In a rivalry game matching the intensity and back-and-forth action of a heavyweight title bout, the Wolverine football team avenged last year’s opening game loss to the Loyola Cubs with a 27-21 win at Ted Slavin field under the Friday night lights Aug. 30.
On the opening possession in the first quarter, the Wolverines struck first with a 15-yard touchdown run by running back Garrett Robinson ’15. After missing the extra point, the Cubs hit back on their first drive to take the lead, 7-6.
The second quarter saw the rival teams trade leads three times. A blocked punt by the Wolverines in the Loyola red zone set up a 15-yard quarterback scramble by Marshal Cohen ’16 to go ahead, 13-7.
After scoring on a 39-yard touchdown pass to return the favor 14-13, the Cubs looked ready to create some breathing room for their one point lead as they gained possession once again and pressed forward to the Wolverines’ goal line. Cornerback Jack Temko ’14 intercepted a goal line pass to keep the score at 14-13 and put the Wolverines back on track. On the resulting drive, Cohen connected with Teddy King ’14 to go up 20-14 heading into the half.
The forced turnover came at the right place and the right time, Temko said.
“The momentum seemed to be switching towards Loyola at that point, and the defense knew we needed a big stop there,” Temko said. “The receiver ran a five yard out and the quarterback didn’t take his eyes off of him, so I jumped the route and got the pick. Obviously I wanted to run it all the way back, but unfortunately I got tackled from behind. We were all fired up at that point and scored two plays later. We went into halftime confident because we took back the momentum.”
Coming out of the locker room with that momentum, Cohen and Robinson led the Wolverine effort in padding the one-touchdown lead. The opening possession in the second-half consisted of several run plays by the Wolverines, culminating in a four-yard goal line push to extend the lead to 13 points.
Defense ruled for the remainder of the contest. While the Cubs pulled within six again off a touchdown pass late in the third quarter, the Wolverine defense stood its ground throughout the fourth quarter, forcing punts or turnovers on the rest of Loyola’s possessions and securing the season opener victory.
Cohen kneeled to run out the final seconds of the game and cement Wolverine victory, and players on the sideline showered head coach Scot Ruggles with water before storming the field, soon to be joined by Fanatics from the stands.
“Any time we beat Loyola, it’s special. We have beaten Loyola in lacrosse a couple times, but it doesn’t come close to comparing to last night,” Temko, also midfielder for the lacrosse team, said. “I can’t even describe the euphoric feeling after the game.”
Heading into the season after a first-round CIF playoff loss last year, the Wolverines saw loss of significant senior leadership and uncertainty at the quarterback position. Such uncertainty was allayed against Loyola, as new transfer quarterback Cohen rushed for two touchdowns and threw for one in his Wolverine debut.
“We’re going to win, we’ve been prepping for it,” Captain Julian Shabahang ’14 said following the team’s scrimmage against St. Monica Friday, Aug 23. “We don’t have any film on them, and they have a new coach, but we’re ready.”
The Wolverines’ opening game win not only kicks off the 2013 campaign with a 1-0 record, but it also gives the football team its first ever win against Loyola. The rivals faced each other for the first time ever on the gridiron in the 2012 season opener, when the Cubs claimed victory 42-27.
Going beyond the rivals on the field, the football opener also consisted of special ceremonies and accommodations.
The opening national anthem was a tribute to Justin Carr ’14, who died of cardiomyopathy in February. A recording of Carr singing the anthem weeks before his death rang across the field and stands prior to the start of the game.
In another first for Harvard-Westlake sports, the Athletic Department live-streamed the football game for the first time ever, while the Chronicle tweeted the play-by-play on a hot August night.
The matchup was a home game for the Wolverines and because more people attend match-ups between the two teams, the Harvard-Westlake Athletic Department provided extra bleachers for the expected large crowd. Along with the football game, the crowd witnessed the Wolverine baseball team receive CIF Championship rings for the first time in school history.