COLERAIN TOWNSHIP – Two months after their first meeting, the No. 1 Colerain High School football team met up with St. Xavier in the playoffs just as Cardinals coach Tom Bolden predicted. In the 15th postseason meeting between the two, Colerain scorched St. Xavier 35-9.
Colerain senior Deante Smith-Moore ran for 220 yards from the quarterback position with a pair of touchdowns. Senior teammate Ivan Pace Jr. added 58 yards and two scores plus was the game’s top tackler with 12, rarely coming off the field.
“No disrespect to the McClain (JuTahn of Fairfield) kid, Ivan Pace is the best all-around football player in the city and probably in the state of Ohio. He’s that guy,” Tom Bolden said.
Added Pace Jr, “I just love playing with the team. It doesn’t matter what position, what play it is, I just love playing with this team, playing with my brothers and working hard.”
For St. Xavier, Chris Payne closed out his Bomber career with 136 yards on the ground and the Bombers lone touchdown on a 30-yard reception from Matthew Rueve.
“How ’bout our defense?” Tom Bolden asked surrounding reporters. “How about our defense doing what they do? All night offensively, Ivan (Pace Jr.) in beast mode, Deante (Smith-Moore) doing what he does? I’m really proud how they prepared.
“That’s a really good football team (St. Xavier). We’ve played 19 times in 12 years. They know us, we know them. We just happened to know them a little bit more tonight.”
It was the eighth playoff meeting between Bolden and Bombers coach Steve Specht and the fifth in a row (2014-2018). Previous to that they met three seasons in a row (2010-2012).
“Tommy’s got a really good squad offensively,” Specht said of the Cardinals. “It’s going to be tough for people to stop Colerain’s offense. They were the better football team tonight.”
After stalling on their opening drive, St. Xavier struck first when Jared Kreimer’s punt was downed at the 2-yard line. On the first Colerain carry by Syncere Jones, he was tackled in the end zone by Wiles Dolle for a Bomber safety. St. Xavier wouldn’t score again until 58 seconds remaining in the game.
On Colerain’s next possession, Smith-Moore ripped off a 41-yard draw play run to the Bombers 3-yard line. From there, Pace Jr. drove in and Colerain went up 7-2 after the extra point. The Cardinals would punch another in before quarter’s end when Smith-Moore scored on a 5-yard sweep.
After a fumble forced by Luke Bolden and recovered by Alonzo Kendricks, JJ Davis ran in from 6 yards away early in the second quarter for a 21-2 lead. St. Xavier, who started Matthew Rueve at quarterback, tried receiver Jared Kreimer some, but couldn’t get close to the goal line. Wyatt Hudepohl, who had started most of the season did not play as he’s been battling illness.
The Cardinals created further distance when Smith-Moore opened the second half with an 80-yard dash to the promised land for a 28-2 lead. St. Xavier threatened midway through the third quarter from the goal line but was eventually stopped at 4th-and-3 when Rueve’s pass to Chris Payne was broken up by the Cardinals.
Another long run by Smith-Moore and a pass inside the 10 to Freddie Johnson, set up Pace Jr. with a 3-yard score to bring on Colerain’s familiar running clock at 35-2. Late in the game Rueve connected with Payne from 30 yards away for St. Xavier’s first offensive touchdown, but it came with less than 60 seconds left on the clock.
“To get this win, it was a big one especially with this being a big rivalry game,” Smith-Moore said. “But, it’s just another game. We still have four more to get to our final goal.”
St. Xavier finishes with a 5-6 losing record, but rallied from a 2-4 start to qualify for the Division I playoffs.
“It’s been an up and down season but I’m proud of them,” Specht said of the Bombers. “They could’ve packed it in and they didn’t pack it in. They kept fighting and clawing and scraping and we had to claw ourselves in (the playoffs).”
Colerain at 11-0 goes on to face Milford who defeated Fairfield 39-35 in a first-round thriller.