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Loyola's Julius Holley scores a fourth quarter touchdown at the Global Ireland Football Tournament 2012 against Dallas Jesuit Donnybrook Stadium, Donnybrook, Dublin. Stephen McCarthy | For Sun Times Media
DUBLIN, Ireland — Loyola senior Luke Ford and his teammates spent much of the past week accepting good-lucks and bon-voyages from classmates leading up to their big trip to Ireland to face Dallas Jesuit.
“Then they’d turn around and talk to a friend and be like, ‘Those guys are gonna get steamrolled by those guys from Texas,’” Ford said.
So expectations were tempered a bit going into the game. Jesuit has four Big 12 recruits. Jesuit is from the football mecca of Texas. And Jesuit’s coaching staff even flew to Loyola’s Week 1 win over Simeon — violating a “gentleman’s agreement,” according to Loyola coach John Holecek.
But Loyola gave Jesuit all it could handle Friday afternoon at Dublin’s Donnybrook Stadium, leading for most of the game until losing 30-29 on a 28-yard field goal with 49 seconds left in the wild game.
“We were the better team,” said Loyola quarterback Peter Pujals, who scored on two touchdown plunges and hooked up with Ford for a 77-yard catch-and-run touchdown. “We just gave it away.”
Loyola got an immediate — and much-needed — confidence boost when Cody Sullivan intercepted a wobbly Jesuit pass on the second snap of the game. Pujals promptly scored for the early lead. But both sides were sloppy — Loyola lost three fumbles and missed two extra points, Jesuit threw three interceptions, lost a fumble, muffed a punt and missed an extra point.
The Ramblers (1-1) got the better of it for much of the game, and held a 23-14 lead late into the third quarter. But that’s when the wheels fell off.
A run on a fake punt came up a few yards short, and Jesuit scored immediately to cut the lead to 23-20 with 52 seconds left in the third. Loyola promptly fumbled, and Jesuit scored again two plays later to take the lead, 27-23 with 11:23 left in the fourth. A bad snap on the very next play again gave Jesuit the ball at the Loyola 14, and it looked like the game was over.
But Loyola’s Daniel Rafferty picked off a pass at the end zone, and the Ramblers suddenly had life. Julius Holley capped an impressive drive with a 9-yard touchdown run (the kick failed), and Loyola had a 29-27 lead.
But after the teams traded failed drives, Jesuit converted on a third-and-20 from its own 1-yard line, and from there set up Cody Wicker’s game-winning kick.
Pujals said Jesuit was the best team Loyola will face all season, so as much as losing hurts, the one-point margin gives the Ramblers confidence they can win a state title after falling in the 8A final last year.
“We gave them all we had,” Ford said. “To lose in the last minute is almost more devastating. But I’m happy with how the team played, even with all the mistakes. Everyone played 100 percent. We played well. There was a lot of heart.”