Linebacker Steven Arellano of Loyola has never seen a ball carrier he didn’t want to tackle. It’s as if he’s a magnet and is pulled to the the ball.
He has been in on more than 150 tackles this season for the Cubs (6-6), who play San Juan Hills on Saturday for the Southern Section Division 4 championship in the first ever home championship game on the campus of Loyola.
Arellano is 5 feet 11, 210 pounds. Coach Drew Casani said, “If our linebacker was three inches taller, he’d be recruited by everybody.”
All Arellano can do for the skeptics is keep making tackles.
“When I go onto the field, nobody expects a lot,” he said. “But playing my game shows what I’m capable of doing. I’ve been playing since I was 4 and using the instincts I’ve gained.”
San Juan Hills (10-3) will present a severe challenge to the surprising Cubs. The Stallions have some big-time weapons, such as quarterback Hudson Jones, who has completed 72% of his passes, and receiver Joey Hobert, who has caught 18 touchdowns.
But the Cubs were tested in the Mission League against Bishop Amat, Chaminade and Sherman Oaks Notre Dame and appear to have turned the corner after being primarily a Division 1 team for years and then dropping to Division 4.
Their group of young players is impressive, from junior cornerbacks Zakhari Spears and Ceyair Wright to sophomore running backs Tahj Owens and Harrison Allen. Add junior quarterback Brayden Zermeno and the building blocks are there for the future.
But it’s the seniors who have provided leadership like Arellano who have paved the way for the Cubs’ young players to stand out. And Arellano has been pretty good himself.