DeShawn Pace Leads Colerain To The Field

The second season starts Friday night as the 2019 OHSAA Playoffs get underway. We look at the matchups in Division I Region 4 as eight teams out of Southwest Ohio get ready to take center stage.

DIVISION I – REGION 4

#8 MASON (5-5) @ #1 ST. XAVIER (8-2)

The Mason Comets started the season 0-3 but enter the playoffs on a two-game winning streak. However, in their five wins, only one team, Princeton, had a record above .500.  

Can they pull off the upset against the Bombers? If so, they’ll have to stop a strong Bombers offense especially in the passing game.

This season Comets head coach Brian Castner has seen his team at the back of the Greater Miami Conference in overall defense giving up over 300 yards a game and just over 21 points a game. Leading the way is senior linebacker Jack Haglage who has 62 total tackles. Junior defensive lineman Nick Wadsworth will have to add to his team leading four sacks and put pressure on Bombers quarterback Matthew Rueve to have a chance to keep the Comets in the game.

Offensively the Comets look to senior quarterback Collin Brown who has passed for over 1,500 yards, 15 touchdowns, but eight interceptions. His main target has been senior receiver Alec Dardis (42 REC, 478 YDS, 6 TDs) while the running game is led by junior Nolan McCormick (619 yds, 9 TDs).

The Bombers have been solid on offense scoring just over 29 points a game on average relying heavy on throwing the ball with an average of 271 yards a game. Senior quarterback and first year starter Matthew Rueve, is one of the top players in the region hitting 65.9-percent of his throws for 2,687 yards, 25 touchdowns and only four interceptions. His main targets have been junior Liam Clifford, a Penn State pledge (72 REC, 1,093 Yds, 12 TDs) and senior tight end Marshall Lang, a Northwestern pledge (72 REC, 820 YDS, 8 TDs). Running the ball, the Bombers look mainly to senior Kellen Newman (659 YDS, 7 TDs).

On defense St. Xavier has bent but held firm in giving up an average of 9.1 points a game against a very solid schedule. Leading the way are linebackers Matthew Devine (78 tackles), Noah Taylor (67 tackles) and TJ O’Malley (65 tackles). Combined the trio has posted 15 sacks on the season and get help up front from defensive linemen Giovanni Albanese with 63 tackles and seven sacks and Jacob Dubord with 54 tackles and 4.5 sacks.

The winner advances to play the winner of Elder and Lakota West in the second round.

#5 LAKOTA WEST (7-3) @ #4 ELDER (8-2)

Lakota West fans were excited when the Firebirds hired Tom Bolden away from conference rival Colerain and for good reason. Bolden has the Firebirds in the playoffs for the first time since 2014.

However, their assignment is not an easy one with a road game against Elder.

The Firebirds are improved on defense and offense under Bolden this year. Defensively, they are giving up just over 100 yards rushing per game and an average of 19 points per game. They will look to future Cincinnati Bearcats linebacker Daved Jones (48 tackles, 3.5 sacks), Isaac Kolosik (54 tackles, 2.5 sacks) and Jackson Kuwatch (53 tackles 2 sacks) to keep the Panthers offense in check.

On offense, it’s no surprise they lean heavy running the football with an average of 170 yards per game. This could be their advantage in the game as the Panthers have struggled stopping the run giving up just under 200 yards per game on average.

Senior running back David AFARI is the main offensive weapon with 941 yards rushing and 16 touchdowns and will need to have a big game if the Firebirds plan to advance.

Elder will bring their high-powered offense into the game with senior quarterback Matthew Luebbe leading the way with his arm and legs. On the season, Luebbe has rushed for 1,099 yards and 11 touchdowns while also passing for 2,064 yards and 18 scores. Luebbe has three targets with over 400 yards receiving led by future Ohio State tight end Joe Royer with 914 yards and 10 touchdowns.

While Elder has struggled stopping the run, they are stingy giving up points having given up a total of 61 points on the season.

Lakota West is improved but looks like a team still a year away.

#7 HAMILTON (5-5) @ #2 FAIRFIELD (9-1)

On paper this game would look like a runaway for Fairfield. However, this is a rematch from a Week Four game that saw Hamilton fight back in the fourth quarter only to fall 34-27 in the end.

No matter the outcome, Hamilton fans have waited a long time to get back in the playoffs last qualifying in 2010. After going 1-9 last season, head coach Nathan Mahon turned things around as no one would have predicted the Big Blue would be playing in Week 11.

