assist on its second touchdown drive when David Knuff was cited for a personal foul on an incomplete pass. The 15-yard penalty moved the ball to the Monarch 15.
Knuff's 20-yard punt late in the second quarter led to Loyola's third touchdown. The Cubs got good field position at Mater Dei's 43, and this time quarterback, Clelio Boccato connected with tight end Ted Fourti on a 10-yard touchdown pass for a 20-6 halftime lead. Fourti also had a 52-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter that gave Loyola a 28-14 lead.
Mater Dei's only hurrah in the first half was a nicely executed 63-yard touchdown pass from Blanton to Knuff, who eluded Eccon at the Loyola 37 and raced untouched to the end zone.
But Mater Dei kicker Brian Broadbent missed the extra-point attempt, and the momentum quickly shifted to Loyola.