The Solon gridders (0-4) found themselves in a 21-0 hole they never dug out of during a Division I, Region 1 playoff opener against St. Ignatius (3-3) on Friday night at George Finnie Stadium in Berea.
Behind a balanced attack, the host Wildcats, seeded fifth in the region, leaned on 180-pound junior running back Marty Lenehan for 171 yards rushing with three touchdowns and 6-foot-4 junior quarterback Joe Pfaff for 190 yards passing to defeat No. 12-seed Solon, 42-14.
Solon shot itself in the foot on its opening series, when the Comets went three-and-out with a punt that skyrocketed for negative-2 yards. St. Ignatius capitalized by converting a third-and-18 play down to the Solon 5-yard line, before Lenehan punched in a 3-yard score.
On the Wildcats’ next possession, Pfaff dialed up 6-foot junior receiver Steven Bodamer for a 48-yard touchdown on a downfield bomb in solo coverage for a 14-0 upper hand with 6:29 to go in the opening act.
Pfaff then broke the goal line on a QB sneak with 1:50 remaining in the stanza for a 21-0 Ignatius lead at the quarter mark.
The Wildcats had an opportunity to add insult to injury when they recovered a fumbled pigskin during a punt that hit off a Comet returner, but Ignatius couldn’t convert on an 18-yard field with senior kicker Declan Mangan missing a 25-yard attempt. Mangan also missed a 45-yard attempt later in the stanza.
Meanwhile, Solon put together an 11-play, 80-yard drive – with 205-pound senior running back Khalil Eichelberger establishing the run to move the sticks – that concluded with senior quarterback Pat McQuaide connecting with senior receiver Caesar Salerno on a 5-yard toss to trim the Comets’ deficit, 21-7, with 4:28 left in the half.
McQuaide would finish 21-of-35 passing for 142 yards, with six of his completions going to Salerno for 43 yards and four to junior receiver Zach Nathanson for 24 yards.
After the break, Lenehan answered on a 6-yard touchdown run for a 28-7 Wildcat lead with 7:22 to go in the third quarter.
Solon kept things interesting when Eichelberger scored on a 1-yard rush to cut the Comets’ deficit, 28-14, with 11:52 to play. Eichelberger finished the night with 22 carries for 101 yards and three catches for 39 yards.
But the Wildcats took care of business down the stretch, first with a 10-yard answer from Lenehan with 9:25 to play.
Then, Ignatius senior defensive back Cole Smith intercepted a Solon pass and returned it to the fringe of the red zone. Three plays later, Pfaff dialed up 6-foot-5 senior receiver Jonathan McNeil on a 23-yard touchdown toss with 7:04 to play for the 42-14 final.
Eliminated from the playoffs, Solon will return to regular season play with a home game against Greater Cleveland Conference foe Shaker Heights (1-5) at 7 p.m. Friday at Stewart Field.
Kent Roosevelt 28
University School 3
In an opening stanza consumed by turnovers, University School (1-6) managed to take a 3-0 lead during a Division II, Region 5 playoff opener against Kent Roosevelt (1-2) on Friday night in Portage County.
The No. 16-seed Rough Riders fumbled their opening kickoff return in US territory. Then the No. 17-seed Preppers fumbled on a drive where they appeared to be in business with their red-zone offense.
Later in the first quarter, Roosevelt fumbled again, on a punt return, which opened the doors for University junior kicker Evan Weybrecht to split the uprights on a 29-yard field goal for that 3-0 Prepper advantage with 5:47 to go in the frame.
But that was the only scoring US would be doing for the evening.
Roosevelt junior running back Quinten Upshaw answered on a 6-yard touchdown run for a 7-3 Rough Rider lead with 1:09 left in the first quarter.
Roosevelt lost a third fumble, this one in the red zone, to open the second quarter, but the Rough Riders made up for it with a 34-yard touchdown toss from senior quarterback Kristian Daetwyler to senior receiver Raheem Howard for a 14-3 lead on their next series.
University then lost a fumble on the first play of its ensuing drive, and Roosevelt senior lineman Jeremiah Jones scooped it up for a 27-yard score and a 21-3 lead with 8:30 to go in the half.
In the third quarter, Roosevelt junior back Ty Wright, who led the Rough Riders with 18 carries for 85 yards, found pay dirt on a 27-yard touchdown run for a 28-3 lead with 9:37 to go in the frame.
The Rough Riders were on the verge of doing more damage but lost a fourth fumble later in the third quarter, with US senior linebacker Bobby Ware recovering it inside his own 5-yard line.
But the Preppers’ offense couldn’t quite get much going all game with four turnovers of their own. Senior running back Nick Flowers finished with 26 carries for 94 yards, while junior tight end Joey Valerio had three catches for 20 yards.
East Liverpool 41
Gilmour Academy 14
The Gilmour Academy gridders (3-4) had a dream start and a nightmare finish during a Division IV, Region 13 playoff opener against East Liverpool (4-3) on Saturday night at Patterson Field in Columbiana County.
The No. 19-seed Lancers were dancing on the sideline when sophomore Tommy McCrone returned the opening kickoff 70 yards to the crib for a 6-0 lead out of the gates. The ensuing two-point-conversion toss was no good.
But that was most of Gilmour’s excitement for the night, as No. 14-seed East Liverpool scored the next six touchdowns in an eventual 41-14 triumph for the host Potters.
In particular, East Liverpool senior quarterback Howie Williams accounted for four touchdowns, including a 6-yard keeper to take a 7-6 lead by the quarter mark.
The Potters took control in the second stanza, first with 160-pound junior running back Devin Toothman flossing his way to a 35-yard score. Toothman found the cavities with 21 carries for 131 yards.
After that, Williams connected with sophomore brother Eric Williams on 22- and 19-yard touchdown tosses for a 28-6 Potter lead at the break.
The elder Williams, who had 76 yards passing and 103 yards rushing, scored on a 12-yard keeper in the third quarter, and then the younger Williams scored on a 100-yard fumble return for a 41-6 lead at the end of the stanza.
Gilmour 6-foot-2 junior quarterback Thomas Richardson stopped the running clock on a 51-yard touchdown run in the fourth, before he called his own number on a two-point conversion, for the 41-14 final.
Richardson finished with 62 yards passing along with 18 carries for 106 yards, while Lancer sophomore back Santino Harper had 11 carries for 61 yards, senior Michael Snelling had four catches for 25 yards and junior Mick Hopkins had two catches for 30 yards.
Gilmour coughed up the pigskin four times – two interceptions and two fumbles – while East Liverpool had just one turnover, when Lancer freshman defensive back Jake Kavcic intercepted a Potter pass.
Overall, East Liverpool outgained Gilmour, 347 yards to 240 yards.
The No. 21-seed Orange gridders (0-4) opted out of playing their Division IV, Region 13 playoff opener against No. 12-seed Lake Catholic (3-2) on Saturday night in Mentor.
The Lions were ready to compete, but a Lake Catholic player had tested positive for COVID-19 the previous week.
The Cougars had canceled their matchup against Padua Franciscan on Oct. 3, but the Lake County Board of Health had cleared them to compete in the postseason opener against Orange.
Orange levied the Ohio High School Athletic Association to postpone the game until Tuesday, Oct. 13, in an effort to steer clear of the Cougars for an entire two-week quarantine period, but its request was denied.
Orange, which is still in full-remote learning, decided to opt out upon the OHSAA denial.
In turn, Lake Catholic advances to play No. 5-seed Canton South (5-1) on the road this Saturday.
Orange will return to regular-season play with a road battle against Lutheran West (2-5) at 7 p.m. Friday in Rocky River.