COLERAIN TOWNSHIP, Ohio – Ivan Pace Jr. couldn’t help but smile at what just occurred at Cardinal Stadium Friday night.
The Colerain senior fullback/linebacker paused for a moment, reflecting upon his favorite memory at the stadium on this rainy Senior Night.
This mid-October evening will certainly be on his list.
Pace scored four touchdowns as the Cardinals defeated Fairfield 55-27 and clinched at least a share of its 19th consecutive Greater Miami Conference title. Colerain has won 74 consecutive GMC games.
“It felt really good,” Pace said. “Words can’t explain it. Tonight was a great night.”
The GMC showdown was a battle of standouts on each side. Fairfield junior running back JuTahn McClain rushed 29 times for 275 yards and three touchdowns. He also had a 95-yard touchdown run, which is believed to be a school record.
Colerain senior quarterback Deante Smith-Moore rushed 20 times for 208 yards and a touchdown.
Pace had 17 carries for 180 yards, including three second-half touchdowns. He also had a team-high 10 tackles.
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“Think about what Ivan does,” Colerain coach Tom Bolden said. “He plays fullback for us in our triple-option offense. He plays outside linebacker and plays at such a high level. He’s the best player in the league. The McClain kid is really good, but in terms of the best overall player, Ivan Pace is the best player in the league.”
Colerain (9-0, 7-0 GMC), ranked No. 1 in the Division I statewide media poll, is projected to be No. 1 in Division I, Region 4.
The Cardinals’ starters hadn’t played in the second half in the previous five games, according to Bolden. This was a good test with the postseason two weeks away.
The Cardinals close the regular season at Lakota West Oct. 26. The Cardinals are unofficially assured of a first-round home playoff game.
Friday night was certainly a playoff atmosphere in the battle of the GMC’s top two teams.
“We had an extra little edge tonight because it was Senior Night,” Smith-Moore said. “The whole week, there had been a lot of talk of how good Fairfield’s offense and stuff was, so I think we responded to the challenge pretty well. It got us ready for the playoffs. I think we are ready to go now.”
Colerain took advantage of two Fairfield turnovers in the first quarter, including a fumble on the Indians’ first play from scrimmage.
Colerain senior Syncere Jones and Pace scored touchdowns as a result of those turnovers to put Colerain up 13-0 through the first quarter.
Fairfield senior quarterback Jeff Tyus scored on a 1-yard carry with 8:36 left in the second quarter. That was helped set up by McClain’s efforts, which included a 21-yard reception and 19-yard carry during the drive.
But Smith-Moore added a touchdown carry and a touchdown pass to junior Elijah Ford to put Colerain ahead 27-7 at halftime.
Fairfield got within six (27-21) with 4:41 left in the third after McClain’s second touchdown of the second half. This time it was a 95-yarder down the left side. That touchdown run was a school record, according to Cox Media reporter Rick Cassano. The previous longest TD run in school history was 89 yards by Rodney Cadle against Greenville in 1968, according to Cassano.
McClain also had two receptions for 57 yards.
But Colerain scored four consecutive touchdowns, including three from Pace to pull away in the fourth quarter.
Colerain had 553 yards of offense, including 539 on the ground. Senior running back JJ Davis had seven carries for 109 yards and a touchdown.
“Huge game tonight,” said Colerain senior linebacker Luke Bolden, who had nine tackles. “It was just a battle all game and I am really proud of our guys and everything that we’ve done."
Fairfield (7-2, 6-1), projected at No. 2 in Region 4, plays host to Mason Oct. 26.
"We can't make mistakes against a team that good," Fairfield coach Jason Krause said of Colerain. "They make you pay for it and they did. I really liked the effort by most of our kids."
Fairfield senior linebacker Del Thomas added 10 tackles Friday night. Senior tight end Erick All (Michigan commit) had two receptions for 43 yards. He also had four punts for 139 yards.
McClain, who has scholarship offers that include Ohio State, Penn State, UC, Louisville, Michigan and others, holds the school record for most touchdowns in a season, according to CinDay Sports. McClain has 30 touchdowns.
"JuTahn is fantastic," Krause said. "Not only is he a really good player, but he is a leader and played his rear end off until the end."
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