Preview: Elder at Colerain

The FOX19 Friday Prep Rally makes it way to Cardinal Stadium for a West Side showdown between the Colerain Cardinals and the Elder Panthers.

Colerain enters the game as the top-ranked team in the latest / FOX19 Ohio Division I Rankings following an impressive opening-week win over Northmont.

Ben Gramke ElderElder, who moved up three spots in the rankings to No. 3 this week, defeated Winton Woods handedly in its first game.

The Panthers beat the Cardinals the past two seasons, but if they are going to do it this time they'll have to accomplish it at Colerain.

Cardinal Stadium – Cincinnati, OH
7:30 p.m. kickoff
TV: LIVE Pregame Show FOX19 (6:30 – 7:00)

This week's matchup is stacked with stellar players across the field. Few have the potential to make an impact on the game's outcome that Elder's Ben Coffaro possesses. The senior exploded in last week's season-opening win over Winton Woods by catching five balls for 137 yards and picking up another 90 yards on the ground while scoring three touchdowns. Colerain arguably fields the Tri-state's top trio of linebackers in seniors Andrew Smith and Jarrett Grace as well as junior Joe Bolden. All three are major Division I prospects and collectively they possess a great challenge for the Elder offense.

Colerain missed the playoffs last season for the first time since 1999. The Cardinals are 9-6 against the GCL South since 2004 and have not suffered a loss at Cardinal Stadium in that span. Elder only returns six starters from last year's team which advanced to the state semi-finals. The Panthers have won in each of the last two seasons in their match-up with the Cardinals. They beat them in the Regional Finals in 2008 and knocked them off last year in a nationally televised game from The Pit. For the second straight season Elder is playing with just nine games on the schedule.

With over 10,000 people expected on game night at Cardinal Stadium, getting the fans into the game early on and keeping them in it throughout will be invaluable against an inexperienced Trayion Durham ColerainPanthers' squad. After rushing for 2,226 yards during his first two seasons as a running back, Tyler Williams has moved to quarterback in his senior season. He needs to avoid mistakes and to continue to get comfortable under center. If the Cardinals are going to win this game they'll need to do it on the ground. Look for running backs Trayion Durham and Chris Davis to also play large factors in the offense. Defensively, containing Elder's rushing game will force the Panthers to throw the football. Defensive back Chris Dukes needs to capitalize on any mistakes by Elder's young signal caller.

The Panthers struggled to stop Winton Woods' Thomas Owens last week before he left the game with injury and will need to show up better against Colerain's Tyler Williams. The Cardinals are going to run, run, and run some more. Elder will need big defensive efforts from its senior leaders, Jake Lindsey and Kevin Hyland along with junior defensive end Rakim Johnson. Junior quarterback Ben Gramke was solid last week in his varsity debut throwing for 261 yards and four scores. If Elder is going to pull off a road win they will need their rebuilt offensive line (4 junior starters) to give Gramke time in the pocket and to be able to open up holes for Coffaro.

Both teams are going to be tough and playoff contenders in 2010. However, with home field advantage and experience greatly on their side it's going to be tough for Elder to knock off the Cardinals. Look for the young Panthers to hang early, but in the end Colerain pulls away and wins by 10 points or more.

Written by: Dan Clasgens,