Jake Gonzalez and Noah Jones have had very different high school football careers at Loyola. Gonzalez has been a rock, starting 28 consecutive games. Jones has battled injuries throughout the past two years, but has flashed tremendous potential.
The two seniors will be a major part of No. 3 Loyola’s drive to make a fourth consecutive Class 8A state championship game appearance. The Ramblers lost in the title game the last two years, they won in 2015. Coach John Holecek has guided Loyola to the final in five of the past seven seasons.
“It’s all history, it doesn’t matter,” Holecek said. “I tell them they haven’t earned anything yet. We do it through hard work and repetition and doing the right things. Every year it is the same so lets embrace the expectations and run with it.”
Gonzalez, a safety, has committed to Penn. He’s also an excellent hockey player. The senior is on track to end his high school career as the leading tackler in school history.
“I’m excited for the challenge to make it back [to the title game] and try and win this time,” Gonzalez said. “We know how hard it is to make it there. We just need to push a little harder to win it.”
Jack Fallon, who played against New Trier last season, is expected to step in as starting quarterback.
“[Fallon] is looking good but there is a learning curve,” Holecek said. “His backup Matthew Schiltz is doing well too so we will see.”
There are plenty of weapons on offense. Jones, who has more than a dozen scholarship offers, and fellow wide receiver Rory Boos are breakout talents. Both caught eight passes in the title game loss against Lincoln-Way East last season
“We are hoping those legs are going to carry [Jones] through the season without any problems,” Holecek said. “If he does not have an injured year he will be a fantastic high school football player.”
Junior running Trevor Cabanban was one of the area’s most exciting players last season.
“He is so special,” Holecek said. “I hope that we can block for him efficiently because when you get him in space he is really tough. He’s got everything, the vision, the patience, the acceleration. For a little guy he will put his shoulder down and run through some tackles too.”
Linebackers Armoni Dixon and Patrick Daniels return to help out Gonzalez on the defense.
“There’s a lot of anger, a lot of drive to come into the preseason [after the title game loss],” Dixon said. “Every year Loyola is a powerhouse, we are a household name. We kind of want that. It gets us going basically.”
The Ramblers opened the season with a loss to Phillips at Gately last season. The two powerhouse programs were originally expected to meet in Wilmette this season, but that game hasn’t materialized. Loyola will play at Rockford, Mich. in Week 1.
“It will be fun,” Jones said. “It’s always good to go on the road with the team. It’s a good team bonding experience for sure.”
Aug. 24 at Rockford, Mich.
Aug. 31 at New Trier
Sept. 8 vs. Mount Carmel
Sept. 14 at Brother Rice
Sept. 21 at St. Ignatius
Sept. 29 vs. Montini
Oct. 5 at De La Salle
Oct. 12 at St. Rita
Oct. 20 vs. Providence
More high school football stories:
- The 2018 Sun-Times Super 25 football teams
- The Top 10 running backs
- The Top 10 receivers
- The Top 10 defensive players
- Mount Carmel’s new coach on what’s ahead this season
Watch Sun-Times Game Week every Monday at 6:30 p.m.!
Want the latest info and analysis on high school football? Our preps team of Michael O’Brien, Beth Long and Annie Costabile will share all the latest news, insights and Super 25 football rankings in a new livestream show called “Sun-Times Game Week.” You can watch it LIVE every Monday night at 6:30 p.m. right here on our high school sports Facebook page. You can also ask questions using the hashtag #SunTimesGameWeek or email those questions to email@example.com.