Prep football: Hamilton seeking first win, takes aim at No. 1 Colerain

Hamilton’s Keyshawn Stephens carries the ball past Fairfield’s Del Thomas (54) on Sept. 7 during Fairfield’s 40-6 victory at Virgil Schwarm Stadium in Hamilton. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

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Hamilton’s Keyshawn Stephens carries the ball past Fairfield’s Del Thomas (54) on Sept. 7 during Fairfield’s 40-6 victory at Virgil Schwarm Stadium in Hamilton. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Chad Murphy wouldn’t mind a little dose of good fortune for his Hamilton High School football team.

It’s disheartening enough to be 0-5 at the midway point of the season. It’s even worse that Week 6 is a trip to top-ranked Colerain on Friday night.

Murphy remains undaunted, though, and said his players will press on.

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“If we didn’t have bad luck, we’d have no luck at all. That’s a fact,” Murphy said. “By no means are teams walking away from here saying, ‘Man, Hamilton’s just not very good.’ There’s no truth to that whatsoever.

“We’ve got a good football team with 10 sophomores starting or rotating and a freshman. I hate to be in Year 6 talking about being young, but we’re young and inexperienced and we caught the injury bug at a key position.

“We’re going to go play on the road against the No. 1 team in the state. It’s as simple as that. Our kids aren’t going to back down. Colerain’s a good football team, but things happen. Just last weekend there were two huge upsets in Division I college football. That’s why you play the game.”

That key position is quarterback. Junior Khaliyal Sowell and sophomore Quincy Simms-Marshall have both gone down in recent weeks, and Murphy said Thursday that both are questionable for Friday’s game.

Senior Elijah Spradling is the No. 3 quarterback and a starting inside linebacker. He stepped in briefly at QB when Simms-Marshall got hurt during last week’s 34-21 loss to Mason, then Murphy chose to use sophomore running back Keyshawn Stephens in the Wildcat formation.

Stephens finished with 186 yards and three touchdowns on 30 carries and might return to the Wildcat role against Colerain.

“There’s going to be a time and a place for both probably to play. I’m just kind of leery of taking Elijah from the defense,” Murphy said. “This little Wildcat package, we’ve got a very, very good football player with the ball in his hands every down, so we’ll see. Obviously we’re going to be a little more run-oriented than we have been.”

Stephens (92 carries, 586 yards, six TDs) ranks second in the GMC in rushing behind Fairfield’s JuTahn McClain. Team-wise, Colerain is averaging a GMC-best 258.6 yards per game on the ground.

“If you’re going into Week 6 and you’re No. 2 in the GMC in rushing as a 10th-grader, that says enough,” Murphy said. “Keyshawn is a great kid who doesn’t get outworked, and he loves this city. There’s been people around trying to dip their hands in and talk about him coming here and coming there, but he’s stayed true to his city. He’s a very prideful kid.”

The Cardinals have ripped through Princeton, Middletown and Sycamore in conference play after opening with wins over La Salle and St. Xavier. And Friday is homecoming at Cardinal Stadium.

Colerain has only won one Division I state championship (2004), but many observers believe the 2018 Cardinals are among the best teams in school history.

“The kids are pretty darn locked in,” Colerain coach Tom Bolden said. “Defensively, offensively and special teams, I think we’ve gotten better and better each week. That’s what you can ask for as a head coach.”

Bolden said he’s not worried about the distractions that may come from homecoming or the No. 1 state ranking.

“Homecoming is something the kids look forward to. Why fight it? Just embrace it and make the best you can out of it,” Bolden said. “The rankings are kind of cool with how people view us. Hopefully come that first week of December we’re still there and people can say that stuff about us. That’s the ultimate goal.”

And what about Hamilton?

“They’re aggressive kids,” Bolden said. “It’s real easy for a team when they haven’t won to go through the motions and just cash it in real easy, but I see a team that’s playing really, really hard. I think that’s a testament to Chad and his assistant coaches. They’re going to keep playing hard.”

Friday’s game

What: Hamilton (0-5, 0-3 GMC) at Colerain (5-0, 3-0 GMC), 7 p.m.

Where: Cardinal Stadium, 8801 Cheviot Road, Colerain Township

Series: Colerain leads 21-5 and has won the last 17 meetings, including 41-7 in 2017

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