Fairfield-Colerain: Indians facing historic challenge in GMC showdown

The plan is to ignore the history and create a new narrative in the Greater Miami Conference.

That’s the idea behind Fairfield High School’s approach to the Colerain Cardinals on the gridiron. But it’s all just thoughts and words until somebody actually knocks off the longtime conference rulers from Colerain Township.

The GMC Game of the Year is set for Colerain’s Cardinal Stadium on Friday night. Fairfield is 7-1, Colerain is 8-0. Both are unbeaten in conference play.

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Historically, the numbers are astounding. The Cardinals have won 73 straight GMC games and 18 straight conference championships. And the Indians haven’t beaten Colerain since 1999.

“The history is obviously something we’re not discussing,” Fairfield coach Jason Krause said. “We’re going to talk about this team and how we match up and what we have to do. Right now, I feel the best about our unit physically since I’ve been here. I guess we’ll find out Friday night if it’s good enough.”

Krause is the last coach to beat the Cardinals in a GMC contest. He did it in 2008 when he was at Middletown. But where was Krause in 1999 when Fairfield defeated Colerain 38-7?

“That was my last year as head coach at Lockland,” he said. “I had Mike Daniels as my quarterback. That tells you how long ago it’s been. Princeton’s head coach was my quarterback at Lockland as a freshman.”

The stakes are very high in the 2018 version of Fairfield-Colerain, from the GMC championship to the Division I, Region 4 playoff chase. It’s also Senior Night for the hosts.

You could say it’s a bit more important for the Indians because they’re also seeking that next-step kind of victory. They’re back to being a respected program in Southwest Ohio, yet they’ve won no playoff games or conference titles in Krause’s eight years at the helm.

“You come into the year having goals and trying to take care of your business week to week so you have a chance to talk about those kind of things,” Krause said. “That’s where we want to be. It’s fun to be in a game that matters at this point in the year. A lot of teams aren’t.”

Fairfield is playing its best football right now after suffering a 15-14 loss to Springfield in Week 2. The Indians lost linemen Wade Bullock and Omar Shteiwi early in the year, but they’re mostly healthy.

Senior quarterback Jeff Tyus missed two-plus games and has still thrown for 1,040 yards and 10 touchdowns. Since returning to the lineup in Week 5, he’s 49-of-68 for 779 yards and six TDs.

Tyus believes Fairfield is mentally and physically capable of conquering Colerain. He said previous results are irrelevant.

“I wasn’t here. We weren’t playing,” Tyus said. “This is a different team this year. I think we have a real good chance.”

The top-ranked Cardinals started the season with competitive wins over La Salle and St. Xavier. Since then, it’s been a typical string of beatdowns in the GMC. The starters are feeling strong because they haven’t had to play beyond two quarters for a while now.

For Colerain, being the hunted is a way of life in the GMC. The Cardinals are fine with it.

“I kind of like playing with a chip on our edge. We wouldn’t want to have it any other way,” Colerain senior inside linebacker Luke Bolden said. “We want everybody’s best game every week.”

This matchup has high-level talent all over the field.

Fairfield has the top rusher in the GMC — junior JuTahn McClain has run for 1,222 yards and 21 touchdowns — and a run-stingy defense keyed by senior linebacker Del Thomas.

Colerain’s triple-option offense and 50 slant-and-angle defense have been staples for years. Senior quarterback Deante Smith-Moore has thrown for 681 yards and rushed for 633 while having a hand in 24 TDs this season. Senior fullback/outside linebacker Ivan Pace Jr. and senior wingback/cornerback Syncere Jones are two-way hammers.

“I really like where we’re at,” Cardinals coach Tom Bolden said. “We’ve started games really fast, whether we’ve started on defense or on O. We’re really, really healthy right now. We’re playing fast. Our practices have been so competitve and so razor sharp. I think that’s really helped us on Friday nights.”

Bolden is a lifelong Colerain guy, a 1988 graduate and former CHS quarterback who went on to become a cornerback and strong safety at Wittenberg University. This is his 12th season as the Cardinals’ head coach.

He wasn’t at Colerain the last time Fairfield won in this series. He was the offensive coordinator at Northwest in 1999.

Asked about the Cardinals’ incredible run of GMC domination, Bolden said he knows nothing lasts forever.

“It’s amazing to think that since the turn of the century, we’ve only lost one league game,” he said. “There’s probably only a handful of teams in the country who can say something like that. This streak will end at some point. It’s going to happen. No disrespect to Fairfield, but I don’t plan on it happening Friday. Hopefully it’s next year or the year after or whenever. But not this week.”

The myth about Colerain is that its offense is all about running the ball. The Cardinals run it a lot, no question. But Smith-Moore is an accomplished thrower. He had 316 yards and five touchdown passes against Middletown in Week 5.

Bolden, who holds multiple Colerain passing records and joked that he should sit Smith-Moore to keep him from challenging those marks, said the passing game is not an afterthought.

“It’s almost like a quadruple option,” he said. “If teams are going to jam guys in the box, we’ve got to be able to take advantage of that going over the top. We’ve been able to do that.”

Certainly that is something the Cardinals will consider this week. The Indians are getting better on the back end defensively, but they’ve been the conference’s best team against the run.

Colerain ranks first in the GMC in passing defense and second in rushing defense, so where does Fairfield put its offensive focus? That’s one of the key questions coming into this game.

Krause simply likes the fact that his team’s overall level of play is rising. He said the Indians are coming off the cleanest offensive game they’ve played this year (at Oak Hills last Friday) in terms of avoiding critical errors.

“But we’ve got to play faster against Colerain,” Krause said. “If you get stuck thinking too much and waiting, Colerain will be by you. That’s what they’re really good at.”

Friday’s game

What: Fairfield (7-1, 6-0 GMC) at Colerain (8-0, 6-0 GMC), 7 p.m.

Where: Cardinal Stadium, 8801 Cheviot Road, Colerain Township

Series: Colerain leads 18-5 and has won the last 14 meetings, including 38-12 in 2017

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