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OSS QB hones craft, hopes to 'Cruise' into a university career

'It’s nice to finally have the opportunity to get on that field,' says 17-year-old who will lead Nighthawks into playoff action Wednesday

The quarterback of the Orillia Secondary School senior boys' football team is having a breakout year.

Blake Cruise, 17, fell in love with the game of football after watching the NFL's Denver Broncos, his grandfather’s favourite team.

“It’s something I’ve always been able to use to connect with him,” he said. “He lives a couple of hours away, but after every Sunday, I call him to talk about the game and I’ve been doing that since I was little.”

When the St. Bernard’s Catholic School graduate turned eight years old, he signed up to play for the Huronia Stallions house-league program. He was slotted into the depth chart as a lineman.

“Football is just so fun,” Cruise said. “The adrenaline, the contact, and the bond you build with your teammates are what made me fall in love with it.”

When Cruise was in Grade 6, the Stallions program put him under centre to take some reps at quarterback.

“It wasn’t something I was very good at right away,” he said. “It was fun, but I couldn’t really throw the ball.”

A year later, Cruise made a Stallions rep team as the backup quarterback. After lots of practice with his personal coach, Will Finch, a former Western Mustangs quarterback and Ontario University Athletics MVP, Cruise began to develop into a star.

“He taught me mechanics,” he said. “Before Will, I was never really taught how to throw the football.”

Finch taught Cruise how to read coverages and all the nuances of being a successful quarterback. This year, Cruise put his talents to the test in the Ontario Summer Football League.

“It started off rough for me,” he said. “This was my first real full year as a starting quarterback.”

The Rebels went 1-2-0 in the short season and won a playoff game before falling short in the semifinals. The season was the turning point in Cruise’s football career.

“There was more intensity and athleticism,” he said. “It was an opportunity to play with guys who are going on to play university ball and are chasing a championship.”

He says the experience impacted him and fuelled his hopes of one day cracking a university roster.

“I think I’ve always lacked confidence at the quarterback position,” he said. “Going out there and making plays against high-talent guys gives me the confidence to know that I can do it.”

Cruise says Rebels coach Tom Tate was another factor in building his confidence.

“He believed in me the entire year,” he said. “He had my back, he supported me, and I have to give a lot of credit to him for a lot of my success and improvement.”

When Cruise was in Grade 9, he attended Patrick Fogarty Catholic Secondary School. He transferred to Orillia Secondary School in Grade 10 but was sidelined from playing football in his hometown until his Grade 12 year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Football is the reason I transferred to OSS,” he said. “It’s nice to finally have the opportunity to get on that field.”

The Nighthawks finished the regular season with a 2-3 record and will host Collingwood in the first round of the Simcoe County Athletic Association playoffs Wednesday afternoon.

“We are playing for each other on Wednesday,” Cruise said. “I expect us to play our best football.”

Looking to the future, Cruise will play another year of summer football. After that, he may stay at Orillia Secondary School for another year of development and Grade 12B. His end goal is to play quarterback for a university program in Canada or the United States.

“If I can work towards that and prove I can play, I’d love the opportunity,” he said.

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Tyler Evans

About the Author: Tyler Evans

Tyler Evans got his start in the news business when he was just 15-years-old and now serves as a video producer and reporter with OrilliaMatters
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