LORETTO – Neal Cruce announced his resignation Monday as Loretto High football coach.
Cruce coached the Mustangs for three years, leading the team to a 9-21 record. Loretto had lost 19 consecutive games before he took over at the start of the 2017 season.
Cruce said the decision is family-related and he will “probably not” be a head football coach next year but might take a head coaching job in the future.
“They live in South Dakota, all of them pretty much,” Cruce said. “I’ve only seen them five, six times in the last five, six years really.
“It’s just time to step away from head coaching for a little bit.”
Football has been overshadowed at Loretto by more successful teams – boys and girls basketball, baseball and volleyball – in recent years.
Cruce said there were still a few athletes he would have liked to see join the football team, but he was pleased the roster went from 37 players at the end of his first year to 59 at the end of this past season.
Loretto last qualified for the playoffs in 2014, though even that team won only three games.
Under Cruce, the Mustangs were 2-8 in 2017, 4-6 in 2018 and 3-7 this past year, but this year’s team had two narrow losses and also lost six players to season-ending injuries.
“Proud of the kids, man. Proud of how hard they worked,” Cruce said. “I’m going to miss them. I fully think they can win some games going forward.”
Cruce also thanked the administration for the opportunity as well as his assistants, who he said are like brothers to him.
Loretto athletic director Bryan True called Cruce’s decision “somewhat” of a surprise, and True said Loretto did not have a timeline set for hiring Cruce’s replacement.
True said he was encouraged the school had already fielded some calls from interested candidates. He agreed with Cruce that the football program has improved from when Cruce took the job.
“You hope to keep a guy around as long as you can, especially a guy like Coach Cruce. He’s done a good job for us,” True said. “Of course we wish him and his family the very best.”