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Comets, Canton McKinley tangle in opener
Comets, Canton McKinley tangle in opener
By STEVE NOVAK
The 2008 Solon football schedule is a journey, and head coach Jim McQuaide is a navigator who doesn't think much at all about short cuts.
The Comets open up their season Saturday when they travel to Canton for a non-conference matchup against one of the most storied high school programs in Ohio -- the Bulldogs of Canton McKinley -- at 7:30 p.m. The game against the Fedearl League team is the first in school history.
It's the first time that the Solon team under the tutelage of Coach McQuaide has ever faced McKinley. McQuaide, in no uncertain terms, said last week that the game is an opportunity.
"In any conversation when you talk about great teams in Ohio football, Canton McKinley has to be mentioned," he said. "I feel fortunate to play them. Canton McKinley is one of the top football programs, but we want to show that we can be among the top, too."
Some would argue that Solon is already one of the top programs in the state. The Comets are coming off a 9-3 season in 2007. The team has qualified for the post-season playoffs for the past nine years in a row.
The McKinley game is only the first of many stops along their 2008 journey where there are no short cuts or easy roads in sight. After Week 1, Solon will play Massillon Jackson, Mentor and then Mayfield.
Solon will have a new signal caller this season. After the graduation of Zack Brillhart, McQuaide has chosen Jake Voigt, a 5-foot-11, 200-pound junior, to be the 2008 quarterback. The Solon coach said Voigt and other new members of the backfield are already showing a lot of promise.
"They're getting better," he said. "We just played (a scrimmage game against) Warren Harding, and we look OK. But now we've got to get out there and play. That's what we have to do."
Another Saturday game this week features the annual neighborhood rivalry of Hawken School and University School. The two private institutions have worked their schedules for the past several years so that this is their opening game.
"This is our Ohio State versus Michigan," Hawken head coach Cliff Walton said. "That's our big rivalry. That's what it is."
Hawken finished 2007 with a 5-5 record. Graduation left Walton with only five seniors on his team. The team is young, but Walton is a veteran of more than 30 years of head coaching. Having young players is something he's been through many times before.
Much of the Hawks' starting offense will feature new faces. Walton said he has tapped 5-foot-10, 180-pound senior Zach McMains as quarterback. He said McMains has both the speed and the passing ability to get the ball to the Hawks' receiving corps.
The Preppers finished with a 6-4 mark last season. Coach Jim Stephens said he recently watched Hawken during a scrimmage and said one thing he noticed was the youth and the size of this year's Hawks.
"Anyone watching the start of the game (this Saturday) would notice that we have a distinct advantage, as far as physical size is concerned," Stephens said. "But Hawken has an excellent coach. He always has a good game plan, and they always play hard. We can't take anything for granted."
Stephens said that during one of his team's scrimmages, he was impressed by the play of backup quarterback Richard Morrow. As a result he said that the projected starting quarterback, Dan Frate, along with Morrow, can both be expected to share playing time during the opening weeks of the season. Both Frate and Morrow are juniors.
Kenston, of the Chagrin Valley Conference, opened last season with a 35-14 victory over Kent Roosevelt and finished 6-4 under coach Rick Adams.
Another Chagrin Valley Conference team, Chagrin Falls, opens its season by hosting Peninsula Woodridge. Last year, Tigers opened against Woodridge and came away with a 7-6 victory.
Chagrin Falls finished the 2007 season with a 6-4 record. The Tigers are guided by head coach Mark Iammarino.
West Geauga starts off the season by traveling Padua in Parma. Last year, the Wolverines started off their schedule by defeating Padua, 12-7.
The Wolverines, who ended 2007 with a mark of 6-4, are guided by second-year head coach Dave Bors.
Orange, coached by Nick Gerhard, opens the season with a home game against Bay Village.
The Lions opened the 2007 season with a win over 14-6 win over Bay and posted three wins in its next games over Brooklyn, Ashtabula Edgewood and Wickliffe, before suffering their first loss to playoff-bound Perry.
Orange finished with a 4-6 record last season.
Gilmour gets its first test of the season when the Lancers play perennial power Labrae.
The Lancers finished 9-2 last season and only had one loss during the regular season. Coach Bob Spicer lost all of his down lineman on offense, but has a returning backfield that includes quarterback Bill Urban and first-team all-state running back Tom Hallal.
Hallal, a 5-foot-11, 180-pound senior, rushed for more than 1,000 yards and scored more than 30 touchdowns last year. Urban, also a senior, passed for more than 1,500 yards last season.
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