Fairfield quarterback Sawiaha Ellis looks for room to run against Colerain on Friday, Nov. 1, 2019. Nick Graham/STAFF

Colerain edges Fairfield in OT in GMC thriller

Colerain beat Fairfield 16-10 in overtime in the regular-season finale Friday at Fairfield Alumni Stadium, claiming a record 20th consecutive GMC title with an 83rd straight win in conference play, the latter of which dates back to 2008. Colerain is 142-1 in GMC play during its run of championships.

The loss wiped away a perfect season for the Indians (9-1, 7-1 GMC), though they are still guaranteed a home playoff game thanks to a large enough gap in the Ohio High School Athletic Association computer ratings in which they ranked No. 1 in Division I, Region 4 this week. The playoff schedule will be announced Sunday, but according to joeeitel.com, the Indians will host Hamilton (5-5) on Friday night.

»PHOTOS: Fairfield vs. Colerain

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“It’s going to sting, but all the things you work for, we start season No. 2 on Sunday,” Fairfield coach Jason Krause said. “There are some things we need to get better at. We had some mental miscues tonight that we need to fix. We’ll get back on Sunday and regroup and put this emotional loss behind us and get ready for Season 2.”

The game between the two conference unbeatens lived up to the hype, as the teams went into the fourth quarter tied at 10 and Colerain kicker Cameron Ott missed a 37-yard field goal at the gun to send the game to overtime. Deshawn Pace scored on a 1-yard run on the first possession of overtime, which sets both teams up at the opponent’s 20-yard line, but Phoenix Porter blocked the extra-point attempt to fire up the Indians, only to then fall flat on their possession.

Fairfield even got some help marching closer to the goal line. Colerain was already celebrating the win after batting down a fourth-down pass, but the officials threw a flag for interference, putting the Indians on the 9 with four more downs. A facemask moved Fairfield even closer, but the Cardinals came up with stops in the backfield three straight plays and Sawiaha Ellis’ final pass attempt to the corner of the end zone fell incomplete to end the game.

“That’s a great team,” said first-year Colerain coach Shawn Cutright, who was promoted from defensive coordinator to replace Tom Bolden when he left for Lakota West. “We knew we were going to come over here, and it was going to be a battle all night long, which it was. We’re just happy to get out of here with a win.”

The Indians had a seven-point lead in the third quarter, but Colerain scored on a 1-yard run by quarterback Freddie Johnson with five seconds left in the period and neither team could capitalize on chances in the fourth.

Fairfield standout running back JuTahn McClain came up short of the goal line midway through the final period of regulation in his first action since a left knee injury sidelined him at halftime, and Krause decided to go for it on fourth down but the Cardinals stopped Ellis on the quarterback sneak.

“If we’re as good as we think we are, we need to score down there,” Krause said. “We need to be able to get a yard in two downs. They had to go 99, we got the ball back and a short field again, so I don’t think that decision hurt us. We got the ball right back at the 40, but we just couldn’t move the ball that drive.”

Penalties helped push Colerain down the field on the final drive of regulation, and Colerain almost ran out of time trying to run one more play before attempting the field goal.

Ott’s attempt went just wide and it was close enough the Cardinals thought they had won it.

“It was definitely a roller-coaster ride,” Cutright said. “At the end of the game and then again in overtime we thought we’d won it twice, but you’ve just got to keep pounding that nail. The officials call what they see. You can agree with it, disagree with it, but we’ve just got to keep the kids under control and they did a great job regrouping and finishing the game the way they should.”

The defenses dominated. Fairfield had held Colerain to 42 yards in the first half and 211 for the game, while the Indians managed just 218 yards themselves with Ellis stepping up to rush for 79 yards while McClain was limited. McClain exited at the end of a run with about five minutes left in the second quarter, but Ellis kept the drive going with a 37-yard pass to Deshaun Simpkins setting up his own 1-yard run for a 7-3 lead with 3:02 left in the first half.

Nick Maddy added a field goal in the third quarter before Colerain answered to tie it. McClain, the GMC’s top rusher the past two seasons, finished with 63 yards.

“We had a game plan with him and couldn’t change the game plan,” Krause said of McClain’s injury. “We had a backup ready and still went down and scored with him on the bench. We put it on our O-line to move the ball and our quarterback, and we did at times, but their defense played pretty well.”

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