So there’s good news and bad news.
The good news is that the Solon Comets football team has a high-powered offense but the bad news is the defense is still struggling. It was that weakness combined with some late turnovers that proved costly for the Comets in a 50-28 defeat to Stow-Munroe Falls last Friday night at Bulldog Stadium.
“It was a good football game,” said Comets’ coach Brian Wisniewski. “There was some firepower offensively early on and it was back and forth pretty much the whole way until the end of the fourth quarter.”
Solon (1-2) trailed 30-28 at the beginning of the fourth quarter and had a chance to regain the lead when it had the ball inside the red zone. The Comets could not capitalize as junior kicker Evan Funderburg missed a 42-yard field goal attempt.
Solon’s missed opportunity was the Bulldogs’ gain as they needed just two plays to widen their lead to 37-28 as senior quarterback Owen Bainbridge connected with senior wide receiver Jackson Norman on a 69-yard touchdown pass.
“Whenever Stow needed to make a play it seemed like they dialed up a good run or pass,” noted the first-year Solon coach. “We just didn’t close in on the runs when we needed to and then they made a couple of splash plays on the pass. The deep ones hurt us.”
The Comets tried to get back into the game as junior quarterback Charlie Bubonics hit sophomore wide receiver Brian McQuaide for a 50-yard completion to bring the ball back into Stow’s red zone. But the very next play saw the Comets fumble the ball and turn it over to Stow.
It was the first of three Solon turnovers in the final quarter.
The Comets’ defense forced a punt and the offense marched the ball downfield but once again fumbled the ball at the Bulldogs’ 24-yard line.
“Any time you give the ball to a team in your own territory that’s not good especially against a team like Stow,” said Wisniewski. “We didn’t take care of the ball and sometimes that stuff happens. When you’re trying to make plays sometimes you don’t and sometimes fumbles are a part of the game.”
This time Stow made the Comets pay as it put the game away on a 19-yard touchdown run by junior tailback Sal Romito.
Once again, Solon came undone by an inconsistent second half.
“We have to be a little more complimentary on offense and defense especially in the second half,” said Wisniewski. “When we got stops we didn’t get the offense to punch it in or we had the offense but we didn’t make the plays defensively. It’s all learning experiences for us and moving forward we have to make sure we play a more complete game.”
It was evident from the first snap that this contest had the makings of an old fashioned shootout.
Solon took a 7-0 lead when Bubonics found junior wide receiver Joel Kpassou in the end zone for a ten-yard pass.
The Bulldogs answered back on a 23-yard touchdown reception by Norman and converted a two-point conversion to take a 8-7 lead.
Solon engineered a four-play, 65-yard drive capped off by Bubonics throwing a 25-yard touchdown pass to McQuaide.
The Comets continued to have Bubonics and senior Andrew Mulvaney split time at quarterback, but Bubonics enjoyed the best game of his varsity career as he completed 19 passes out of 27 attempts for 306 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions.
The 6-foot-0 quarterback seemed more inclined to take some deep shots down the field.
“Charlie’s not afraid to take a chance and make a throw,” said Wisniewski of the junior quarterback. “I think he showed that on Friday. When he saw guys open or Stow defenders were even with our guys he wasn’t afraid to try and make the throw. I think we definitely saw that early on so he was very confident in his playmaking ability. When guys feel that way and they’ve got good receivers with good protections they make plays.”
While Bubonics did a good job commanding the offense, the Solon defense struggled all game to contain the Bulldogs. Stow finished the game totaling 581 yards of offense.
“I think it was just that Stow was very big upfront and that posed some problems for us,” said Wisniewski. “We had to be perfect upfront because if we weren’t then Stow was going to move the ball. It took advantage when we had to bring in guys to stop the run and they were able to throw it out and have some success. I think Stow executed what it did best and that’s get the ball to their guys and can make plays with that big line.”
The Comets’ pass rush had a tough time getting home against a formidable Stow offensive line and Bainbridge was wasting little time releasing the ball.
“Stow was getting the ball off quick,” said Wisniewski. “Some of those plays were broken plays where the quarterback was running it for the most part but I felt like their quarterback was getting the ball out of his hands pretty quick.”
Bainbridge picked apart the Solon defense completing 15 passes out of 25 attempts for 252 yards and two touchdowns while tossing two interceptions.
The loss to Stow marked the second game in which the Comets’ defense surrendered 500 or more yards of total offense to their opponent.
“It’s something we’ve been harping on since the beginning of the season which is to improve our techniques at each position,” said Wisniewski. “Whether it’s our tackling, our communication or different schematic things, the focus for us is to get better every week. We’ve got quite a few guys that are in there for the first time and now they’re getting these games under their belt and now we have to start cleaning up some of the mistakes so that way we can play a little bit better on defense.”
The Comets will now get ready for Greater Cleveland Conference play when they welcome conference rival Strongsville to Stewart Field on Sep. 10 at 7 p.m.