SBLive California is previewing the Top 50 high school football teams in the state ahead of the 2020-2021 season, which is scheduled to kick off the first week of January. Here’s an inside look at the Loyola Cubs of the CIF Southern Section, the No. 41 team in our countdown.

LOYOLA TEAM PAGE | 2021 FOOTBALL SCHEDULE

LOYOLA HEAD COACH

Drew Casani, 2nd season (6-7)

2019 AT A GLANCE

  • 6-7 record
  • 1-3 in Mission League (fourth place)
  • Made the CIF Southern Section Division 4 championship game. Lost to San Juan Hills 21-15

ALL-SOUTHERN SECTION DEPARTURES (all to graduation)

  • Carter Link – LB
  • Brendan Pernecky – TE
  • Nick Anderson – OL
  • Sam Dominguez – OL

2020-21 SCHEDULE

  • Jan 8, 2021 @ St. Bernard – 7:00PM – Non League
  • Jan 15, 2021 @ Culver City – 7:00PM – Non League
  • Jan 29, 2021 vs. Crenshaw – 7:00PM – Non League
  • Feb 5, 2021 vs. La Habra – 7:00PM – Non League
  • Feb 12, 2021 @ San Clemente – 7:00PM – Non League
  • Feb 26, 2021 vs. St. Francis – 7:00PM – League
  • Mar 5, 2021 @ St. Paul – 7:00PM – League
  • Mar 12, 2021 vs. Crespi – 7:00PM – League

RETURNING STARTERS

  • 7 on offense
  • 6 on defense

PLAYERS TO WATCH

CEYAIR WRIGHT, Sr., 6-1, 181, WR/Corner/KR/Athlete, All-CIF as a junior

Coach Casani: “Ceyair is ranked as a top 100 national athlete. He’s a lock down corner with elite speed (10.8 100 m). He has 34 FBS scholarship offers, including offers from Notre Dame, USC, Stanford, Michigan, and Oklahoma. He was selected to participate in the All-American Bowl. He has a 3.7 GPA. He’s also an accomplished actor.”

2019 stats: 34 tackles, 1 INT. Returned a kickoff for a TD.

JOSH LONG, Sr., 6-4, 232, DL/TE, All-CIF as a junior

Coach Casani: “Josh will end his career as one of the best defensive linemen in Loyola history. He’s a true under-the-radar gem who is fast, athletic, and a great pass rusher. He has multiple FBS scholarship offers. The pandemic kept him from gaining more notice in the spring and summer.”

2019 stats: 86 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 2 fumble recoveries

ZAKHARI SPEARS, Sr., 6-3, 185, Corner/WR, All-CIF as a junior

Coach Casani: “Zakhari is an outstanding defensive back who can play multiple positions. He was highly recruited with many FBS scholarship offers before committing to Washington. He’ll team up with Wright to form one of the best secondary duos in the state.”

2019 stats: 62 tackles, 2 for loss

TAHJ OWENS, Jr., 5-10, 184, RB/Corner

Coach Casani: “Tahj was the first field player (running back) in Loyola history to earn All-CIF honors as a sophomore. He’s a hard-nosed, fast, very talented running back (6.2 yards per carry). He also has elite cover skills as a DB. He will be a key component of an offense that should be explosive. He’ll be playing on Saturday’s. Tahj has a 3.8 GPA. He’s a great kick returner too.”

2019 stats: 122 rushes for 761 yards and 7 touchdowns, 14 catches for 111 yards, 12 tackles, interception

JACOBY KELLY, Jr., 6-3, 193, WR/DB

Coach Casani: “Jacoby began receiving scholarship offers in his freshman year. He led the team in receptions last year. He may help at safety this year. He has a 3.9 GPA.”

2019 stats: 37 catches for 480 and 5 TDs

SAM YOON, Jr., 6-6, 276, OL

Coach Casani: “Sam started at left tackle last fall as a sophomore. He’s a very focused and disciplined athlete. He carries a 4.5 GPA. Sam has made significant strength gains over the spring and summer. He will end up being a highly recruited lineman.”

