High School Football: Five turnovers doom Fairfield in playoff loss to Colerain

The Fairfield High School football team had a chance to avenge its lone loss of the season, but Colerain scored twice in the final minute of the third quarter to pull away and there was no recovering.

Colerain collected its second victory over the Indians in three weeks, this time winning 28-7 in a Division I, Region 4 semifinal Friday at Princeton’s Pat Manusco Field. It took overtime to decide the first matchup, which gave the Cardinals their 20th straight Greater Miami Conference title.

The Indians (10-2) were coming off their first playoff win since 2000 last week, but Colerain (11-1) hasn’t just dominated the GMC over the years. The Cardinals are 45-13 in the playoffs since winning the 2004 state title, and they are headed to their ninth regional final since that time while Fairfield’s best season in 20 years comes to an end.

»RELATED: View photos from the game

“I’m super proud of these guys,” Fairfield coach Jason Krause said. “I told these guys, ‘I love you. I’m proud of what you’ve done for this team this season. Keep your heads up. We lost to a really good football team. We did some things that were uncharacteristic of us, but Colerain forced us into having to do some things. I’m very proud of these seniors, but these underclassmen, it’s their turn to keep it going. Hopefully in 28 days we get back at it.”

Colerain took a 14-7 lead into halftime, but Fairfield received the ball first to start the second half and advanced into the red zone with a chance to tie it. A 5-yard loss pushed the Indians into a fourth-and-6 from the 22-yard line, and Sawiaha Ellis was sacked for a turnover on downs.

Freddie Johnson’s 14-yard scramble put Colerain up 21-7 with 58 seconds left in the third quarter, and the dagger came moments later when Brandon Sinclair picked off Ellis and returned it 27 yards for another score.

“The second half, they had one drive,” Krause said. “The defense played really well. The one drive and obviously the pick six (hurt). Our offense hasn’t been built to play from behind and tonight you saw the result.”

»RELATED: Friday’s playoff roundup

Until then, it seemed destined to be a close game, like the defensive battle Colerain won 16-10 in overtime during the regular-season finale. Any hope of a comeback for the Indians was negated by five turnovers, including four in the second half.

The Cardinals intercepted Ellis three times and recovered two fumbles.

“Our defense has been playing well this year, had another pretty good game and Brandon (Sinclair) did a great job jumping that route and getting six,” Colerain coach Shawn Cutright said. “That was a huge momentum swing for us, and that changed the game.”

Fairfield got off to a slow start, and the offense couldn’t sustain drives long enough to score points. Colerain needed just two plays to take a lead 30 seconds into the game on Jaylen Thomas’ 45-yard touchdown run, while the Indians’ first drive was a three-and-out that saw standout running back JuTahn McClain hobbling off to get his foot taped.

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McClain, who had injured his foot in the first matchup two weeks ago, returned the next possession and finished with 147 yards rushing on 22 carries, but the Indians’ only score came when Ellis threaded a ball perfectly to Deshaun Simpkins for a 27-yard touchdown to tie the game at 7-7 with 11:51 left in the second quarter.

Thomas led Colerain with 171 yards on 13 carries, and the Cardinals had just one turnover, an interception picked off by Jaydan Mayes.

“We made some pretty good adjustments at halftime offensively and defensively, and our kids executed that well,” Cutright said

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