The Solon Comets had a season last year that many teams would envy. They made the state playoffs, and had a winning record, finishing a year at 6-5. While that may be acceptable for some teams, the tradition that Solon has demands better.
As the Comets open the 2014 football season, hopes are high again, as the Comets return eight defensive starters, including All-Ohio candidate John Sensibaugh at linebacker. If things come together offensively, Solon could be right back where they belong as one of the premier teams in the Cleveland area. Although MOST people agree that Solon may be a year away from being REALLY good, but this year's team is one that shouldn't be taken lightly.
Linebacker.... It's the one position where Solon really has some depth, as it may be a unit that is among the best in the area. Sensibaugh leads the group, but senior Alex Brown is almost as good. Juniors Zack Lesko and Tim Harmody will alternate at the other linebacker spot, while sophomore Jake McCurry saw some time there last season as a freshman. Another sophomore, Melvin Jackson, will also alternate in, along with splitting time at running back. This group will remind Solon fans of the great linebacker units of the past, as they are big, and can really run.
Quarterback.... The Comets return two seniors quarterbacks that both saw varsity action the last two years. Senior Ryan Gallagher should open as the starter, but senior Matt Laubscher will also see time. They both provide valuable experience in leading the Solon offense. They will be pushed by junior Johnny Mooney, and sophomore Joe Bubonics. Since Solon is trying to replace four seniors along the offensive line, the experience that Gallagher and Laubscher bring will be invaluable.
Offensive Line.... Solon loses four seniors from last year's team, and depth will be an issue this season. If they can stay healthy, it should be a good group. Senior Joe Rinicella, who missed last season due to injury, leads the group. Senior Brandon Haughton will also be one of the starters on the O-Line. Juniors Ben Peterson, Andy Piks, and sophomore Nate Westrich will be counted on to play heavy minutes. If the Comets suffer injuries, it could be a patchwork type unit. Many people may say that Solon will go as far as the offensive line takes them.
Scouting the other positions on the field, Solon looks solid at running back with junior Gil Barksdale, and sophomore Melvin Jackson. Both saw varsity action last season. In the secondary, it may be somewhat thin, but they will be athletic with senior Drew Fox leading the group. Barksdale and McCurry should see plenty of time at the safety position, with junior Kelan Eichelberger getting some time in the back end also. The main weapon in the receiving core could be two way player Tyree Seals. Seals will also double as one of the defensive ends. McCurry, Eichelberger and Fox will also see plenty of time, with a plethora of underclassmen fighting for playing time, including junior Kristian Kontul. The defensive line could be another strength for the Comets. Solon plays a 4-3 defense, where traditionally one defensive tackle is undersized and quick, while the other is the ultimate run stuffer. They have that in juniors James Miller and Ben Peterson. Peterson, a starter since his freshman year, will take on extra blockers with his 6'2" 270 pound frame, allowing the excellent linebackers to remain unblocked. Seals will be one of the defensive ends, and is ultra-athletic.
Solon will play in the always tough Northeast Ohio Conference. They, along with other teams in the conference, will be moving to the new Greater Cleveland Conference next season. With the NOC, the schedule will be brutal. Games against Hudson, Mentor and Brunswick, all state playoff qualifiers from last season await. An improved Strongsville team also makes an appearance on the schedule.
How good will Solon be?
If healthy, Solon will be solid, and will get better as the year goes along. If the injury bug hits, it's a crapshoot. The concern is depth, and finding playmakers on offense. If they can do that, along with the good defensive play they expect, Solon could be a sleeper in the NOC. Solon's vaunted freshman class of two years ago are now juniors, so now is the time to live up to the hype.
Again, if they stay injury free, they will be a tough out for anyone. Mentor and Hudson are the class of the NOC, and Brunswick returns all kind of firepower on offense. The Comets have the ability to go 7-3, which should assure them of yet another playoff appearance. Solon will be young, but with the amount of talent in the junior and sophomore classes, many Solon fans will be licking their chops for NEXT season.