Loyola Academy senior lineman Charlie Gross picked up teammate Trevor Cabanban in an end zone and hoisted him abruptly and joyfully last weekend.
Cabanban, a 5-foot-6, 140-pound sophomore running back from the Chicago neighborhood of Edgebrook, had just rushed for a 39-yard touchdown — in his varsity debut, no less. The tally gave LA a 27-10 lead in its Class 8A playoff opener against visiting New Trier on Oct. 28 and highlighted Cabanban’s 84-yard day (on 10 carries).
It’s a good thing the 6-5, 280-pound Gross did not let go of Cabanban during the celebration.
Had he done so, Cabanban might still be airborne.
“Exciting,” Cabanban said of the TD, not of his sudden portrayal of a maroon-and-gold trophy above the head of a large champion.
“It was surprising, being called up from the sophomore team [on Oct. 19],” he added.
New Trier, seeded 27th, stunned sixth-seeded Loyola with a run of 22 unanswered points in the fourth quarter before exiting the field in Wilmette on the “32” side of a 35-32 decision.
LA (9-1) faces visiting Hinsdale Central (8-2) in a second-round game on Nov. 4, beginning at 1 p.m.
“A joy to coach,” Trevians coach Brian Doll said of his Trevians (6-4), who trailed 35-10 at 11:14 of the fourth quarter, following Noah Jones’ 18-yard TD reception from LA backup quarterback Jack Fallon.
“Their heart, their willingness to fight, to never give up … all of that impressed me. Our guys cared about each other all season, and they left it all on the field today.”
The anatomy of NT’s comeback bid began with junior Carson Ochsenhirt’s arm. The junior, who shared QB duties with senior Reed Bianucci, connected with senior wideout Matt Mosher for a 75-yard TD at 10:12 of the fourth quarter. Bianucci (15-for-31 for 246 yards) tossed TD strikes to Anthony Nicholas and Northwestern University-bound tight end Brian Kaiser in the final five-plus minutes of the frame.
Nicholas’ score covered 29 yards, and Kaiser’s was a 42-yarder.
Nicholas then caught a two-point conversion pass from Ochsenhirt, making it 35-32 Loyola with 1:10 left.
The Ramblers’ sure-handed junior wideout, Rory Boos (with team highs of 7 TDs and 604 receiving yards this fall), secured the ensuing onside kick.
LA, which led 14-3 at the half, survived.
LA — a state runner-up last year and a state champion in 2015 — advanced.
“We can’t go three-and-out for the entire fourth quarter,” Ramblers coach John Holecek said. “Maybe we didn’t do that, but it seemed like we did. We played on our heels too much, and we’ve got to make plays on defense.”
LA’s offense battled without starting quarterback Quinn Boyle (6-of-12, 88 yards, TD) for most of the second half. The QB sat for precautionary reasons, Holecek noted afterward.
Junior backup Jack Fallon needed only four pass attempts to toss a pair of TD passes, with both landing in the hands of Jones (4 catches, 104 yards). The first Fallon-to-Jones link, a 32-yarder, expanded LA’s lead to 20-3 at the 8:47 mark of the third quarter.
Three Ramblers rushed for at least 82 yards on a day in which the home team averaged 5.6 yards per carry. Senior running back Hamid Bullie (14 carries, 89 yards) and Boyle (14-82) joined Cabanban in the 82-plus-yardage category. Junior running back Michael Gravic (9-21) opened the scoring with a four-yard TD run in the first quarter.
LA’s defense, meanwhile, limited New Trier to 37 rushing yards on 21 carries (1.8 yards per tote).
NT received productive days from Nicholas (3 catches, 75 yards), senior wideout Daniel Passeri (4 catches, 58 yards) and junior running back Brian Sitzer (5 catches, 45 yards, TD). Junior Graham Dable cut LA’s lead to 7-3 with a 30-yard field goal midway through the second quarter.
New Trier linebacker Wilson MacRitchie and LA defensive back Charlie Largay each came down with an interception in the rout-turned-thriller.
Notable: Loyola Academy has never played Hinsdale Central in a football playoff game. The 11th-seeded Red Devils beat Stevenson’s 22nd-seeded Patriots 33-24 last weekend to earn a Class 8A second-round matchup with host and sixth-seeded Loyola Academy on Nov. 4 (1 p.m.). … LA, through 10 games, has accumulated 186 first downs to its opponents’ 96. … Ramblers senior quarterback Quinn Boyle paces the team in passing (1,485 yards) and rushing (609). … Junior Noah Jones, who missed a big chunk of the season with a hamstring injury, finished the game with four catches for 104 yards. … LA’s 12th-year football coach, John Holecek, improved to 132-26 (.835) with the defeat of New Trier last weekend. Holecek needs one more victory to tie John Hoerster for most career wins at the school.