by Cassie Mattia

Loveland, Ohio – As student-athletes across Ohio are gearing up to start practicing and competing, the Loveland Tigers Football Coach, Andy Cruse, is more than excited to get his team ready for the 2020-2021 season!

Over the past several months, all contact sports in the state of Ohio were put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic, forcing student-athletes to take it upon themselves to prepare for their up and coming sports seasons. Ohio coaches of course tried to impact their student-athletes as much as possible virtually, but for many high school athletes having coaches physically there motivating them through tough practices is what the athletes are saying they both want and need!

Recently OHSAA released guidelines for all Ohio High School sports programs in regards to what the protocol will be once practices and competitions begin. With that being said I decided to check in with LHS’s Head Football Coach Andy Cruse to see just how these guidelines will affect the football program, the student-athletes, the coaches, and the loyal Tiger spectators. Here is the Loveland Tiger Football 411 featuring Coach Andy Cruse!

Cassie   Have you started in-person practices yet with the team and coaches and if so are there any restrictions?
Coach Cruse   We began workouts with restrictions on June 1st. We have done football-related activities for a while now, but just recently started having limited contact during on-field training. We officially begin our season on August 1st.
Cassie Have you had fewer players come out for the team because of COVID-19 and the Pay-to-Play implementation?
Coach Cruse   Surprisingly, no. We have had the best attendance since I’ve been the Head Coach at Loveland. I truly believe that quarantine made our athletes appreciate football and being together more. Many of them had to be very creative in their workouts without a weight room, so being able to train in our beautiful weight room has been great for all of them.
Cassie Have you named team captains and if so who are they?
Coach Cruse  We have not. This is something we will do early on in August. We have many players that have really emerged as leaders since last December.
Cassie How are you and your staff handling the COVID-19 pandemic and restrictions? Has it been tough or have you successfully managed the situation?
Coach Cruse Our staff has handled it very well. Head Coaches did a walk thru on everything with Brian Conatser, our AD before we started workouts and then my staff and I did a walk-thru of how the workouts would go before we started back up on June 1st. My staff and I, like the rest of the athletic department, are taking every precaution necessary and are following the guidelines that the state has put out. Initially, it was very different than what we were used to. We have told our players from the beginning of quarantine that we must adjust and adapt moving forward and that is exactly what we have done.
Cassie Do you have any returning Seniors or stand-out players from last year? What are your expectations for this year in regards to wins and losses?
Coach Cruse We return 9 out of 11 starters on offense and many defensive players return with varsity experience. This team is quietly gaining more and more confidence. It has been a joy to be around them since June 1st as it is very clear they enjoy working hard and being around each other. My expectations are to be competitive in every game we play and to respond to adversity that is thrown our way this season. Senior standouts include QB Calvin Cloud, OL Zach DeWitt, WR Tyler Lake, WR Aaron Morton, DE Gabe Ogdan, and TE/LB Austin Lodor. There are a number of other players we expect big things from this season too. As a whole, we are seeing a lot of competition for playing time, which is what we want.
Cassie The ECC recently added 3 more schools to the conference making the conference that much more competitive! This year who are you excited to compete against and who do you think will be challenging to compete against?
Coach Cruse The ECC is a terrific conference and will continue to be even more challenging. In our conference for football, every week is an absolute battle. There are no easy games on our schedule but we embrace that challenge and are excited about it!
Cassie Are you able to hold any fundraisers for the athletes or events to help with the pay-to-play fees?
Coach Cruse Unfortunately we missed out on a couple of things we had planned due to COVID-19. We will be selling discount cards until July 30th around the community. Be on the lookout for our players and please help support Loveland Athletics!
Cassie In your own words, talk about your experience with the quarantine, COVID-19, and trying to be the best coach you can be during this time.
Coach Cruse Quarantine was a unique time for all people for a lot of reasons. For me personally, I really enjoyed the time with my family, especially being with my daughter every single day! She is 8 months old now, so seeing how much she has changed in a few months and being with her every step of the way has been a blast. It was time I would’ve never gotten had COVID-19 not happened.
Overall, I looked at quarantine as an opportunity to get better every day. Just like we stressed with our players, I tried to have a routine every day to make sure I was productive.  I am not a huge reader, but during quarantine, I quickly became one. I read about a book every 1-2 weeks and really enjoyed it. There were also a number of virtual football clinics that my staff and I attended as well.
Aside from that, we had a team meeting every week, at least one position meeting a week with players and a number of staff meetings. I grew to really look forward to these interactions with our players and coaches. When it all started, we decided as a staff that we wanted to make sure we were in constant communication with our players. We felt that checking in with them to see how things were going at home, how school was going, and then how workouts were going was going to be very important. We also took it as an opportunity to get closer as a team by getting to know each other better.
Check out the Loveland Tigers football schedule for this up and coming season!
2020-2021 Loveland Tigers Football Schedule
8/28 Sycamore
9/4 at Princeton
9/11 Turpin
9/18 West Clermont
9/25 at Milford
10/2 Little Miami
10/9 at Walnut Hills
10/16 at Kings
10/23 Anderson
10/30 at Winton Woods
For more of your latest local sports news stay tuned to the Sports 411 With Me, Cassie Mattia! Oh and by the way…GO TIGERS!
SHARE
Columnist Cassia Mattia is a resident of Historic Downtown Loveland. She is the Associate Editor of Loveland Magazine.