Solon at St. Vincent-St. Mary
Solon (0-0) is going to find out where it stacks up when the Comets open their 2020 season on the road against Division III AP No. 12-ranked St. Vincent-St. Mary (2-1) at 7 p.m. Thursday at Green Street Stadium in Akron.
With a pause on their athletics, the Solon gridders didn’t officially start practice until Aug. 31 and in turn have had to water down their schemes for a more simplistic approach to the season.
Offensively, Solon returns a pair of third-year starters in 5-foot-11 senior quarterback Pat McQuaide, who completed 67 percent of his passes for 2,257 yards last season, and 205-pound senior running back Khalil Eichelberger, who averaged 5.8 yards per carry for 1,098 yards in 2019.
But the Comets will likely be geared to establish the run behind a veteran offensive line that includes 6-foot-4, 250-pound senior tackle Najee Story, a Northwestern commit, while the passing game could take a minute to develop with an all-rookie receiving corps.
Conversely, Solon’s defense should be able to stop the run with three experienced linemen and a pair of mean junior linebackers in 215-pounder Markell Green, 76 tackles last year, and 185-pounder Jakob Oldenburg, 56 tackles and three interceptions in 2019.
St. Vincent, under third-year head coach Bobby Nickol, who owns a 17-7 record at the helm, is coming off a 35-7 victory against Louisville (1-2) in a game the Fighting Irish had 315 yards of offense. Irish 205-pound junior running back George Linberger carried the load with 17 rushes for 125 yards and two touchdowns.
But perhaps St. Vincent’s main threat was 5-foot-9 senior playmaker Darrian Lewis, who had a 77-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, a 38-yard touchdown toss and three catches for 50 yards, not to mention four punt returns for 134 yards.
The Irish’s lone loss through three games was a 42-28 shortcoming against Division II AP No. 12-ranked Benedictine (2-1), whose lone loss was a 31-24 effort against Division II AP No. 1-ranked Archbishop Hoban (3-0).
Solon and St. Vincent will be meeting for the first time on the gridiron.
TONY’S TAKE: Solon wins, 22-21.
Chardon at Riverside
Chardon (3-0) will have its toughest test of the regular season when the Division III AP No. 1-ranked Hilltoppers travel to take on Division II Riverside (3-0) for a Western Reserve Conference showdown at 7 p.m. Friday in Painesville.
The Chardon boys are hoping to get their offense rolling in the first quarter after being shut out in the opening frame the past two weeks. Against Kenston, the Hilltoppers trailed, 6-0, at the quarter mark, before putting together a 37-6 victory.
In that game, senior running back James Pettyjohn carried the bulk of the load with 11 rushes for 138 yards, while senior quarterback Drew Fetchik was four-of-six passing for 32 yards and had nine carries for 62 yards.
Defensively, Chardon continued to shine, giving up just 138 yards, with Vince Ferrante collecting a fumble and fellow senior linebacker Cade McDevitt collecting an interception.
Riverside, under 11th-year head coach Dave Bors, who owns a 54-42 record at the helm, is coming off a 44-14 victory against Perry (2-1), in a game that the Beavers’ defense didn’t give up any touchdowns – Perry’s two scores came on an 80-yard kickoff return and a 17-yard interception.
That said, Riverside’s defense, which returned eight starters from 2019, has yet to give up any points this season. The Beavers’ defense is headlined by 6-foot-4, 250-pound senior Alex Sigh and 6-foot-3, 270-pound senior Matt Watson on the line and 6-foot-3, 205-pound senior Matt Spofford in the secondary.
Offensively, Riverside has 10 veteran starters, with 5-foot-8 senior quarterback Dom Lulow having the keys in his possession.
In 2019, Chardon defeated Riverside, 20-17.
TONY’S TAKE: Chardon wins, 17-10.
Eastlake North at Kenston
Kenston (1-1) will be hoping to let its wounds heal when the Bombers host Division II league foe Eastlake North (2-1) at 7 p.m. Thursday in Bainbridge Township.
The Bombers are coming off a 37-6 licking from Division III AP No. 1-ranked Chardon – their worst loss since a 2-8 campaign in 2016 – in a game their lone score came on a 41-yard fumble return by junior linebacker Braden Krupp.
