COLERAIN TOWNSHIP, Ohio – Colerain football coach Tom Bolden was speaking with reporters at Cardinal Stadium Friday night when suddenly his quarterback emerged.
“We’re pretty darn explosive,” Bolden explained. “We probably left some points out there. And this guy’s pretty good.”
Bolden put his arm around that guy. No. 2 is the “heart and soul” of the team as Bolden likes to say.
It was none other than smiling Deante Smith-Moore. The Colerain senior quarterback rushed 15 times for 220 yards and two touchdowns, including an 80-yarder in the third quarter.
Colerain just defeated visiting St. Xavier 35-9 in a Division I, Region 4 quarterfinal. It was the final time Colerain will play at Cardinal Stadium this season.
“Our defense is just doing great,” Bolden said. “I love these kids to death. I love this community to death.”
Colerain (11-0) had 355 yards of total offense and limited the Bombers (5-6) to 130 yards on the ground.
Colerain senior Ivan Pace Jr. added two touchdown carries and tied senior linebacker Luke Bolden with a game-high 12 tackles.
“No disrespect to the (Fairfield junior running back JuTahn) McClain and all that stuff, but Ivan Pace is the best all-around football player in the city, probably in the state of Ohio and probably in a lot of places,” Bolden said. “He’s that guy. He’s a dude.”
Colerain advances to play Milford (9-2) in a regional semifinal Nov. 9. The neutral site will be announced Sunday by the Ohio High School Athletic Association.
Colerain, the state’s top-ranked Division I football team, accomplished mission No. 1. Emphatically.
"It's going to be tough (to beat Colerain),” St. Xavier coach Steve Specht said. “They are going to be a tough out this year. I want to see that trophy back down here. We want one in Region 4. Tom is a friend of mine. I want him to win one. They are going to be a tough out because they are a really good football team."
The Cardinals improved to 20-0 in first round games. Colerain's first-round success is tops among any of the 717 Ohio high school football programs in the 46-year history of the playoffs.
Colerain allowed a safety on its first offensive play of the game but that was basically the only significant miscue.
After that, the Cardinals scored 35 unanswered points, including a 6-yard carry from senior tailback JJ Davis.
“We’re like a four-headed monster,” senior tailback Syncere Jones said. “If you lock one down we have another. If you lock him down, we have another. We all have our special traits. Plus, we have played together for four years so our chemistry is great.”
St. X scored late in the fourth quarter when junior Matthew Rueve found senior Chris Payne for a 30-yard pass connection.
Payne had 34 carries for 136 yards in his final high school game.
“Chris Payne was a warrior tonight,” Specht said. “Chris Payne played so hard tonight. I am going to miss him a lot. I am going to miss this senior group. But, Chris Payne – he has seen grown so much over the four years at St. Xavier. I couldn’t be more proud.
"Take away my own kids (Hayden and Cameron), I don’t know that I am more proud of anyone I have ever coached. Chris Payne has come so far and he’s got a bright future at the next level at wherever he chooses to go,” Specht said.
Friday was the 38th meeting between the two programs since 1984.
Friday’s game was one of the nation’s top 10 games to watch this week by MaxPreps. It was the 14th time Colerain and St. X played in the postseason.
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