Hamilton on defense has a weakness in giving up 200 yards per game rushing. They’ve also given up 213 points on the season. Leading the Big Blue on defense is a pair of senior linebackers in Luke Mattia with 91 total tackles and Jayden Marshall with 77 tackles and 3.5 sacks.

On offense it starts with junior quarterback Quincy Simms-Marshall who has passed for 1,225 yards and 11 touchdowns on the season. Junior wide receiver Daryan Bowling is the main target with 557 yards and four scores and sophomore running back Kaleb Johnson leads the ground game with 823 yards and nine touchdowns.

Fairfield head coach Jason Krause has guided the Indians to a 9-1 record with their only loss coming last week in overtime against Colerain.

The Indians enter the playoffs as the top team on offense and defense in the Greater Miami Conference.

Leading the way on defense are senior LJ France and junior Brandon Smith as both players have posted 10.5 sacks on the season. Overall, Krause has his defense giving up only 10.6 points a game on average.

But offense gets all the attention when you talk about Fairfield with running back Jutahn McClain leading the way with 1,800 yards and 21 touchdowns on the season. The Kentucky pledge is one of the top players in Ohio and a threat to score anytime he touches the ball.

Quarterback Sawiaha Ellis is a great athlete playing quarterback and has shown why Toledo is looking forward to adding him to the mix next season. On the year Ellis has passed for 1,013 yards and five touchdowns but has also thrown five interceptions. Using his legs, Ellis has rushed for 446 yards and nine scores.

#6 PRINCETON (6-4) @ #3 COLERAIN (9-1)

If Hamilton fans have been waiting to get back to the playoffs, Princeton fans have waited longer last qualifying in 2007. The Vikings entered the season with a big target on their back with several future Division One college players on their roster. Their four losses came to three playoff teams including their opponent Colerain. In that Week Four game, Princeton fell 23-14 to the Cardinals on the road.

Head coach Mike Daniels has his team believing they can win and make a run. Now, its on their shoulders to play solid defense and keep their offensive attack churning behind an offensive line that features future Ohio State Buckeye Paris Johnson Jr. and under ranked tackle Vincent Munlin Jr on the other side.

After starting the season with JyJaden Horton at quarterback, Daniels has turned to Dorian Durham the past three weeks. On the season Durham has thrown for 839 yards and 10 touchdowns with only four interceptions with his main target the past two weeks being senior Sterling Berkhalter with 231 receiving yards and four scores in those games. Horton gave the Vikings a threat running the ball but has seen a move over to defense. Junior back Thomas Boyd is a power back with 524 yards on the season and 10 touchdowns.

The Vikings also have star power on defense with future Buckeye Darrion Henry (6 sacks) and future Cincinnati Bearcats linebacker Jaheim Thomas (5.5 sacks) leading the way.

For Colerain head coach Shawn Cutright taking over a team that came a game short of winning a state title might have put unneeded pressure on him and his staff. Instead, things continued to roll for the Cardinals as they went 9-1 with another GMC championship.

While they may not have the star power names of Princeton, the Cardinals are a team that continues playing stout defense behind a run control offense that grinds down the clock.

Junior quarterback Freddie Johnson has been balanced throwing for 401 yards and four touchdowns while also rushing for 566 yards and nine scores. Two-way standout Jaylen Thomas has rushed for 704 yards and six scores and Hamzah Abdul-Waheed has added 560 yards and five scores as well.

On defense the stars are a pair of future Cincinnati Bearcats in senior Deshawn Pace who can play on both sides of the ball but stars on defense with 47 total tackles and three interceptions and junior defensive lineman Dontay Corleone who has six sacks to go with 40 tackles.

As you can see, all four games bring great story lines and should make for an exciting opening weekend of playoff football in Division One.

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Dave Berk

Team publisher and recruiting analyst for Scout.com from 2002-2017. Founded Dave Berk Consulting (DaveBerkConsulting.com), a football recruiting consulting company focused on helping families through the recruiting process in 2016. Founded First Star Football Report in fall of 2018. Has appeared on national, regional and local television and radio including NFL Network, FOX Sports Radio, Sporting News Radio, 700 WLW, 980 WONE, WCPO CH9 and more. Provided recruiting analysis for FOX Sports Ohio weekly high school game of the week in Southwest Ohio area and was an analyst for the Time Warner Sports (Spectrum Sports) Ohio National Signing Day show.

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