While Kenston’s offense didn’t produce any points last week, 205-pound senior running back Stanley Sell had 13 carries for 79 yards against a Hilltopper defense that held its first two opponents to negative yards rushing.
Defensively, the Bombers had some nice things going for them in the first half, including a fourth-and-one stop at their own 10-yard line, but they were unable to close off the perimeters against Chardon’s jet.
Eastlake North, under sixth-year head coach Shawn Dodd, who owns a 20-34 record at the helm, is coming off a 34-0 skunking of Madison (0-3), a team Kenston beat, 21-14, the previous week.
North’s offense posted 410 yards against Madison, with Ranger 5-foot-8 senior quarterback Chris Molica tucking the pigskin 19 times for 188 yards and three touchdowns as the fastest guy on his team.
Defensively, the Rangers held Madison to just six first downs with the crux of their veteran experience coming from their linebacker corps on that side of the pigskin.
Kenston owns a 3-2 series advantage against North, including a 45-7 victory last season.
TONY’S TAKE: North wins, 28-21.
Chagrin Falls at Perry
The Chagrin Falls boys (3-0) will leave the comforts of their home gridiron for the first time this season when they hit the road to take on Chagrin Valley Conference foe Perry (2-1) at 7 p.m. Thursday at Alumni Stadium in Lake County.
The Tigers are 3-0 for the first time since 2012 after a 24-14 victory against Villa Angela-St. Joseph (0-3) last week, when 140-pound senior running back Cam O’Connor moved the chains with 18 carries for 155 yards. Chagrin Falls gained 306 yards of offense overall but did lose a pair of fumbles.
Defensively, Chagrin Falls held the Vikings to 200 yards, with senior linebacker Josh Norton and senior defensive back Miguel Demastus coming up with interceptions.
Perry, under 14th-year head coach Matt Rosati, who owns a 108-43 record at the helm, is coming off its first loss of the season, 44-14, against Riverside (3-0) in a game that the Pirates struggled with just 23 yards rushing and 65 yards passing.
Perry’s two touchdowns came on an 80-yard kickoff return by 5-foot-10 senior Brandon Mason and a 17-yard interception return by 6-foot-2 junior linebacker Javin Richards.
Defensively, the Pirates surrendered 283 yards rushing and 128 yards passing.
But Perry is no pushover. The Pirates put together a 37-2 victory against Harvey, a team that Chagrin Falls beat, 16-6.
In 2019, Perry beat Chagrin Falls, 45-17.
TONY’S TAKE: Perry wins, 28-17.
Orange at Wickliffe
Orange (0-1) will be on a mission to put together a second half when the Lions travel to take on the Division VI AP No. 8-ranked Wickliffe Blue Devils (3-0) at 7 p.m. Thursday at Memorial Stadium in Lake County.
The Lions owned a 13-0 halftime lead against Independence (3-0) last week, before those Blue Devils stormed back with three touchdowns in the third quarter to hand Orange a 21-13 defeat.
Orange senior quarterback Zak Basharat was 11-of-22 passing for 95 yards in that game, with four completions going to 6-foot-3 senior Tyler Hoffman for 53 yards, while 190-pound senior running back Greg Beard had 21 carries for 101 yards and four catches for 50 yards.
Defensively, Orange came up with a pair of interceptions, including a 28-yard pick-six by 6-foot-2 senior Stephen Daly, but the Lions also gave up 181 yards passing.
Wickliffe, under 10th-year head coach Marce Porcello, who owns a 49-48 record at the helm, is coming off a 45-13 victory against Cuyahoga Heights (1-2) in a game that 6-foot-3, 220-pound senior running back Chase Fortkamp rumbled off 149 yards on just seven carries, including 61-, 24- and 25-yard touchdowns.
Wickliffe also had an 88-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by 6-foot-1, 195-pound senior Isaiah Bolon.
Defensively, Wickliffe has surrendered just two touchdowns through three games.
In 2019, Orange beat Wickliffe, 28-14.
TONY’S TAKE: Orange wins, 35-28.
Harvey at West Geauga
West Geauga (2-1) will be fixing to get back to the dub column when the Wolverines host the Division III Harvey Red Raiders (1-2) in league action at 7 p.m. Thursday at Howell Field in Chester Township.
