It is a painful parallel, a comparison that Crespi Coach Bill Redell would rather not make.
The pain? Crespi lost, 15-8, to Loyola on Saturday night. The loss cost the Celts the Del Rey League championship, a national ranking and several players to injuries.
The parallel? Crespi lost under similar circumstances last year--in the ninth game of the season, in the fourth league game, for the league title--to St. John Bosco, 32-27.
"We mentioned that to them today," Redell said Monday. "We tried to tell them there's still something positive that can come out of this."
Much of Redell's speech undoubtedly sounded familiar to many players, since it had been used about 365 days before. But this time, it has an added sense of perspective.
In 1986, Crespi rallied to avenge the regular-season loss to St. John Bosco with a 49-14 win in the Big Five Conference championship game.
Redell says he tried to convince the team that it is capable of a repeat performance. Considering how well Loyola did against the highly regarded Crespi ground game, Redell might have to sprinkle some psychology into the jock talk.
"When we looked at the film, we saw some things that helped take some of the sting out of it," he said. "The defense played well, the special teams played well, and our offense actually outgained theirs.
"But they just flat stuffed the running game."
Running back Russell White was held to 28 yards in 14 carries, and J. J. Lasley gained 16 yards in six carries. Crespi, which had averaged 467 yards a game, finished with 212 yards--only 41 on the ground.
Despite the lack of success on the ground, Redell said he has second-guessed himself for his play selection, especially his decision to employ a passing attack when Loyola shut down White early.
"I think I might have made a mistake in going away from the running game a little too quickly," he said. "We should have kept at it. All it would have taken is one play, and boom, he's gone."
Yet there was little to indicate that things were getting any better as the game wore on. After the first quarter, White carried six times and netted the grand total of one yard, but he might not have been completely fit. He injured his right ankle in the second quarter and left the game for a series to have it retaped. White is questionable for Friday's regular-season finale against St. John Bosco.
White wasn't the only Crespi casualty. Center Kyle Cummings injured an ankle and guard Darren Osti also limped off the field. Osti had surgery on an ingrown toenail this week. Both he and Cummings are questionable for Friday.
In the game's final minute, John Goetz, the team's punter and starting safety, dislocated his left shoulder on the onside kick that followed Crespi's lone touchdown.
"We took a beating," Redell said. "We're right at the point where we can't afford to lose anybody else. We have a bunch of guys playing both ways and guys playing hurt. I don't think we can lose many more and not feel it."
Loyola's defensive line and linebackers made Crespi feel their ferocity all night. It seemed every time White touched the ball, there were two or three Cubs clubbing him.
"To tell you the truth, I really underestimated Loyola," Redell said. "I knew they were good, but not that good. They've got a great front seven, with big, quick guys.
"Russell never had a chance to get going."
Loyola moved up from No. 14 to No. 8 in the USA Today national rankings. Crespi, which had occupied the No. 8 slot, fell from the top 25.
"I'd be very surprised if we don't come back from this," Redell said. "We know we're a good football team. If people hang in there with us, we'll be back."
Add Crespi: Redell said he warned the team that it could come to this--those bungles can burn you.
"We've been fumbling all year," he said. "When you're winning 44-0, it doesn't really matter much and you don't really notice it. But I told them if they ever made those mistakes in a close game, they'd pay."
Crespi turned the ball over five times--three on fumbles and two on interceptions. A White fumble on the Crespi five-yard line set up Loyola's first score, a three-yard run by Johann Fuller.
Last add Crespi: The atmosphere, which included 11,207 paying customers, was something to behold. For the Crespi players, it was also motivational.
"I remember I had started into my pregame speech," Redell said. "I was starting to pump them up, and the guys said, 'Whoa, save it Coach, we're ready to go.' "
Redell used a T-shirt that Loyola fans designed as additional emotional fuel. The shirt read "Crush Crespi," and featured a circle with a line through the number four, White's jersey number.
"A booster bought it right off one of their fan's backs for $20," Redell said with a laugh.
Redell tossed the shirt on the turf and the players stomped on it as they entered the stadium.
Loyola fans taunted White throughout the game with chants of "Russell whooooo," among others.