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Column: Loyola beats St. Augustine, 42-35, in return to home field

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First home game in 65 years results in 42-35 victory

Views from Loyola High’s makeshift press box Friday night for its first home football game in 65 years were stunning.

Gleaming skyscrapers rising from downtown Los Angeles were visible from the east. Around Smith Field were portable bleachers seating 4,000 fans in an intimate, cozy setting. Two giant trucks normally used for lighting outdoor movie sets hoisted a crane containing a bank of lights that poured out 180,000 watts, creating a Hollywood-like setting.

“It looks amazing,” Loyola cornerback Jason Baker said.

The football teams from Loyola and St. Augustine were the props for a historic night that took months of planning. Loyola alumni beamed with pride in a celebration of 149 years in existence. More than 600 Loyola students, standing side by side in the end zone bleachers, screamed, yelled, giggled and roared to their night’s content.

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Everybody also got a chance to witness an entertaining game. Loyola held on for a 42-35 victory on a night in which junior running back Elijah Preston of St. Augustine rushed for 295 yards and four touchdowns in 30 carries and added another touchdown on a 25-yard pass reception.

“Now that it’s over with, it was a very special night for our school,” Loyola Coach Marvin Sanders said. “To have an opportunity to have a game in a setting like this was a blessing.”

Loyola (3-0) showed off a strong rushing attack. David Cooper rushed for 100 yards and had touchdown runs of 32 and 22 yards. Drake Beasley had 82 yards rushing and one touchdown. Daniel Tolbert added 71 yards rushing and one touchdown. Myles Bryant contributed two interceptions and scored what proved to be the winning touchdown on a three-yard run in the fourth quarter.

Loyola supporters seemed to enjoy their first home game since 1949. So much has changed.

“To play a game with that cityscape is really cool,” former Loyola receiver Danny Farmer said while looking at the skyscrapers in the distance.

The game was called a “grand experiment” by Loyola officials. They will evaluate everything, from parking to costs, and determine whether more home games will be scheduled in 2015.

My only complaint was that the scaffolding for the press box didn’t exactly inspire confidence. Asked what’s holding it up, a worker replied, “Faith.”

It worked.

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