The Wolverines are coming off a 28-14 loss against Geneva (3-0) in a game that was tied, 0-0, at halftime, before Eagle 250-pound senior fullback Charlie Taylor went off for three touchdowns in the third quarter. And then West Geauga couldn’t get off the field on fourth down when it needed to down the stretch.
Offensively, junior quarterback Danny Stewart connected with 6-foot-1 junior Torry Stazzone on 25- and 27-yard touchdowns, while 175-pound senior running back Trae Zimmermann had 156 yards rushing.
Harvey, under first-year head coach Mickey Mohner, is coming off a 34-20 victory against Lakeside (0-3) in a game that Red Raider 6-foot-2, 175-pound senior quarterback Jaden Debevec led his team to victory with big plays down the stretch.
Defensively, Harvey surrendered 355 yards rushing with no answer for Lakeside sophomore running back J’shon Sanders, who had 32 carries for 275 yards.
In 2019, West Geauga defeated Harvey, 49-16.
TONY’S TAKE: West G wins, 24-21.
University School at Lake Catholic
University School (1-2) will have its hands full when the Preppers hit the road to take on the Division IV Lake Catholic Cougars (2-1) at 7 p.m. Thursday at Mentor High School.
The maroon-and-black gridders are coming off a 35-28 victory against Lutheran East (0-3) in a game they led, 35-6, through three quarters, thanks to the ground attack of 175-pound running back Nick Flowers, who scored three touchdowns.
Defensively, University’s starters only got scored on once, with senior linebacker Bobby Ware collecting a 55-yard interception for a touchdown, as well as a fumble recovery on a kickoff, while junior linebacker Alex Weinberg also had an interception.
Lake Catholic, under second-year head coach Marty Gibbons, who owns a 6-7 record at the helm, is coming off a 42-35 victory against Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin (0-2) in a game the triumphant Cougars had 495 yards of offense, including 390 yards rushing.
Lake Catholic dual-threat quarterback Joe Malchesky, a 6-foot-1, 185-pound senior, led the way with 27 carries for 226 yards and three touchdowns, when he wasn’t busy completing 11 of 17 passes for 105 yards.
Lake Catholic’s lone loss was a 31-15 affair against Division V AP No. 1-ranked Kirtland (3-0) in week one.
University and Lake Catholic are new opponents.
TONY’S TAKE: Lake Catholic wins, 35-21.
Gilmour Academy at Hawken School
A backyard rivalry is brewing between Gilmour Academy (1-2) and Hawken School (0-0), who are set to collide on the Hawks’ home turf at 7 p.m. Thursday at Walton Stadium in Chester Township.
The visiting Lancers, under sixth-year head coach Chris Kosiorek, who owns a 30-26 record at the helm, are coming off a 42-34 loss against Garfield Heights Trinity in a game they owned a 28-14 lead midway through the third quarter.
Offensively, 458 yards wasn’t enough, but that effort was headlined by 6-foot-2 junior quarterback Thomas Richardson, who had 25 carries for 165 yards with three touchdowns. Also, he completed nine of 16 passes for 137 yards with a touchdown.
Defensively, Gilmour couldn’t stop Trinity’s aerial attack, which featured 293 yards on 10 completions for four touchdowns.
The Hawks, under third-year head coach Brian Stephenson, are set to make their season debut with 25 guys on their roster, including seven freshmen.
Offensively, Hawken returns 6-foot-1, 195-pound junior quarterback Terrence Robinson, who completed 55.2 percent of his passes for 1,438 yards and 15 touchdowns last season. His favorite target, 6-foot senior Cooper Jared, is back with 33 catches for 375 yards from 2019.
The Hawks also return a pair of running backs in 165-pound senior Zach Miller, who had 167 carries for 816 yards last year, and 135-pound sophomore Dominic Johnson, who had 71 carries for 572 yards.
Defensively, Hawken graduated its top two tacklers from 2019, but 6-foot, 225-pound senior lineman Zach Reitman will be a bear in the trenches. He had 43 tackles, five for losses, forced a fumble and recovered two fumbles last year.
In 2019, Gilmour defeated Hawken, 41-14.
TONY’S TAKE: Gilmour wins, 28-24.