COLERAIN TOWNSHIP, Ohio -- The Colerain and St. Xavier football game has played at least once each season since 2005.
The rivalry will be renewed Friday night on Cheviot Road as the Cardinals (0-1) host the Bombers (1-0) starting at 7 p.m. It is one of the nation's top 10 games this week, according to MaxPreps.
“Even before the season starts you have the countdown to Week 2 thinking, ‘Hey you got to go play them,” said Colerain senior linebacker Dan Bolden said. “It’s always fun.”
Friday night will be the 35th meeting between the two programs. Colerain won the regular-season game in overtime in 2016 but St. Xavier won the regional semifinal game in overtime. The Bombers eventually won the Division I state title last December.
“Colerain-X -- it’s always a battle,” St. Xavier coach Steve Specht. “It’s always an unbelievable game. Colerain has a hell of a football team.”
Let’s take a look at nine storylines involving this game:
Moving past Week 1
St. Xavier defeated Hinsdale Central (Illinois) 43-14 but the score was deceptive in the eyes of the St. X coaches.
Week 1 tends to have plenty of mistakes and the Bombers had their fair share. Watch the offense early in this game for the Bombers. How the offensive lines on both teams handle the pressure will be key.
“I like the fact that our coaches and players are holding themselves accountable to the little things and working on our mental discipline,” Specht said earlier this week. “This is and always will be important for us. We have a great group of kids that want to get better.”
Colerain plays a Greater Catholic League South division opponent for the second straight week and Cardinals coach Tom Bolden knows his offense must play better than it did three miles down the street at Lancer Stadium.
Colerain embraces the challenge of playing two tough opponents to open the schedule and it will be like this in 2018 too.
“I’ve always told the kids it’s about making memories,” Bolden said. “This year coming in we knew we were playing the defending Division II state champ (La Salle) and the Division I state champ (St. Xavier) the first two games of the year. I told the kids, that to me that’s what it’s all about. What more could you ask for? That opportunity to prove yourselves against two quality opponents like that right out of the gate (is what you want).”
Watch for Colerain senior wide receiver Ja’Von Hicks (UC commit). This is obviously a different season, but he had four receptions for 109 yards and a touchdown in the 2016 regular-season game.
Defensively, senior linebacker Dan Bolden and his cousin, junior linebacker Luke Bolden, had double-digit tackles last week. Colerain junior Deante Smith-Moore, junior fullback Ivan Pace Jr. and junior tailbacks Syncere Jones and JJ Davis are capable of making the big play.
Keep an eye on the St. Xavier receivers including seniors Andrew Wittrock and Cameron Specht. Senior quarterback Chase Wolf, a Wisconsin commit, said last week he has the best receiving corps in the state. Senior running back Matthew Fox had 172 yards and two touchdowns last week.
“Offensively, they are absolutely spectacular,” Tom Bolden said. Defensively, the Bombers are led by several players including senior defensive end Blake Bacevich (UC commit).
Wolf, a Wisconsin commit, attended the Colerain at La Salle game since the Bombers didn’t play until Saturday afternoon. He knows this week will be a challenge against the Cardinals. Colerain proved to be stout against the La Salle offense most of the night except for allowing the second-half touchdown. Colerain allowed just 82 yards rushing. Dan Bolden had 12 tackles including two sacks. Luke Bolden had 11 tackles.
“They are physical,” Wolf said. “It will be a defensive struggle. If our defense steps up to the challenge our offense will play well. We build off the defensive momentum. I believe if our defense steps up to the plate we will have a great game.”
The St. Xavier defense allowed just one offensive touchdown -- on the opening drive of the game last week against Hinsdale Central.
“Their front six in their stack defense is tremendous,” Bolden said. “They are so tough against the run.”
Colerain senior Gunnar Leyendecker hurt his shoulder last week against La Salle and his starting status was undecided as of Wednesday afternoon. Junior Deante Smith-Moore would get the nod if Leyendecker can’t go.
St. Xavier's Wolf was 22 of 28 passing for 196 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed for a touchdown.
“They have a heck of a quarterback,” Tom Bolden said. “He’s going to Wisconsin for a reason. He’s exceptional.”
Limit the big play and avoid turnovers
It’s an age-old adage but still remains in high school football rivalries. These teams know each other so well that the tendencies haven’t changed much over the years.
“It’s difficult to gauge after only one game but what I do see is a team in Colerain that is very athletic and fast and plays tough, hard-nosed football,” Steve Specht said. “They are very well coached.”
St. Xavier and Colerain renewed the series for 2017 and 2018 and it’s easy to see why. Both programs have a great deal of respect for one another. St. X leads the all-time series 21-13.
“I have said this in the past, but I think the St. X-Colerain football game represents everything great about high school sport and competition,” Steve Specht said. “You have a private school and a public school that have a lot of respect for one another. For two-and-a-half hours we will fight and claw for a victory but afterward we shake hands a respect the competition and level of play.”
Competitors yet friends
It’s a well known fact that Tom Bolden and Steve Specht are good friends. They’ve coached together in USA Football and enjoy competing during the high school season. St. X coach Steve Specht is 119-44 since becoming the Bombers’ head coach for the 2004 season. Bolden is 107-18 in his 11th season as Colerain head coach.
St. Xavier is ranked No. 14 nationally by the MaxPreps Xcellent 25 (editorial rankings). The Bombers were the only area team ranked nationally in the preseason by MaxPreps (No. 18).