Solon varsity football wins opener in thrilling fashion

Wide+receiver%2C+Trevon+Raphael+%28%2322%29%2C++getting+ready+to+play.
Wide receiver, Trevon Raphael (#22),  getting ready to play.

Wide receiver, Trevon Raphael (#22), getting ready to play.

Wide receiver, Trevon Raphael (#22), getting ready to play.

Jacob Novack, Writing Editor

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The Solon varsity football team returned to action this past Friday, opening the 2017-18 season at home against the Aurora Greenmen. Coming off a season in which they finished 10-2 and captured their second consecutive Greater Cleveland Conference title, the Comets hit the ground running as senior running back Thomas Wilks pushed ahead for a 13-yard run on the first play of the game. After the drive resulted in a punt, Solon regained possession after junior linebacker Jeff Barnett sacked Aurora quarterback Evan Fromwiller on fourth and 11.

 

Solon continued to lean on Wilks, as they did not run a pass play through the first six minutes of action. Wilks commented on his mentality when being counted on for production by his team.

 

“[Our team] has three words: attitude, effort and dependability,” he said. “I have the attitude and the effort, and they depend on me to run the ball and be successful. That’s all I have to do.”

 

With 4:20 left in the first quarter, senior quarterback Joe Cartellone connected with Wilks for his first touchdown throw of the season to put the Comets up 6-0. According to Solon Head Coach James McQuaide, Cartellone, a first-year starter, has had to work hard to gel with the rest of the team.

 

“Joe has worked with the receivers since last Feb.,” McQuaide said. “Everything leading up to the game is repetition through months of preparation to hopefully feel comfortable with each other as the season progresses.”

 

But the Comets couldn’t ease up, as a failed two-point conversion and an ensuing touchdown on the kickoff return gave the Greenmen a 7-6 lead. And on Solon’s next drive, senior Jesse (JT) Caver, normally a defensive back, was inserted at quarterback. Although he didn’t put up any points in his lone drive under center, Caver managed to connect with junior receiver Sam Bubonics on a 30-yard pass. According to McQuaide, Caver will continue to be a part of the QB rotation.

 

“[Caver] is a different type of player than Joe, and gives our opponents more to prepare for when playing us,” McQuaide said.

 

The rest of the first half was a virtual deadlock, with each team exchanging punts and an interception, and Aurora continued to hold their one point lead going into halftime. After Aurora received the ball to start the second half, senior defensive back Andrew Mason took an interception of Fromwiller to the end zone, only to have the pick six called back on a blindside block penalty. Solon retained the ball, but the drive was halted by a failed fourth down conversion.

 

On the following possession, junior defensive lineman Nate Lescovec recovered a fumble in Aurora territory, leading to a 15-yard Wilks touchdown run, making the score a 12-7 Solon lead. After being pinned back on their own 15-yard line following the kickoff, the Greenmen managed to march down the field and turn a fourth and seven into a touchdown pass, making the score 14-12 after a successful extra point. Solon then converted a fourth and one on the following drive to end the third quarter.

 

That drive ended on another failed fourth down, and Aurora got the ball with under 11 minutes left in the game. However, on the ensuing possession, Andrew Mason intercepted his second pass of the half, giving the Comets the ball at their own 47-yard line. A 20-yard pass from Cartellone to Bubonics followed by a 19-yard Wilks run got Solon in the red zone with under eight minutes on the clock. But failing to move the ball from the 5-yard line on third and goal forced Solon to send senior kicker (and former varsity soccer player) Michael Rutsky to the field to attempt a go-ahead field goal with 6:45 on the clock. Rutsky converted on a line-drive kick, giving Solon a 15-14 lead.

 

Rutsky elaborated on his mindset leading up to the big play.

 

“I mean, I was nervous. It’s my first year on the team. I didn’t know what to expect, but once [the kick] got up I knew it would be good.”

 

Following the kickoff, Solon managed to halt Aurora on a crucial fourth down, but then fumbled the ball only for the Greenmen to recover with 4:58 remaining in the game. The Greenmen started to move the ball down the field, but grew desperate on their own side of the field with around a minute left. With only 42 seconds on the clock, junior defensive back Nate Miller recovered a fumble caused by a botched Aurora lateral pass, sealing a 15-14 win for the Comets.

 

After the game, McQuaide commented on the status of the team.

 

“Our team played hard, and came back two different times when we fell behind to regain the lead,” McQuaide said. “We have a great deal to work on in our attention to detail of each guy doing their job on each play on offense, defense and special teams. This is a big week to see if our guys want to work to build on the success we had and improve at Twinsburg.”

 

The Comets take the field next on Friday, Sept. 1 at 7:00 p.m. to face the Twinsburg Tigers at Twinsburg Tiger Stadium.

Wide receiver, Trevon Raphael (#22), getting ready to play.

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