Autumn announced its arrival with the first chilly Friday night of the season, and Fairfield (Ohio) figured it would give unbeaten Colerain (Cincinnati) a tough test to ensure the Cardinals were still paying attention.
Despite four turnovers, No. 14 Colerain passed the test, 28-0, and captured its 57th consecutive Greater Miami Conference victory.
A battle between the top-two defenses in the GMC lived up to the billing, but Colerain pulled away behind its defense which held the Indians without a first down in the second half until the two-minute mark. Colerain held Fairfield to 147 total yards and forced four turnovers of its own.
“It was the No. 1 and 2 defenses,” said Colerain coach Tom Bolden. “No disrespect to Fairfield, but you clearly saw who the No. 1 defense was. Our kids fly around, they get after it and they play with some vicious intentions. We were getting after it. It got a little chippy at times but that’s what football is all about. Hats off to coach Krause and Fairfield, they’ve got a lot of great players.”
Possessions were at a premium all night as both teams were happy to play defense and work their respective ground games.
It was an Amir Riep interception, diving to secure a deflected pass over the middle, that setup Colerain’s first scoring drive. Sophomore quarterback Deante Smith-Moore – who got the start but alternated with junior Gunnar Leyendecker in his first action since Week 3 after injury – led the Cardinals on a 60-yard drive, capped by a 6-yard touchdown run by J.J. Davis.
Behind a 7-0 lead at the break, Colerain stormed out of the locker room to start the second half with a quarterback sneak from Smith-Moore to cap a 9-play, 70-yard drive.
Fairfield did little offensively to threaten Colerain. Every time the Indians faced third-and-long, which was often, Colerain dialed up pressure and made a play.
“This place is ecstatic – the energy here is amazing. When you come out and play like we did it shows the work we put in and we’ve put in a lot of work,” said senior linebacker Kyle Bolden. “It boosts your confidence to shut a team out. Fairfield has some dudes.”
Colerain senior workhorse Monalo Caldwell got going in the second half. He made it 21-0 with a 7-yard run and finished with 141 yards on 21 carries. The Cardinals racked up 256 yards on the ground.
“We can close our eyes and think about (how Week 1 felt like yesterday),” said coach Bolden. “It’s been that long. Finally the weather’s changed, it feels like Week 8. It’s getting wild. We’re getting to the point where we’re getting everyone healthy.
“Gunnar came back and played a little bit. He’s still not 100 percent but it was good to see him get some work. He’ll be better next week. Deante kept doing what he’s doing. Our wing backs keep getting better. Defensively, we’re gonna be there. These kids have a lot of games under their belt. We’re physical, we’re fast and we’re gonna keep getting better offensively.”
Senior safety Keontae Jones made it 28-0 when he returned a punt 62 yards for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter.
“It felt great to shut a team out. Our defense plays hard and we play smart,” said Keontae Jones. “I just had to follow my blockers (on punt return). I saw Amir in front of me and I knew he had my back; Javon (Hicks) had my back, I just had to trust them.”
Kyle Bolden actually secured his first career interception and took a healthy hit from Fairfield’s Jack Carman after a big return.
“I wasn’t gonna go down – that’s just not my style,” said Kyle. “It was worth it. First pick of my career here. It was special to do it here in front of the home fans.”
Coach Bolden said, “I’m thinking the whole time, ‘Oh my god, just go down … that’s a big man (in Carman) and he can move.”
Because of a Mason loss to Lakota East, Colerain actually clinched a share of its 17th consecutive GMC title Friday night. A win next Friday at Lakota West would give it to the Cardinals outright.
“I wanna make sure we’re taking care of the football and we’re 100 percent healthy,” Bolden said of his hopes for the final two weeks of the regular season. “I want the defense to keep doing what they’re doing.”