Fairfield’s McClain headlines list of area football signees

Fairfield quarterback Sawaiha Ellis (2) hands the ball off to running back Jutahn McClain during their Division I regional semifinal football playoff game against Colerain Friday, Nov. 15, 2019 at Princeton’s Pat Mancuso Field. Colerain won 28-7. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

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Fairfield quarterback Sawaiha Ellis (2) hands the ball off to running back Jutahn McClain during their Division I regional semifinal football playoff game against Colerain Friday, Nov. 15, 2019 at Princeton’s Pat Mancuso Field. Colerain won 28-7. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Fairfield High School has become a nice pipeline for college football programs, and three more players are locked in and ready for the next level following a signing day ceremony Wednesday.

Running back JuTahn McClain inked a letter of intent with the University of Kentucky and will enroll in January as an early graduate, and quarterback/defensive back Sawaiha Ellis and linebacker Phoenix Porter signed with Toledo and Eastern Illinois, respectively.

“Coach Krause does a good job of preparing us and we’ve produced some good talent over the years,” McClain said. “It’s special to be a part of that.”

Also signing Wednesday were Lakota West linebacker Daved Jones (Cincinnati), Lakota West running back David Afari (Miami) and Lakota East offensive lineman Evan Yockey (Youngstown State).

McClain leaves as one of Fairfield’s all-time great players. The Ohio Sportswriters Association named him as the All-Ohio Co-Offensive “Player of the Year” after he rushed for 1,947 yards and 21 touchdowns this season, helping power the Indians to a 9-0 start and 10-2 finish. Fairfield earned its first playoff win since 2000, but he missed the first-round game because of injury. He’s back to full health, he said.

The four-star recruit had committed to Kentucky in June and now looks forward to getting to work with his new team. He enrolls Jan. 12.

“It helps a lot because I get to get a head start on school,” McClain said. “That’s a semester off school so I can finish in three and a half years, and with football, that puts me ahead of everyone. It will be to my advantage learning the plays and getting familiar with everyone on the field.”

Porter, a first-team All-Greater Miami Conference pick, called it “a big relief” to finally sign as he fulfilled a life-long dream to play college football. He committed to Eastern Illinois in July because “it felt like home,” but he never wanted to take his opportunity for granted.

The 6-foot-1, 210-pound linebacker was a leader on Fairfield’s defense, finishing with a team-high 82 tackles, four sacks, two forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries. He considers himself fortunate to be among Fairfield’s college signees after watching several in the classes ahead of him carry out their dreams as well.

“It’s a good feeling,” Porter said. “Those guys I looked up to a lot, now I’m following in their footsteps and we just keep paving the path for more players to get looks in the future.”

For Ellis, college will bring about a big change. He played quarterback this year after spending his first two seasons at receiver and playing a little cornerback, but Toledo liked the 6-foot-2, 210-pound athlete at safety.

Ellis was a first-team All-Greater Miami Conference selection as a dual-threat quarterback after he threw for 1,228 yards and nine touchdowns and added 501 yards rushing and nine scores on the ground. He said playing safety will be a new challenge, but one he embraces.

“It will be a change but I feel like I can get it done,” Ellis said. “I played a little cornerback and safety, and they saw the physical way I can guard. They saw my receiving film and how I block and push people over, so they like my physicality, and I think that will help me at the safety position.”

Like Porter, Ellis also felt relieved, but excited to sign. He had committed to Toledo back in June.

“It felt like a great fit,” Ellis said. “Players brought me in as one of their own, and the coaches have a great relationship with players and the school is just like a big family.”

McClain, Ellis and Porter all said the experience of playing for Fairfield during one of its best seasons provides some momentum for their college careers.

“It gives you confidence playing at a high level,” Porter said. “We had a strong season, and we can take that experience into college, knowing we are prepared.”

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