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New head coach Ortiz concludes 2021 season

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With one season under his belt, Coach David Ortiz is undoubtedly leaving his mark on Slicer Football.

Ortiz graduated from Portage High School, where he played football and baseball. From there, he went to St. Joseph’s College in Rensselaer, Indiana, where he also played football and baseball.

 He coached at Portage for around seven years with his mentor Creg Buzea, his high school coach. He then followed Buzea to coach at Michigan City High School for 11 years. They both then parted ways–Buzea to Illinois to coach and Ortiz to La Porte.

 Before he was head coach for Slicer Football, Ortiz was head baseball coach at Michigan City, freshmen basketball coach at LPHS, head wrestling coach at LPMS, and defensive coordinator for football at the high school. Now, he is head coach and offensive coordinator and is the Strength and Conditioning teacher at LPHS.

Ortiz’s main push to come to La Porte from Michigan City was family. His family saw the community, history, and traditions instilled here at La Porte, which persuaded their decision. It means a tremendous amount to him to be a Slicer, now being able to personally see the importance and value it holds and pass it onto other generations.

Ortiz was named head coach at LPHS back in February 2021. The season started in the summer with the Slicers practicing football related skills Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, while on Tuesdays and Thursdays they would weight train. They were able to participate in two scrimmages facing Knox, South Bend, S.B. Adams, Concord, River Forest, and Hammond Central.

The Slicers also had a chance to attend a three day overnight camp at Trine University. Sadly, they did have some obstacles due to COVID-19, but Ortiz has worked through it and persevered in a time of hardship for a sport he truly is passionate for, which makes players excited to be a part of the team.  

“He portrays football as one of the best sports to join; he’s open to suggestions and advice,” Grant Ott-Large, senior player, said.

With a new coach comes a new way of going about things. Ortiz decided to change up the defense, bringing a more modern approach. It has proven to be effective through the players and their execution on the field. There was some resistance with the players because of the new change once again, but over time, they grew to see the advantages and have since reaped in the benefits. 

In August, after an opening loss to New Prairie, the Slicers won against Penn 21-14 in overtime. Ortiz said that it was awesome because the previous year they had gone four games at the start of the season without a win, so it was nice starting out week two with a big win. It showed that what they have been doing in practice was all paying off.

“It’s nice to see you teach something, your players get it, and then in the game of football you have the ability to go against an opponent, excite it and when you get that result of success… that would be the best,” Ortiz said.

Ortiz cares more about his team as individuals than as players. His relational approach to coaching has connected him to his Slicer athletes. Ortiz strives to have a connection bigger than just on the field. He wants to have a good impact on their lives and guide them to success. He encourages them to not be the type of person to cut corners but instead do what is right and what is best for them, whether or not it is the easiest or most comfortable. He wants his players to be known as gentlemen while being well respected in their community and represent what it means to be a Slicer.

“He connects with a lot of the players, in the past coaches really didn’t connect nowadays with how kids act,” Ott-Large said.

When the team is under distress, Ortiz is there and ready to stand by them. He understands that when times are hard that they start to question things, so he uses various approaches to get them through. Ortiz takes them back to the start of the season, reminding them that they truly had faith in the team and themselves, so why are they questioning it now? He encourages them to see the bigger picture, and they are there because they find pleasure in the game. 

“We can be down 40 or 50 points, and we’re still trying to game plan how to come out of it,” Antonio Christensen, junior player, said.

The Slicers wrapped up the season on Friday, October 22 with a loss in the Sectional quarterfinals against Concord. Their overall record for the 2021 season was 2-8, with a conference record of 1-6. 

The record does not show the compassion and dedication Ortiz and the players have put in this season. Slicer Nation has found a true leader in Ortiz.

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