PETER VANIS, Jr., 5-10, 171, WR/DB

Coach Casani: “Peter is another member of the Vanis family who has starred on the gridiron at Loyola. He was last year’s second leading receiver before a broken hand sidelined him late in the year. He has phenomenal hands and he’s a great route runner who is tough as nails.”

2019 stats: 17 catches for 263 yards and a TD.

BRAYDEN ZERMENO, Sr., 6-4, 224, QB

Coach Casani: “Brayden is a Princeton commit who received many FBS scholarship offers. He has a strong arm and quick release.”

2019 stats: Completed 147 of 263 passes for 1,633 yards, 8 TDs, 7 INTs, rushed for 323 yards and 2 TDs

HARRISON ALLEN, Jr., 5-10, 171, RB

Coach Casani: “Harrison started at running back for the Cubs’ CIF runner-up team last season as a sophomore. He averaged five yards per carry last year. He will be a Saturday player.”

2019 stats: Rushed 175 times for 867 and 13 TDs. Caught 18 passes for 187 yards and a TD

JEFFREY JOHNSON, Sr., 6-5, 226, DL

Coach Casani: “Jeffrey is a really quick and athletic lineman who is an excellent pass rusher. He’s capable of making big plays on every down. He possesses rare speed for a down lineman.”

2019 stats: Made 45 tackles and forced a fumble, 7.5 sacks

PATRICK SODL, Jr., 5-11, 202, Inside LB

Coach Casani: “Patrick was on the varsity roster as a sophomore and was the leading tackler on the JV squad. He is strong, quick and tough in the mold of the great linebackers who have played for the Cubs. He is a weight room warrior who should be an impact player.”

2019 stats: Made 5 tackles

JACKSON SHEA, Jr., 6-0, 173, S/K

Coach Casani: “Jackson is a gifted athlete with great range at the safety position. He’s also an excellent kicker.”

IMPACT TRANSFERS

  • Shawn Lin – 2022 DL transfer from Mater Dei
  • Xavier Rice – 2023 QB transfer from St. John Bosco

IMPACT OF COVID-19 ON LOYOLA FOOTBALL

COVID-19 has affected every high school football team differently. Coach Casani shares how COVID-19 has impacted Loyola football over the past few months:

“It’s been challenging. We’ve been forced to modify the stuff we do to stay within the protocols that have been put in place. We started out with pods of 20 guys and we’re still rolling with that. Not much has changed since we started in September. We’ve got to wear masks unless we’re conditioning or doing heavy physical exertion and we can’t go within six feet of each other so that really limits what we can do football wise.

“We get a lot done agility wise and with conditioning and teaching, but we don’t get to do much real football. We’re hoping things change soon. Overall it’s been great for the kids to just be out there together working out.

“We have two guys that opted out because of COVID, but they weren’t starters last year.”

BEST-CASE SCENARIO FOR LOYOLA

A CIF title. If Loyola gets placed in Division 3 or lower this season, they’ll have a shot at winning a title.

MOST REALISTIC SCENARIO

Winning the Angelus League and going on a deep playoff run. This is the best Loyola team in recent memory so it’s a shame the Cubs dropped to the Angelus League and won’t face other teams in the Mission League this year, but make no mistake this Loyola team is still a very good one. Casani won a CIF title as a player and he’s building Loyola back to what they looked like in their glory years.

COACH SAID

“With four All-CIF players returning from last season’s CIF Southern Section Division 4 finalist squad, we are poised for an outstanding 2020 campaign. No less than 14 college scholarship caliber players (in all three classes) are in the program, which means we could make some big noise this season. 

“Having the starting quarterback, two starting running backs, two starting wide receivers back, along with two top flight returning defensive linemen and great corners on defense, we’ll be in great shape to make another run for a CIF title. Line depth is a concern, so avoiding injuries is imperative. The team strengths are clearly the skill positions, which are loaded.”

— Drew Casani

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