SPRINGFIELD TOWNSHIP, Ohio – Colerain football coach Tom Bolden nodded his head and pointed toward his scalp.
A game like Friday night will certainly add a few more gray hairs to a 10th-year head coach.
Running through the far end zone, a Colerain assistant coach yelled “Cardiac Cards” to someone going the opposite direction.
That pretty much sums up the story of the 2016 Colerain football team through the first two weeks.
— Mike Dyer (@MikeDyer) September 3, 2016
Colerain junior quarterback Gunnar Leyendecker scored on a 13-yard touchdown run in overtime to lift the Cardinals past host St. Xavier 20-14 Friday night at Ballaban Field.
“I’m just so happy,” Leyendecker said with eye black smudged and streaked down his cheeks. “I’m happy for my teammates that I could deliver. I give all the props to them. They made that happen for me.”
Leyendecker rushed for 55 yards and threw for 157 yards and two touchdowns for the Cardinals (2-0), ranked No. 5 in the MaxPreps Freeman Rankings (computer) and No. 13 in the MaxPreps Xcellent 25 (editorial).
Colerain plays host to La Salle (2-0) next week.
Friday marked the second straight week Colerain won in heart-pounding fashion. The Cardinals rallied in the last minute to defeat Warren Central 31-28 at Nippert Stadium last weekend.
"St. X and Colerain going against each other - it's just beautiful," Colerain junior wide receiver Javon Hicks said. "Just beautiful."
Bolden told his players at the walk-through Friday afternoon that they needed to find the extra notch. They certainly responded.
“He said we have to find that dog,” said Hicks, who caught two touchdown passes. “In overtime, we found that dog and that dog came out.”
This was the second straight year the Colerain-St. X game went into overtime in the regular season. Earlier Friday, the teams agreed to renew their home-and-home series for 2017 and 2018.
“That’s a great football team,” Bolden said. “They are banged up and they’re injured and they never quit.
"We went up 14-0 and they never rolled over. You know what I like about our kids? We never quit, either. It brings a tear to my eye because that’s what they are all about.”
Colerain struck first when Hicks caught a 23-yard touchdown pass from Leyendecker to score on the third play of the second quarter. Ryan Murray added the extra point and Colerain led 7-0 at the 10:41 mark.
Colerain scored again with 25 seconds left in the half when Leyendecker found senior Kevin Hyde on an 11-yard slant pattern to put the Cardinals ahead 14-0.
That score was set up when Hicks caught a 24-yard pass two plays earlier on third down to put the ball at the 11.
St. X had just 38 yards of total offense in the first half on 27 plays. Colerain had 28 plays for 131 yards.
But the Bombers didn’t roll over. Senior wide receiver Micah Ferrar caught two touchdown passes from junior quarterback Chase Wolf in the third quarter to tie the game at 14.
Colerain had a late chance to punch in a touchdown, but 12 players on the field set up a field goal attempt that failed.
St. X couldn’t convert on a field goal attempt in overtime and the Cardinals took advantage with Leyendecker's touchdown.
Colerain senior offensive lineman Howard Watkins Jr. said the Cardinals found the extra gear in overtime and he thought about the extra work in the weight room.
“We just got heart,” Watkins said. “We’re hungry and we are ready to win a state championship. We’re trying to get better and we are going to do that.”
Colerain star DB Amir Riep went down in the first quarter. Bolden said Riep was bothered by a hamstring.
After St. X lost to St. John Bosco (Calif.) 34-0 in Week 1, Bombers coach Steve Specht was proud of the way his team responded.
In a season filled with injured players, the Bombers haven’t made excuses.
“They did everything we asked this week,” Specht said. “They kept focus. The hard part for a coach is they did everything. In life you can do everything that’s asked of you and still you may end up on the short end. Now what do you do with it? Now we have to re-group.”
St. X plays at Mentor Sept. 9.
Friday was the 33rd meeting between Colerain and St. X with the Bombers leading the series 20-13.
A great deal of mutual respect between Colerain and St. X. Tyler Williams with Steve Specht long after game ended pic.twitter.com/VLh0ypNOhX
— Mike Dyer (@MikeDyer) September 3, 2016