Solon wasn’t favored to win.
Or at least that was the notion among Division I coaches in Region 1, who already voted to seed Medina (3-3) at No. 8 and Solon (0-3) at No. 12 in the 16-team playoff bracket that was released last Thursday.
But the Solon gridders portrayed themselves as the superior team through three quarters during a Greater Cleveland Conference road battle in a regular-season finale on Friday night at Ken Dukes Stadium.
Behind three touchdown runs by 205-pound senior running back Khalil Eichelberger, the Comets owned a 20-10 upper hand going into the final stanza. The third-year veteran was having himself a night with 29 carries for 207 yards along with three catches for 59 yards.
But the host Battling Bees did what was necessary to keep Eichelberger and the Comets out of the end zone in the fourth quarter and came from behind for a 24-20 victory, thanks to a fourth-down touchdown toss with 3:43 to play.
Eichelberger opened the night with a 7-yard touchdown run, followed by an extra point by senior Justin Covey, for a 7-0 lead with 6:59 to go in the first.
The Medina gridders answered with a 7-yard touchdown by 215-pound senior back Nathan Spatny with 2:59 left in the opening frame and then a 21-yard field goal by senior kicker Ryan Miller for a 10-7 lead with 9:40 remaining in the half.
Solon 5-foot-11 senior safety Pat McQuaide then came up with his second interception of the season at his own 40-yard line to open the door for another 7-yard touchdown run by Eichelberger with 21 seconds left in the half for a 13-10 Comet advantage at the break. The ensuing two-point conversion attempt by the Comets was no good.
The Comets’ defense – led by 6-foot-2, 250-pound senior end Najee Story’s seven tackles – then stopped Medina’s fourth-and-one attempt to open the third quarter, and Eichelberger turned around and punched in a 17-yard touchdown rush for a 20-10 upper hand with 9:59 to go in the stanza.
Solon’s offense was geared to do more damage to open the fourth quarter, driving down to the Medina 17-yard line, but negative plays resulted in a turnover on downs at the 35-yard line.
Medina put together a 65-yard drive that resulted in a 15-yard touchdown toss from 6-foot-6 junior quarterback Drew Allar to 6-foot-1 junior receiver Drew Hensley to cut the Bees’ deficit, 20-17, with 9:26 to play. Allar finished 14-of-27 passing for 135 yards.
Then, after a three-and-out punt by Solon, Medina’s offense went back to work on a 55-yard field and put together a 12-play drive that concluded with a fourth-and-three pass from Allar to 6-foot-2, 225-pound senior back Dorian Boyland for a 6-yard touchdown and a 24-20 lead with 3:43 to play. Boyland also had 10 carries for 57 yards for the night.
On Solon’s final drive, a quarterback scramble by McQuaide came up 1 yard short of moving the chains, and the Comets turned the ball over on downs at their own 40-yard line in defeat.
Overall, Solon outgained Medina, 305 yards to 281 yards, with 18 first downs. McQuaide finished 14-of-22 passing for 113 yards, with four completions to 5-foot-9 sophomore Joel Kpassou for 22 yards.
Also in Solon’s receiving corps, 5-foot-10 freshman Bryce West, 5-foot-10 senior Caesar Salenro and 6-foot-1 junior tight end Jakob Oldenburg had two catches apiece for short gains, while 6-foot-2 junior Andrew Mulvaney had one reception for 14 yards.
Solon football is 0-3 for the first time since 2003, when the Comets turned around their season with seven straight wins to make the playoffs.
Up next, the No. 12-seed Comet gridders will hit the road for a first-round playoff meeting against No. 5-seed St. Ignatius (1-3) at 7 p.m. Friday at Baldwin Wallace University’s George Finnie Stadium in Berea.