Loveland wins D2 state title

CANTON — Loveland set a Division II championship game record by scoring 27 points in the second quarter en route to the school’s first-ever state title, 41-23, over Cleveland Glenville Friday night at Fawcett Stadium.

The Tigers, ranked No. 2 in the final Associated Press state poll, completed their season at 15-0 without the drama which had accompanied them in their last two games against Cincinnati Mount Healthy in the Region 6 title game and top-ranked Zanesville in last week’s state semifinal. Loveland came from 14 points down with less than 6:00 to play in regulation against Mount Healthy to win 35-28, and then got a late touchdown and 2-point conversion against Zanesville to force overtime. The Tigers won 38-35 in double OT.

Loveland had just one previous playoff victory in three other postseason appearances.

“They had better athletes than us but I said earlier in the week we had to put them in position to be better football players,” said Loveland coach Fred Cranford, who is in his first season at the school. “This is something that is for the entire community.”

Glenville outgained Loveland 412-406 but committed seven turnovers in the wet and snowy conditions in Canton. Loveland committed three turnovers itself but scored all five of its first half touchdowns off of turnovers.  

“The weather really wasn’t a factor, maybe just a little footing,” said Glenville senior quarterback Quan Robinson, Jr. “Other than that really wasn’t a factor for us.”

Loveland had a 7-0 lead at the end of the first quarter after freshman Luke Waddell went 66 yards for a touchdown one play after the Tigers had recovered a Glenville fumble. Loveland had fumbled at the Glenville 1-yard line on the opening drive of the game but the Tarblooders returned the favor.

The Tigers blew the game open with their 27-point onslaught in the second quarter that gave them a 34-0 halftime lead. Quarterback Drew Plitt threw touchdown passes of 22 yards to Tre Heath and 12 yards to Jake Elfers to go along with a 5-yard touchdown run by Gunner Gambill and a 50-yard interception return by Beau Ngu. The point total topped the previous Division II record of 22 points scored by Youngstown Cardinal Mooney in the third quarter of their 50-0 win against Lebanon in 1980.

“Coach Cranford was there to knock us back off our emotional high and remind us we still had two quarters left to play,” said senior defensive end Charlie Lawler.

Loveland rushed for 340 yards. Waddell had 175 yards on 19 carries, while Gambill had 115 yards on 24 carries.

The defense held Glenville to its second-lowest point total of the season. Loveland hadn’t allowed more than 14 points in its first 12 games. Lawler was one of seven Tigers to have at least four tackles. He had two of Loveland’s seven tackles for loss and had one of the four fumbles it recovered.

Fifth-ranked Glenville (13-2) was attempting to become the first Cleveland City Public School to win a state football title. The Tarblooders reached the Division I championship game in 2009 before losing to Hilliard Davidson 16-15. Long-time head Ted Ginn, Sr. returned this season after sitting out last season battling pancreatic cancer.

His players fought back in the second half.

Running back Davon Anderson’s 2-yard run on the opening possession of the third quarter gave Glenville its first points but Loveland responded with a five-play, 65-yard drive that Gambill capped off with a 6-yard touchdown run to restore the Tigers’ 34-point advantage.

Robinson Jr. rushed for a 7-yard touchdown and threw a 47-yard scoring pass to Marshon Lattimore, plus threw for two 2-point conversions but it was far from enough to catch up to Loveland.

“This season meant everything to us,” said Lattimore. “Just to have Ginn back on the sidelines, just to make it this far. The last two years we didn’t make it to the playoffs so it was just great being here, having the chance to win even though we came up short.
Give all credit to Loveland. You can’t take nothing away from them.”