It was a magical ride for Loveland in 2013 as the program won its first state title. The Tigers looked the part and played it out on the field on the way to a perfect 15-0 record.
Things will be different this fall as Loveland will be a “marked man” with plenty of foes wanting to avenge the shellacking that the Tigers administered to them last season.
The Division II Tigers have a tough opener against Division I foe Lakota West at 6 p.m. Friday at Miami University's Yager Stadium.
A returning cast with many veterans that have been through the war will look to find that same kind of chemistry the 2013 Tigers had.
Head coach Fred Cranford gives his assurance about the 2014 Tigers, describing them as an “athletic, big, physical group who expects to win with confident talented underclassmen."
Making sure the preseason hype doesn’t go the players head will be a huge task for Cranford as this group faces a schedule that will challenge its character more than ever before.
Division II, Region 6
2013 RECORD: 15-0, 6-0 ECC, Ohio Division II State Champions
COACH: Fred Cranford (15-0 @ Loveland, one year, 52-34 overall, eight years)
Evan Burig, SR, K – Burig’s leg got quite the workout for the high-scoring Tigers. As a junior he connected on 82 of 86 extra point attempts and 4 of 8 field goal tries for 92 points to earn a Second-Team, All-ECC acclaim.
Evan Deever, SR, OL – The diminutive Deever put so much pressure on opponents with his ability to give the Tigers great field position after kickoff and punt returns. He averaged 27.6 yards on kickoff returns and 11.7 on punt returns. He had kickoff returns of 85 and 95 yards for touchdowns as a junior on his way to Second-Team, All-ECC accolades.
Jake Junod, SR, DL – A starter last fall, Junod tallied 45 total tackles with 3 1/2 sacks in the Tigers' title run. He was named Second-Team, All-ECC as junior
Ian Leever, SR, OL – The 6-feet-6, 300-pound Leever is the leader of the offensive line. He was a Second Team All-ECC pick as junior. Leever has verbally committed to play for Miami University in 2015.
Jeff Prifti, SR, DB – One of the top defensive backs in the ECC, Prifti enters his senior season with eight career interceptions. Looking for his fourth varsity letter this year, Prifti was a Second-Team, All-ECC performer as a junior.
Jake Saunders, JR, DL – Saunders started all 15 games as a sophomore and recorded 53 total tackles with 4 1/2 sacks. He was named Second Team, All-ECC for his work.
Nate Slagel, SR, RB – The 2013 Ohio Division II Offensive Player of the Year, Slagel was simply sensational for Loveland despite playing in just 7 1/2 games. He started out with three games of 220 yards rushing or more in the opening four weeks of the season. Slagel tore his ACL in Week 8 vs. Walnut Hills, but not before rushing for 1,340 yards while finding the end zone 19 times (18 rushing, one receiving) as he propelled the Tigers' 8-0 start. Not bad considering Slagel starred as a linebacker as a sophomore.
Luke Waddell, SO, RB – Calm, cool and collected, the humble Waddell turned in one of the most impressive freshman performances you will ever see. Waddell ran for 122 yards or more in four of the Tigers five playoff tilts, including 183 in the state championship game. He finished the season with 1,593 yards rushing (9.1/carry), 26 receptions for another 458 yards (17.6 per catch) with 20 touchdowns (18 rushing, two receiving) to earn Second Team All-ECC honors. He heads into his sophomore campaign with more yards rushing and receiving than any other active player in the ECC.
Drew Plitt, JR, QB – Stepped in as the Tigers' starter at quarterback and played like a veteran. Plitt finished his sophomore campaign with 1,501 yards passing while accounting for 18 touchdowns (14 passing, four rushing). His ability to take care of the football and let the offense flow through him will be key if the Tigers are to make another deep playoff run.
Eric Popp, JR, LB – A productive player when healthy, Popp is expected to explode in 2014. He recorded 28 tackles with two sacks and two takeways (one fumble recovery, one interception) in eight games as sophomore.
Giovanni Ricci, SR, WR – A total team player, Ricci pushed for his move to receiver in order to get Drew Plitt on the field at quarterback last season. From there the story now becomes Loveland lore for years to come. Ricci would average 20 yards per catch on 16 receptions with five touchdowns after making the move from under center to receiver.
Chris Sackett, SR, DL – Loveland will be strong again in the trenches on defense and a healthy Sackett will thrive as a senior.
D.J. Kenny, SR, DL – By the midway point of 2014 Kenny will no longer “fly under the radar” as opposing offensive
coordinators will plan to avoid him. All signs point to a monster senior season for Kenny.
Colten Lakes, JR, LB – Another fast athletic budding defensive star, Lakes has great size at 6-foot-2 with the talent to play at the next level
(Four appearances, 6-3) – 2013 (State Champions), 2002, 2000, 1986
Loveland will get all it can handle right out of the gate with games against GMC squads Lakota West and Oak Hills and a tough Lebanon squad. All three of those non-conference teams will be big and physical up front, something the Tigers prided themselves on last fall.
To say that the the Loveland offense was explosive in 2013 would be an understatement. Slagel had touchdown runs of 98, 96, 67, 65, 55 (twice), 47, 44, 41 (twice) and 29 yards with a 70-yard score receiving. Waddell had touchdown runs of 96, 85, 65, 53 (twice), 44, 41, 27 and 21 yards with a 68-yard score receiving. Seven more of the teams touchdown passes were of 20 yards or more.
The Loveland defense and special teams found the end zone 13 times in 2013. The special teams scored three times on kickoff returns and once on a punt return. The defense tallied touchdowns on seven interception returns and two fumble recoveries.