“Pretty good” is no longer good enough for Fairfield High School’s football team.
Eighth-year coach Jason Krause has taken his Indians to the Division I playoffs four times in the last five years. Yet the program’s last postseason win came in 2000.
“It’s like asking, ‘Are you happy just saying we made the playoffs again?’ ” Krause said. “I know that’s a great thing. That’s what you want to do in Ohio. But it’s time to make some waves.”
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Fairfield is coming off a 6-5 campaign after losing to St. Xavier in the playoffs for the second straight year. The Indians lost some big names in Malik Vann (now at Cincinnati) and Jackson Carman (Clemson), but there’s plenty of high-end talent back in 2018.
“When I look at our personnel across the board, I think it’s the best group I’ve had since I’ve been here,” Krause said. “I feel like we’ve got some depth that we haven’t had previously. Our offseason’s been tremendous.”
Voted second behind Colerain in the Greater Miami Conference preseason coaches poll, Fairfield opens with Greater Western Ohio Conference powers Centerville and Springfield before beginning GMC play.
“We’ve got to start on the right foot,” Krause said. “I think that’s very important to this group.”
The Indians return their passing, rushing and receiving leaders in senior quarterback Jeff Tyus, junior running back JuTahn McClain and senior tight end Erick All, respectively.
Krause said Tyus (6-5, 230), a southpaw, changed his body through an outstanding offseason and is thriving under new quarterback coach Erik Geiser, the former Ross QB.
Tyus threw for 1,111 yards and nine touchdowns as a junior, while All (6-5, 225) — a University of Michigan commit — had 30 catches for 361 yards and four TDs.
“The phrase we use for him right now is he’s up, he’s down and he’s all around,” Krause said of All. “He’ll be the No. 1 receiver. He’ll be singled. He’ll be in the backfield. He’ll be on the end of the line. We’ll move him all over.”
As much as Fairfield likes to throw the ball around in the spread, look for McClain (5-10, 185) to get a considerable amount of carries.
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Krause is hopeful that McClain, who rushed for 838 yards and nine scores last year while sharing the load with Taimar Boykin, can be the Indians’ first 1,000-yard back since Antoine Moore in 2005.
“JuTahn may get 25 touches a game,” Krause said. “He’s a tremendous athlete. Fast, strong, smart … he’s got all the tools.”
Tyus and McClain are drawing significant college interest, as is senior lineman Jacob Hensley (6-3, 305), who’s moving from guard to center this season.
Fairfield has some experienced receivers in senior Hajiere Pitts and junior Sawiaha Ellis. Seniors Raqwon Williams and Peyton Brown have big-play potential in the slot. So does sophomore Jaydan Mayes.
Returning on the offensive line is senior tackle Derrick Benford (6-3, 315), along with two guys who would’ve started last year if injuries hadn’t kept them on the sidelines all season. They are senior guard Wade Bullock (6-1, 255) and senior tackle Nabiel Shteiwi (6-2, 245).
Battling for the other guard spot are juniors Malachi Sanders (6-2, 265) and L.J. France (6-1, 260). Junior Kody Hawkins (5-11, 245) is also in the O-line mix.
“Our top seven guys are solid, and having seven good offensive linemen is pretty good, especially at a public school,” Krause said. “Not only are they big, but they’re pretty athletic.”
Defensively, the Indians’ base will be a 50 (or a 3-4, essentially the same thing). The senior leaders are returning starters Greg Fitzpatrick (5-10, 265) at nose guard and Del Thomas (6-0, 230) at inside linebacker.
“Del gets us right defensively,” Krause said. “Greg’s kind of our catalyst. He sets the tone for us defensively.”
A number of players are fighting for positions on the defensive line, including senior Mekiyell Muhammad (6-2, 230), who made a couple starts last year. Also in the mix are senior Cedric Woolridge (6-0, 225), a converted linebacker, and sophomore Brandon Smith (6-2, 230), along with Shteiwi, Sanders and France.
The linebacking group includes junior Phoenix Porter (6-1, 225), a returning starter, junior Brandon Weinberg (6-1, 220) and sophomore Omar Shteiwi (5-11, 205). Krause said All may get some time at outside linebacker.
The secondary has no returning starters, “but we’re much more athletic than we were last year,” according to Krause.
Safety candidates are senior Allen Caldwell (an outside linebacker last year), junior Nykel Bell and Ellis. The cornerbacks include Pitts, junior Jaylen Goins and junior Phil Thomas, a transfer from La Salle.
“We did lose a lot defensively, but I feel like we’re bigger, faster and stronger, so I feel really good about that side of the ball,” Krause said.
Junior Elgin Phillips and sophomore Nick Maddy are returning place-kickers. All will once again do the punting.
The Indians’ three scrimmages are at Mount Healthy (10 a.m. Tuesday), at Springboro (9 a.m. Saturday with Xenia and Miamisburg) and at home against Middletown (7 p.m. on Aug. 17).
Coach: Jason Krause, eighth season (39-35 at Fairfield, 26-7 in three years at Middletown, 35-15 in four years at Monroe, 7-33 in four years at Stebbins, 17-13 in three years at Lockland, 124-103 overall)
OHSAA designation: Division I, Region 4
Playoff history: 5-8 in 9 appearances (1985, 1986, 1999, 2000, 2005, 2013, 2015, 2016, 2017)
2017 record: 6-5 overall, 6-2 in the Greater Miami Conference (second, tied)
Schedule: Aug. 24 — at Centerville, 7 p.m.; Aug. 31 — Springfield, 7 p.m.; Sept. 7 — at Hamilton, 7 p.m.; Sept. 14 — Lakota West, 7 p.m.; Sept. 21 — at Lakota East, 7 p.m.; Sept. 28 — Princeton, 7 p.m.; Oct. 5 — Sycamore, 7 p.m.; Oct. 12 — at Oak Hills, 7 p.m.; Oct. 19 — at Colerain, 7 p.m.; Oct. 26 — Mason, 7 p.m.