Prep football: Colerain heavy favorite to extend GMC title streak

The Greater Miami Conference has been Colerain High School’s football playground for quite some time. More of the same could be on the way this year.

The Cardinals, winners of 17 straight GMC championships, have been voted heavy favorites to extend their title streak.

“A lot of that is a testament to the foundation that was laid by all those previous teams,” said 11th-year Colerain coach Tom Bolden, whose squad received nine of the 10 first-place votes in the preseason coaches poll.

“Not trying to be cocky or brash, but we expect to win it. We don’t go in talking about competing. We talk about winning the whole thing. We don’t apologize for any of that. That’s just where we’re at. It’s humbling and flattering to be voted No. 1. We hope we can live up to that.”

Fairfield got one No. 1 vote and was a strong second in the voting. The Indians have some high-profile recruits and a desire to get their first GMC crown since sharing one with the Cardinals in 2005.

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Colerain will travel to Fairfield Stadium in Week 8 (Oct. 13).

“Until somebody knocks them off, they’re still the king of the GMC,” Fairfield coach Jason Krause said. “They put up a little bit of a swagger and rightfully so. They’ve owned the GMC for a long time.

“We appreciate everybody thinking highly of us this year. We’re doing good things over here at Fairfield. But everybody in the GMC is chasing Colerain, including us.”

The Cardinals own a 59-game conference winning streak. Their last loss was a 42-39 decision at Middletown on Oct. 3, 2008 … and the Middies’ head coach was Jason Krause.

This year, Colerain is once again loaded with Division I college players. Senior safety Ja’von Hicks is headed to Cincinnati, and Bolden said his junior class is “out of this world.”

“By Week 5, I could potentially have seven juniors with D-I offers,” Bolden said.

Inside linebacker Dan Bolden and quarterback Gunnar Leyendecker are among the top seniors. The junior standouts include inside linebacker Luke Bolden, outside linebacker Ivan Pace, outside linebacker-tight end Eric Phillips, safety Jakari Patterson, wingbacks Syncere Jones and J.J. Davis, and offensive lineman Rusty Feth.

“The motto hasn’t changed in 25 years — run fast, hit hard,” Tom Bolden said. “That kind of sums us up. We are really fast top to bottom. We don’t have the highest-rated players back, but we sure do have an awful lot of good ones.”

The Cardinals’ first two games are against North Bend Road opponents La Salle and St. Xavier.

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St. X knocked off Colerain 29-23 in a second-round overtime affair in the playoffs last year en route to the Division I state title.

“We’ll cross the bridge of the league when we get there,” Bolden said. “I’d be lying if I said Week 2 wasn’t hanging heavy over us after last year.”

Mason took third in the GMC poll and was followed (in order) by Sycamore, Lakota West, Lakota East, Hamilton, Princeton, Oak Hills and Middletown.

Princeton’s Mike Daniels is the only new head coach in the conference this year.

“The GMC’s always going to be tough,” East coach Rick Haynes said. “I think Colerain and Fairfield and West are going to have the three most talented rosters in the conference.”

West is coming off a 2-8 campaign, but colleges across the country are watching defensive linemen Tyler Bentley and Steven Faucheux, along with linebacker Xavier Peters.

“I don’t care where I’m picked now. I care where I finish in late October,” Firebirds coach Larry Cox said. “Coming off a lackluster 2-8 season — that’s not something we’re accustomed to or like — there’s some things we’ve got to prove, and that’s OK. I’d rather go to the table hungry than full.

“I really enjoy coaching this group of kids. They seem to like to answer challenges. I don’t know what that means in terms of wins and losses, but I know for the next 10 weeks, I’m really going to enjoy stepping out on the practice field with these kids.”

Sophomores Myjaden Horton and David Afari are slated to start at quarterback and tailback, respectively, for West.

“We’re going to have maybe six sophomores starting this year,” Cox said. “But I don’t look at them as sophomores. They’re varsity players for the Lakota West High School football team, and I expect them to act like one and play like one.”

East has to replace nine starters on defense, but the Thunderhawks have a pair of returning standouts in senior tackle Sam Ballman and senior outside linebacker Sal LaRubbio. Senior quarterback Dylan Fry is back to lead the offense.

“I like my players,” Haynes said. “I know they’ll play hard.”

Hamilton returns quite a few players from its 5-5 squad of 2016, and Big Blue have made gradual progress under Chad Murphy.

The HHS coach said sophomore quarterback Khaliyal Sowell is a guy to watch.

As for being voted seventh, Murphy said, “We’ve got work to do. We won two GMC games last year. Polls are great, but until it’s proven, people have got to go with the data that they have.”

Middletown went 0-10 in Lance Engleka’s first year at the helm. Engleka believes the Middies will be significantly better this season, but he understands why the vote went the way it did.

“I’m not going out there and trying to beat the bushes and tell everybody how good we are,” Engleka said. “If you’re 0-10 and coming back, people are looking at that as a sign. So it’s up to us to go out and change minds.”

GMC: The Vote

Here’s how the coaches voted in the preseason Greater Miami Conference football poll, with point totals and first-place votes (in parentheses):

1. Colerain (9) 99

2. Fairfield (1) 90

3. Mason 70

4. Sycamore 67

5. Lakota West 61

6. Lakota East 44

7. Hamilton 39

8. Princeton 35

9. Oak Hills 32

10. Middletown 13

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