Wayne falls short in season-opening loss to Colerain

So much was new for Wayne football Friday night. Roosevelt Mukes walked the sideline for the first time as head coach after more than 25 years on staff. Cam Fancher, a receiver last year, started at quarterback for the first time.

What wasn’t new was that the Warriors showed they can still compete with other top Division I teams. Not enough went right for the Warriors, but Mukes and Fancher did not look at their 28-19 loss to Cincinnati Colerain as anything more than a loss. The Cardinals were the Division I runner-up last year.

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“It wasn’t bad, but we’ve got to continue to work on the things that we’ve got to fix,” Mukes said. “The good thing is they’re fixable.”

Things like missed connections in the passing game, executing in the kicking game, getting stops on third down. “Bottom line is if we make the plays we’re not having this discussion,” Mukes said.

Fancher said, “Overall it was all right. Offensively we just need to execute a little more — defense was solid. We’ve got a whole season ahead of us.”

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The Warriors scored first on a Fancher run but trailed 21-7 early in the third quarter. They responded with the kind of offensive execution that had been missing most of the game. After Jah’rod Lankford’s kickoff return to midfield, freshman RJ Mukes made a big first-down catch and Fancher scrambled to the 13. Two plays later Fancher hit Damiene Boles on a 10-yard slant for a touchdown to make the score 21-13 midway through the third quarter.

Wayne’s defense stopped run-oriented Colerain twice to give the offense another chance. Fancher hit Austin Mullins on a crossing pattern for a 51-yard gain to the three. On third-and-goal from the one, Fancher hit Mukes on an out pattern for a touchdown.

“I just saw he was playing way far in and stacking the box, so I went to our RPO and signaled the out route,” Fancher said.

The Warriors had to go for two. Fancher scrambled up the middle, was hit and reached the ball across the goal line. He was ruled down just short of the line, and the Warriors trailed 21-19 with 3:49 left.

Wayne tried an onside kick that didn’t travel the necessary 10 yards. Colerain took over and drove to a final score.

“You don’t want to leave anything in the bank,” Mukes said of the onside try. “He didn’t get it there, but that one play didn’t make or break the game.”

Fancher, a 6-foot-2 junior, completed 19 of 37 passes for 214 yards and two touchdowns. Mukes caught six passes and Mullins caught five.

“It was great being able to get out there and play the game I love,” Fancher said.

Colerain consistently stacked the box and dared the Warriors to throw. It took away the threat of senior running back Devin Nelson, who rushed for 1,098 yards last year. He carried it 10 times for 25 yards. Fancher had 14 carries for 34 yards mostly on scrambles and sacks. The Warriors threw the ball 37 times and ran it 25 for 59 yards. The offense became whatever Fancher could do running and throwing.

“He did good,” Mukes said. “He’s our guy, and we’re going to go with him.”

The night was emotional for Mukes for more than it just being his first game.

“It’s mixed emotions,” he said. “Tomorrow’s my dad’s birthday, and my dad passed away in ’16. But it’s not about me. It’s about the kids.”

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