CINCINNATI, Ohio — Cincinnati Colerain High School football coach Tom Bolden believes Warren Central will win the Class 6A state title in Indiana.
He’s just glad they didn’t win outside of Indiana.
Colerain, ranked seventh in the country, crafted a late comeback to beat Warren Central – the No. 21-ranked team in the USA TODAY Super 25 preseason poll – 31-28 Saturday afternoon at the University of Cincinnati’s Nippert Stadium in a Skyline Chili Crosstown Showdown game.
“It’s one of those games, that’s what happens when two nationally-ranked teams get together and battle it out,” said Colerain coach Tom Bolden. “They’re gonna win a lot of football games. I’d be shocked if they don’t win a state title in Indiana.”
The Cardinals trailed 28-24 with 1:29 left to play when its defense forced a Warren Central punt. The Warriors mistakenly left the punt within reach of Colerain senior cornerback Amir Riep, an Ohio State commit and the top-ranked cornerback in Ohio, who returned it 45 yards all the way to Warren Central’s 37-yard line. Junior quarterback Gunnar Leyendecker found Keontae Jones down the sideline for a 17-yard gain that setup Monalo Caldwell for a game-winning 10-yard touchdown run.
“It’s one of those things where I’m shocked they didn’t kick it out of bounds,” said Bolden, whose team was outgained 436-262 in total yards. “But, it didn’t get kicked out of bounds. There’s a reason he’s going to Ohio State – he can make plays.
“I’m proud of them for never quitting, that they didn’t do.”
Jones, the younger brother of former Colerain quarterback Deshaunte Jones who’s now at Iowa State, also had an interception to start the fourth quarter and made a tackle on fourth down with 20 seconds left to kill Central’s final drive.
“When they went up 28-24 we just knew we had to make a stop on defense. We knew we needed a stop and we made it,” said Jones, who currently has more than 20 major offers. “Play ‘til the end, play ‘til it’s zero, zero, zero.”
Jones’ interception came at the start of the fourth quarter, with Colerain trailing 21-17 after a six-play, 96-yard touchdown drive by the Warriors.
Colerain retook the lead, 24-21, midway through the fourth quarter with a 38-yard run by sophomore J.J. Davis, but Warren Central answered with a quick 80-yard drive and went back on top thanks to a 1-yard run by backup quarter Tristen Tonte, who played most of the second half for Zach Summeier.
Colerain led 17-14 at halftime, which last more than two hours thanks to a lightning delay. Bolden said the break was brutal, but the Cardinals stayed loose with a little song and dance.
“We were singing songs, they were playing music … a little (Credence Clearwater Revival),” Bolden said. “I was dancing, we just tried to stay loose … I guess it worked.”
Colerain opened the game with confidence, nearly taking a 21-0 lead in the first quarter. After a quick three-and-out from its defense, Leyendecker orchestrated an impressive 91-yard drive that sophomore Deante Smith-Moore finished off with a 35-yard run. Four plays later, Colerain sophomore linebacker Ivan Pace Jr. scooped a fumble and returned it 47 yards for the score. On Central’s next play from scrimmage, junior linebacker Daniel Bolden intercepted Summeier to set his offense up with a short field. But, Leyendecker fumbled (one of three turnovers) it away at Warren Central’s 4-yard line.
Colerain rushed for 206 yards, while Warren Central went for 271 yards in the air against Colerain’s highly-touted defense.
Warren Central 7-7-7-7 – 28
Colerain 14-3-0-14 – 31
C-D. Smith-Moore 35 run (R. Murray kick)
C-Pace Jr. 47 fumble recovery (R. Murray kick)
W-Tonte 3 run (Ramirez kick)
W-Tate 6 pass from Summeier (Ramirez kick)
C-R. Murray 29 FG
W-Summeier 10 run (Ramirez kick)
C-Davis 38 run (R. Murray kick)
W-Tonte 1 run (Ramirez kick)
C-Caldwell 10 run (R. Murray kick)
Records: C 1-0, WC 1-1.