Nine reasons why Colerain versus La Salle is a special football game

GREEN TOWNSHIP, Ohio – The Colerain versus La Salle football rivalry is a staple on the Greater Cincinnati schedule.

So it may be difficult to realize the West Side powers didn’t play from 2005 to 2013. Thankfully after a change of heart the game returned to the schedule in 2014 at Miami University.

For the fourth consecutive season including the third straight at a high school venue, these rivals separated by less than four miles will play Friday night.

“It’s great to be able to do this on a yearly basis,” Colerain coach Tom Bolden told WLSN this week. “When you think about it, it should be played. Any opportunity that you get to play a rivalry game where kids can literally live right next door to one another, to me that’s what it’s all about. That’s what high school sports and high school football is about.”

La Salle (13-2 in 2016), the reigning three-time Division II state champions, and Colerain (11-1), winners of 17 consecutive Greater Miami Conference titles, can certainly make cases for deep runs in November and possibly beyond. 

Before these area powers kick off at 7 p.m. at Lancer Stadium, let’s take a look at nine reasons why this game is so significant.

Large crowd at Lancer Stadium

A near-capacity crowd (6,500) is expected. Standing room allows for an additional 3,000 fans. The La Salle athletic department reached 2,000 advance tickets early Tuesday afternoon including season tickets. The school sold 500 tickets alone on Monday. Colerain was given 1,500 presale tickets and those could sell out. More than 7,000 fans watched the St. Xavier at La Salle game in October 2016 so it will be interesting to see if Friday approaches that.

A word to the wise: Get there early.

“There is really nothing like it,” La Salle senior quarterback Griffin Merritt said of playing against Colerain or a GCL opponent at Lancer Stadium. “You have fans that are so passionate about both their teams. You look across the sideline and you see kids you played with and played against. It’s just so much fun to compete on a big stage in front of so many people. You can’t even describe it. It’s such a fun time.”

Watch the offense

Colerain is known for its triple-option and don’t expect the Cardinals to veer too far from that. Eight starters return on offense.

Senior quarterback Gunnar Leyendecker has been impressive in the preseason.

“One-hundred and ninety-five pounds of muscle,” Bolden said of his quarterback.

Watch for senior wide receiver Ja’Von Hicks (UC commit) who has been “phenomenal” in the preseason. Junior wingbacks JJ Davis and Syncere Jones are very athletic and fast and can put pressure on the defense. Watch for junior fullback Deante Smith. The Cardinals will show multiple looks more than in the recent past.

La Salle's Merritt (UC baseball commit) threw for 1,930 yards and 21 touchdowns last season. Senior tight end/wide receiver Josh Whyle (UC commit) will be a focal point and it will be interesting to see how new Lancers coach Pat McLaughlin utilizes him in the up-tempo offense. Watch for senior running back Cam Porter in the backfield.

Colerain quarterback Gunnar Leyendecker (right) and wide receiver Ja’Von Hicks during a scrimmage this summer at Elder. (Tony Tribble/WCPO Contributor) 

Linebackers loom

From Joe Bolden to Tegray Scales to Jarrett Grace to Kyle Bolden, the Cardinals have been known for their linebackers in the past 10 years.

Senior Daniel Bolden -- the nephew of Tom Bolden -- is one of the Colerain leaders and will be counted upon heavily Friday night. Daniel has been considering several significant scholarship offers and is one of the area's top recruits in the 2018 class.

Keep your eye on junior Luke Bolden, who is Tom's son and Daniel's cousin.

Watch for La Salle junior linebackers Brody Ingle and Garrett Bledsoe. Ingle had 68 tackles and was named to the GCL first team last season.

Colerain linebacker Daniel Bolden is one of the area’s top players in the 2018 class. (Tony Tribble/WCPO Contributor) 

UC commits

La Salle senior tight end/wide receiver Josh Whyle and Colerain wide receiver/defensive back Ja’Von Hicks are a significant part of the Bearcats’ 2018 class and they are friends off the field. Yet this will be a prime matchup on a large stage to open the season and it will be interesting to see how both respond in this much-anticipated game.

“Me and Ja’Von go back to fifth grade,” Whyle said. “We were on the same basketball team. We played on a couple AAU teams. We still talk all the time. All of the UC commits are on a group chat.”

It will be interesting to see how much Hicks will cover Whyle Friday night.

La Salle tight end/wide receiver Josh Whyle likes the Lancers’ new up-tempo offense that coach Pat McLaughlin has installed. (Tony Tribble/WCPO Contributor) 

Remember when

Drue Chrisman made a 41-yard field goal with 10.7 seconds left in a rain storm as La Salle defeated Colerain 39-36 in the 2015 game at Lancer Stadium.

Chrisman, a U.S. Army All-American his senior year, is now at Ohio State. Colerain had 468 yards of total offense and La Salle had 310 yards. Colerain quarterback Deshaunte Jones -- who is now at Iowa State -- had 210 yards rushing.

For Colerain fans, the game will also be remembered for a controversial call at the 9:24 mark of the fourth quarterback when Jarell White (now at UC) forced a fumble and returned it 90 yards for a touchdown. Colerain coach Tom Bolden said at the time he took nothing away from La Salle but said his player should’ve been called down. It could’ve given Colerain a two-touchdown lead.

Rivalry will continue

The Colerain-La Salle matchup will move back to Colerain for Week 1 in 2018. The Cardinals won the 2016 game 6-0 at Cardinal Stadium. Colerain coach Tom Bolden said he prefers to play La Salle and St. Xavier each year especially given the fact the GMC has gone to an eight-game conference schedule.

This will be the first game in the rivalry for new La Salle coach Pat McLaughlin, who coached at Princeton last season.

Pat McLaughlin starts his first season at La Salle Friday night in a highly anticipated game against Colerain. (Tony Tribble/WCPO Contributor) 

Series record

Colerain leads the all-time series 12-10. La Salle holds a 2-1 series advantage since the rivalry resumed in 2014. The past two games have been in Week 3. This is the most recent time the teams have met in the season opener since the 2014 game at Miami University in which the Lancers won 40-21.

National spotlight

Colerain is ranked No. 8 in the USA Today Midwest computer rankings. Colerain is ranked No. 24 nationally in the MaxPreps Freeman Rankings (computer). …La Salle is unranked on both of those websites.

Extra points

Colerain plays host to yet another GCL rival in St. Xavier Sept. 1 (7 p.m.). La Salle plays at East Central at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 1. ...Tom Bolden is 107-17 in his 11th season as Colerain head coach. ...Former UC and Colerain standout Dominick Goodman is coaching the Cardinals' wide receivers this season. ...La Salle is making its 19th Showdown appearance (14-4 record). Colerain is making its 18th Showdown appearance (13-4 record).

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