LOVELAND, Ohio - The Loveland community is abuzz about its high school football team playing in the state championship game for the first time.
Paxton's Grill, a popular restaurant and a place where fans gather, added an item to the menu.
"We're running a special all this week called the Loveland Tiger burger," said manager Sandra Russell.
The restaurant plans to broadcast the game from Canton at 7 p.m. Friday. The Tigers (14-0) play Cleveland Glenville (13-1) for the Division II crown.
Other downtown businesses are also supporting the team. If you go into the Pizazz gift shop and make a donation, you get a boa. If you want more money to go to the team, you can take a picture of yourself and your boa, post it to the store’s Facebook page , and the store will donate another dollar.
Tigers coach Fred Cranford appreciates the support.
"You walk along the streets and go to the barber shop and there are signs pasted up all over,” Cranford said.
For the past two playoffs games, the Tigers had to make amazing comebacks in the fourth quarter to keep their undefeated season alive. In the process, they tested one football mom’s faith.
"Each of the last couple of games, I didn't know if I dared to believe,” said Patty Bouchei. “But you know what, I am believing now."
The school held a pep rally in the gym Thursday afternoon, then the team practiced, had a meal together and drove off for Canton with a royal sendoff.
Families, friends and fans brought flashlights, candles, sparklers and signs and gathered in the school parking lot and along the route to I-275 to “Light Up the Night” for the Tigers.
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About 2,500 fans planned to follow them to Canton Friday. That’s how many tickets the school sold, said Loveland Athletic Director Julie Renner.
“We’ll have seven charter buses to take our Spirit Team that has been following them to all the games. That’s about 350 students,” she said.
Not only is this the first time the football team has reached the state finals, it’s the first time for any Loveland team, Renner said.
“I’m so excited and proud of these kids and coaches. It’s pretty cool,” she said.