A head coach calling one of his players the best in the conference is a strong statement. It’s even stronger when that conference’s leading rusher had more than 330 total yards and three touchdowns against his team.
But Tom Bolden’s praise and appreciation for Ivan Pace Jr. holds considerable value.
In Colerain’s 55-27 win Friday night over Fairfield at Cardinals Stadium, Pace Jr. ran for a season-high four touchdowns offensively and led the team in tackles (10) defensively.
“Think about what Ivan does. He plays fullback for us in our triple-option offense and plays at outside linebacker at such a high level,” Bolden said after the game. “He’s the best player in the league. That McClain kid’s really good, but in terms of best overall player, Ivan Pace Jr. is the best player in the league.”
The reference to McClain is Fairfield’s Jutahn McClain, who ran for 275 yards on 29 carries (9.5 average). He also caught two passes for 57 yards. Of the Indians’ 405 total yards, he produced 332 of them.
But a singular moment that helped showcase Pace Jr.’s quality came, ironically, on McClain’s best play.
Midway through the third quarter, McClain broke a 95-yard run for a touchdown, making it a one-possession game at 27-21.
“That touchdown, I feel like I missed up,” Pace Jr. said. “But it’s a team thing; it’s a team game. …That gave me motivation to get out there and get more.”
It also was the turning point in the game, as Colerain outscored Fairfield 28-6 afterward to seal a 74th-consecutive Greater Miami Conference win. Pace Jr. scored three of those four-final touchdowns, finishing with 180 yards on 17 carries (10.6 yards per attempt).
“I think tonight went well,” he said after the game. “We played as a brotherhood and kept it together, even though they were scoring. McClain got into the end zone, ; we just did our best to stop him working as a team.”