SPRINGFIELD, Ohio – Colerain football coach Tom Bolden walked over to the near-side end zone and stared at the Evans Stadium scoreboard for a few moments late Friday night.
The scoreboard still showed the final score: Pickerington Central 41, Colerain 28.
And yet a disappointed but eternally energetic Bolden wanted to etch the score into his memory for a final time.
“We will back here next year,” Bolden said. “We will back. We just got to learn from it and take that next step again next year.”
PHOTO GALLERY: Pickerington Central 41, Colerain 28
On an uncharacteristic night of five turnovers, the Cardinals were emotional yet didn’t make excuses in the program’s sixth state semifinals appearance.
“Five turnovers – you can’t do it,” Bolden said. “You can’t give a good team that. They were turnovers that gave them a short field. That’s the kicker.”
Pickerington Central (13-1) scored 21 points in the fourth quarter en route to its third Division I state final appearance next week. The Tigers will play Mentor in the state final at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium at 8 p.m. Dec. 1 in Canton.
For Colerain (11-3), there is plenty to remember from this season.
The Cardinals started 0-2 but persevered in winning the regional title, earning state and national rankings and also winning its 18th consecutive Greater Miami Conference.
“It’s always been a dream to represent Colerain football, and to come out here and to make it this far is huge,” said Colerain senior linebacker Dan Bolden, who had 12 tackles unofficially in his final sanctioned high school football game.
Junior linebacker Luke Bolden - Dan's cousin and Tom's son - had a game-high 15 tackles.
Offensively, the Cardinals received a significant boost from junior running back JJ Davis, who had 244 yards rushing and three touchdowns.
Davis scored on runs of 70, 52 and 68 yards. His 68-yarder with 2:23 left in the third gave Colerain a 21-20 lead – its final scoring advantage of the night.
“He’s unbelievable when he gets out in space,” Tom Bolden said. “They have a lot of fast kids on their team and they couldn’t catch him. He’s that guy. He can absolutely go – there is no question about that.”
But Pickerington Central had plenty of playmakers on its side. Sophomore quarterback Demeatric Crenshaw had 117 yards rushing and four touchdowns.
Senior defensive back/wide receiver Xavier Henderson, a Michigan State commit, made an impact on both sides of the ball. He had a team-high 11 tackles and carried the ball 12 times for 66 yards.
After the Tigers went ahead 27-21 with 9:51 left, Pickerington Central recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff. Four plays later, Crenshaw scored his third touchdown of the night to give the Tigers a 34-21 lead.
Colerain senior quarterback Gunnar Leyendecker found a wide-open junior Syncere Jones for a 52-yard touchdown pass connection to close the gap to 34-28 with 7:25 left.
But Henderson’s interception later in the fourth gave the Tigers the ball at the Colerain 3. Crenshaw then scored his fourth touchdown with three minutes left to give the Tigers the 41-28 lead.
“They’ve got size and they’ve got speed,” Tom Bolden said. “Hats off to them.
“I love my kids to death – the resiliency they showed and things like that. Every time we went down, we answered. There was never any quit in these kids. They’ve done more this year than I think anybody expected of them. I am proud of them.”
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