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Prep football: Hamilton-Fairfield features record-setting Big Blue sophomore

Keyshawn Stephens has taken the leap from promising youngster to record-breaking performer.

Hamilton High School’s sophomore running back established a new single-game rushing record last weekend, chewing up 293 yards on 33 carries in a 36-31 setback at Anderson that dropped the Big Blue football team to 0-2.

“It was just one of those games where I felt like nobody could tackle me,” said Stephens, who surpassed Derrick Wilkinson’s previous school record of 267 yards in 2000. “I want to feel like that all the time. I’m going to try to keep it going and stay positive.”

WEEK 2 FOOTBALL COVERAGE

» Springfield 15, Fairfield 14

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The 6-foot, 190-pound Stephens ran for 139 yards on 27 carries during his freshman season on the varsity and began 2018 with an 18-carry, 82-yard effort against West Clermont.

But the Anderson game marked his arrival as a potential standout player in the Greater Miami Conference.

“I’m excited for him and the O-line,” HHS coach Chad Murphy said. “That’s history. We’ve had some really good backs come through Hamilton way before me. For him to break a record like that is pretty amazing as a 10th-grader.

“He broke a ton of tackles, he’s very unselfish, and he’s very humble. We’ve got some hard workers on this team, but this kid doesn’t get outworked. He’s going to be happy with this, but not satisfied. He’s that kind of guy.”

Stephens is equal parts speed and power. He wants to lead the GMC in rushing and take Hamilton to the Division I playoffs for the first time since 2010.

Confidence is part of his game, especially after a strong offseason.

“I feel like I put the work into it all summer,” Stephens said. “I don’t feel like (anybody) worked harder than me.”

Big Blue will be back in front of their home fans Friday night, kicking off GMC play against Fairfield (1-1) at Virgil Schwarm Stadium.

Losing to West Clermont (14-3) and Anderson clearly wasn’t a great start for Hamilton, but Murphy said his team isn’t far away from being 2-0.

“We feel like there’s been two games where we had every chance in the world to win,” he said. “I feel like our defense played well enough to win Week 1, and I feel like our offense played well enough to win Week 2. When we put it all together, we’ll have a pretty good thing.”

Fairfield, meanwhile, is coming off a brutal 15-14 home loss to Springfield. The Wildcats put up a touchdown and a two-point conversion with 1:13 remaining.

Like HHS, the Indians had to play their game over two days thanks to the weather. Fairfield quarterback Jeff Tyus suffered a shoulder injury Friday and wasn’t able to play Saturday.

Fairfield’s JuTahn McClain (9) gets tackled by Springfield’s Jalen Minney (6) and C.J. McDavid during last Saturday’s game at Fairfield Stadium. RICK CASSANO/STAFF

“We’re not sure if he’ll play or not,” Fairfield coach Jason Krause said of Tyus’ status for the Hamilton game. “It’s probably a Friday decision. We’ve got to have a couple quarterbacks ready.”

Junior Sawiaha Ellis stepped in for Tyus last weekend and will be Friday’s starter if Tyus can’t go. Ellis is a starting receiver who also rotates in defensively as a safety.

Sophomore Marquise Jones is the junior varsity quarterback and is also getting some varsity reps in practice this week.

“Sawiaha gave us a chance last week. He made some mistakes, but I can’t fault his effort and the way he stepped up,” Krause said. “He didn’t find out until Saturday morning when he came in here that he was going to play quarterback.”

Hamilton’s quarterback situation isn’t exactly set in stone either. Junior Khaliyal Sowell is the starter, but Murphy is using sophomore Quincy Simms-Marshall at QB as well, a move that’s allowing Sowell to play some cornerback and return kicks.

Sowell was the full-time quarterback when Indiana University made him a scholarship offer as a defensive back.

“Khaliyal is what they call an ATH — he’s an athlete,” Murphy said. “He’s one of the fastest kids on the field night in and night out. We just feel like it’s going to make our team better if he’s able to play some defensive back, return some kicks and even play some receiver at times.

“Quincy has done an efficient job of managing the offense. We’re definitely planning to keep using both kids at quarterback. Both throw the ball really well, and both are leaders. I think this will allow us to be real creative on the offensive side of the ball.”

Murphy expects his troops to be ready for the Indians. Big Blue’s last win in this series came in 2012.

“It’s a rivalry game, it’s the first GMC game … it’s all you should want,” Murphy said. “We’re excited to put everything together and see what this team is all about.”

Fairfield junior running back JuTahn McClain ran 20 times for 99 yards and a touchdown against Springfield after totaling 437 all-purpose yards and seven TDs in Week 1 against Centerville.

“Expectations are very high when you have a big first week like that,” Krause said. “But you aren’t going to have games like that every week. JuTahn had 5 yards a carry against Springfield. We’re very happy with that. Our offensive philosophy is 4 yards a play.”

Krause said inside linebacker Del Thomas will play Friday after missing last week’s game, while outside linebacker Omar Shteiwi is sidelined with a knee injury.

The Indians’ defensive front has been strong against the run through two weeks, allowing 69 yards per game. But the Indians have given up a whopping 695 yards through the air.

“In our box, we’re really happy. We’re just trying to fine-tune some things in the secondary,” Krause said.

He said there are plenty of reasons to be frustrated about the Springfield defeat, but dwelling on them isn’t part of the plan.

“We were far from being full strength, and we didn’t help ourselves with a couple turnovers and penalties and a missed field goal,” Krause said. “I know it stings … closes losses like that are hard to swallow. But it’s our job as coaches to get our kids’ minds in the right place and get ready for this week. The GMC is starting, it’s Hamilton, and their personnel is better than it has been.”

Friday’s game

What: Fairfield (1-1) at Hamilton (0-2), 7 p.m.

Where: Virgil Schwarm Stadium, 1165 Eaton Ave., Hamilton

Series: Fairfield leads 19-17 and has won the last four meetings, including 42-0 in 2016

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