LOVELAND – Despite a disappointing 1-4 start to their season, Loveland High School is hoping for a strong finish and a few breaks to be a factor again in Division II Ohio football.
Two seasons removed from a fairy tale 15-0 state championship season, the Tigers find themselves in the unenviable position of having to win out to equal last year’s 6-4 mark. Even if they do, any playoff possibilities would hinge on a number of competitive and mathematical occurrences.
But, as the recently passed Yankee legend Yogi Berra once said, “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over.”
A powerful first step for Loveland came in rainy conditions at Anderson when the Tigers thumped the Redskins 34-7.
“It was an important win just to get things moving in the right direction,” Cranford said. “We’re down, but not out. We just need to make sure we move forward one week at a time. We need to keep this moving.”
After giving up big points in losses to Lakota East, Lebanon and Glen Este and falling short to Kings 24-17, the Tigers defense held Anderson to a late fourth-quarter touchdown when the game had already been decided.
“Our defense has a lot of juice in them,” Cranford said. “We have struggled a little bit, but that’s all behind us.”
Offensively, Kings has been the only opponent able to keep junior Luke Waddell in check. The only other game he didn’t reach 100 yards rushing in was the Lakota East opener. Against the Thunderhawks, he had just 72 yards rushing, but countered with five receptions for 187 yards and two scores.
Against everyone else, the 5-foot-8, 165-pound speedster has gashed defenses, including a school-record 383 yards against Oak Hills for five touchdowns. It took No. 37 roughly two and a half seasons to run for 4,000 career yards.
“That’s about who he is and the way he plays the game,” Cranford said. “At the end of the day, it’s not just Luke Waddell. Our line has done a good job and Drew Plitt can do some things through the air. We’re trying to figure out where to put Luke and where to work away from him.”
Plitt is also a starter from that Division II championship team who should reach 4,000 throwing yards soon. When not finding Waddell open in the flat, his top target has been 6-foot-4 senior Michael Peters. Junior Jacob Clements and senior tight end Matthew Bezjak have also been open and seniors Ryan Bagnoli and Trevor Gajus are other capable Tiger runners.
After the Withrow game, Loveland hosts Walnut Hills Oct. 16, then hits the road against a tough Turpin team Oct. 23. The regular season finale with Milford is at Tiger Stadium is Oct. 30.
They are a long-shot, yet they are alive.
“We’ll deal with it as the time comes,” Cranford said. “I’ve been on both sides of the spectrum multiple times. All we have to do is make sure we control our things each Friday night.”