High School Football: Afari, Firebirds run away from Hamilton in GMC opener

Hamilton’s quest for its third consecutive win came to a screeching halt Friday night as the visiting Lakota West cruised to a 33-13 victory in their Greater Miami Conference opener.

Coach Tom Bolden notched his first win in the GMC as Lakota West’s head coach, yet it was his 77th consecutive victory in conference play dating back to his 12 years as Colerain’s coach.

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Early in his tenure, Bolden has brought the same expectations and energy to his new team.

“We move a lot of weight, we run a lot, I yell at them, we just play with an edge,” Bolden said.

The Firebirds, who moved to 2-1, dominated most of the first half, using the read option to keep the Big Blue defense on edge and an aggressive pass rush to disturb Hamilton quarterback Quincy Simms-Marshall.

Senior running back David Afari led the charge on the ground with two short rushing touchdowns. The Miami commit finished with 133 total yards and four touchdowns.

The Big Blue appeared to have a heartbeat after Simms-Marshall connected with junior wide receiver Daryan Bowling for touchdown pass, bringing the score down to 12-6. Bowling had four catches for 69 yards and two touchdowns.

After a blocked punt, Hamilton had the ball at the Lakota West 23. On the brink of tying the game before halftime, the Firebird line broke through to stop sophomore running back Keyshawn Stephens behind the line of scrimmage on fourth down inside the 10-yard line.

The Firebirds’ defensive front gave Hamilton fits the whole game, holding the Big Blue to 47 rushing yards. Senior Isaac Kolosik led the charge with eight total tackles and 1.5 tackles for a loss.

“It’s tough to get yards on us, unless we’re going to do some dumb things and give it to them,” said Bolden, adding that penalties led to the two Hamilton touchdown drives.

Lakota West blew the game open in the third quarter with two touchdowns by Afari set up by an interception and a long punt return.

Quarterback Caleb Rao went down with an undisclosed injury during the third quarter, prompting freshman Mitch Bolden the coach’s son, into the lineup. Coach Bolden said that he had not heard of Rao’s condition, but that he will be evaluated.

Mitch Bolden played a central role in the Firebirds’ potent running game, which gathered 365 yards on 48 attempts. Along with Afari’s exploits, Bolden ran the ball eight times for 44 yards, and senior Malcom Rencher broke a 70-yard touchdown scamper to make the score 33-6 late in the fourth.

“He’s been around football his whole life,” Bolden said of his son. “It was a proud moment, but I’m still mad at him for missing the touchdown on that wide-open pass. … He plays with some moxie and with some swagger.”

Simms-Marshall connected with Bowling again on a 0-yard touchdown pass with less than a minute left in the game for the final margin. Simms-Marshall completed 10 of 18 pass attempts with two touchdowns and one interception.

Hamilton will travel to 3-0 Fairfield next Friday, while Lakota West will return home to play undefeated Sycamore. Both start times are at 7 p.m.

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