CINCINNATI — It didn’t take long for Colerain (Cincinnati) — the No. 14 team in the Super 25 — to carve Sycamore up like a Christmas ham, 52-7, Thursday night at Cardinal Stadium.
Foreshadowing the night ahead, Colerain (5-0) started the game with a scoring drive and proceeded to score on its first seven possessions in the game. Even Colerain’s defense, which has allowed 14 combined points in its last three games, got on the board with a 57-yard interception return by senior safety Keontae Jones to help the Cardinals post a season-high 52 points.
“That’s the biggest thing, especially from an offensive standpoint, having all that inexperience and we’re getting better each week,” said Colerain coach Tom Bolden. “That’s where we need to be. I don’t know if offensively we’ll ever be where we are defensively, because there’s a lot of years and games under those guys’ belts.
“If we keep getting better offensively and the defense keeps playing like it is we’re gonna be tough to beat.”
Offensively, Colerain had the ball for less than six minutes in the first half (only 14 minutes in the game) and racked up 45 points and 220 yards. Conversely, Sycamore had it for more than 15 minutes (32 total in the game) and managed just 78 yards in the first half.
A week after Colerain junior quarterback Gunnar Leyendecker was sidelined to help multiple injuries heal, he returned and looked powerful in the opening drive, but was forced to leave the game after re-injuring an ankle.
Luckily for Colerain, though, sophomore Deante Smith-Moore has proved to be a more than capable backup quarterback.
“Same first play, a guy caught him and rolled down the ankle. Kid can’t catch a break with it,” Bolden said of Leyendecker. “We’ve got a great training staff and doctors … they’ll get him fixed and we’ve got Deante who came in and did a really good job. That’s the scary thing – we’ve got two good ones.”
Smith-Moore made use of the weapons around him on offense. Senior fullback Monalo Caldwell was efficient with 95 yards on nine carries and two touchdowns, and Smith-Moore finished with three touchdowns (two rushing). And sophomore tight end Eric Phillips caught his first career varsity touchdown pass in the second quarter from Smith-Moore.
“I feel that (offense coming together),” said Caldwell. “Our sophomores are clicking and playing older than they are. Everything’s starting to click.
“It feels good. I just do whatever I gotta do for my team. When my number’s called I gotta answer.”
Bolden said, “He (Caldwell) wears on you. He’s 217 pounds of muscle. That’s the thing about him, that’s what great fullbacks do. Somebody at the next level who wants a big back who can wear on people and has great vision. He’s a really, really good one. He showed that next level with his breakaway speed running away from the secondary tonight.”
Colerain’s defense dealt another dominant performance evenwith Ohio State commit Amir Riep still sidelined with a hamstring injury for the third straight game. The Cardinals had three sacks and forced two turnovers in the first half. Sycamore’s offense entered the game averaging 36 points per game behind standout senior running back Ra’Von Bonner and senior quarterback Jake Borman, but Colerain got pressure when Borman dropped back and Bonner was only able to find his way into the open field one time all night.
“They knew all along, to give up seven points, they knew the challenge ahead of them,” Bolden said of his defense. “A kid who’s a three-year starter at quarterback and a kid who’s the caliber of running back in Ra’Von Bonner … they were relishing the opportunity tonight, the defense was, I guarantee you that.”
A running clock accompanied the start of the second half and after Colerain’s defense forced a Sycamore turnover on downs, the Cardinals went to their bench and brought in the backups.
Sycamore managed just 218 total yards for the game. Bonner finished with 100 yards on 17 attempts.
“Nothing but hard work,” said Colerain senior linebacker Ryan Davis. “Our coaches make sure we’re working hard. That’s it. And confidence, we gotta have that.”
Colerain is back at home Friday with a tough GMC test against Mason (3-1). The Cardinals have won 54 consecutive conference games to date.
“We can’t sleep on no team. That’s what we gonna have to do,” said Davis.