By BRAD BOURNIVAL
BRUNSWICK â€” Goldfish have short-term memories. Solonâ€™s football team does not.
The Comets havenâ€™t forgotten last yearâ€™s 14-10 Northeast Ohio Conference Valley Division loss to Brunswick. Neither have the Blue Devils.
It was arguably Brunswickâ€™s worst performance of the year. All-state quarterback Sean Bedevelsky and Co. had seven three-and-out drives as the blue and white started inside their own 20 most of the night.
Solon, on the other hand, averaged a starting field position just 52 yards from pay dirt, but came up short time and again. Thoroughly dominated, the Blue Devils still eked out a four-point win when the Comets couldnâ€™t score on first-and-goal from the 7 in the waning moments.
â€œWhat do I think?â€ Brunswick coach Rich Nowak asked. â€œI think they didnâ€™t score from the 7-yard line on first-and-goal. They thought they shouldâ€™ve scored and (Brunswickâ€™s Jordan) Gribble didnâ€™t on his touchdown.
â€œI think they think they let us get away with one. But itâ€™s a new year and a new time with new kids. I donâ€™t care what they think.â€
The Blue Devils (6-0, 1-0), who have been to the playoffs seven straight years, come into tonightâ€™s game ranked first in Division I, Region 2. The Comets (4-2, 1-0), who have made it to the playoffs nine straight years, are ranked sixth in D-I, Region 1.
While graduating players change zip codes and teams get overhauls, the forwarding addresses seem to remain the same for both squads.
Brunswick will see a Solon defense that looks very similar to last yearâ€™s team. Led by defensive end Darryl Baldwin (21 tackles), the Comets are allowing just 190.6 yards per game and have held teams under 14 points in five of their six contests.
Baldwin, who has already been offered a full ride to Ohio State, is the front man for a nasty linebacking core of Joe Janasek (66, fumble recovery), Tony Davidson (65) and Matt Piscitello (39 tackles, 2 int.).
By changing defensive looks, Solon keeps pressure on the quarterback, often bull-rushing from the outside. But the Cometsâ€™ claim to fame is stopping the run. In every one of the teamâ€™s wins, opponents have rushed for less than 120 yards. That includes a season opener where Canton McKinley managed just 49 yards.
â€œTheir defense is great again,â€ Nowak said. â€œItâ€™s the best we saw in 14 games last season and the best weâ€™ll see this year. They take great pride in their defense. Theyâ€™ve got skills.â€
So does Brunswickâ€™s offense. The Blue Devils lead Medina County in total offense, amassing 384.0 yards per contest. If itâ€™s not the arm of Ricky Manco (67-of-120, 959 yards, 7 TDs) finding Jared Kaderbek (34 catches, 561 yards, 7 TDs) and Kyle Gillihan (14, 213, 1), itâ€™s Brit Musal (83 carries, 570 yards, 14 TDs) getting it done on the ground.
Manco leads the area in passing, Kaderbek leads the way in catches and yards receiving and Musal is in the mix on the ground.
That has the attention of Solon coach Jim McQuaid, whose Comets come into action trying to erase a 31-game regular-season winning streak by the Blue Devils.
â€œI think it could be a great game,â€ he said. â€œYou talk about winning 31 games in a row, thatâ€™s an accomplishment. But we think weâ€™re pretty good.
â€œWhat puts you in a real bind is that they spread you out. You have to make sure you have the entire field covered. They can gash you. Brit Musal is one of the best running backs around and Ricky Manco moved right in from the other side.â€
The Comets are a very balanced team behind quarterback Jake Voigt (72-of-124, 860 yards, 7 TDs) and running back Kyle Hammonds (86 carries, 349 yards, 6 TDs). The squad has gone to the air for 881 of its 1,606 yards this season and has strong receivers in Brian Meyerson (19 catches, 244 yards, 2 TDs), Piscitello (10, 138, 3) and Eric Smoloff (121).
While McQuaid is confident in his offense this season, the sixth-year coach has stressed the importance of moving the sticks against a resilient Blue Devils defense, which is giving up 95.7 yards a game on the ground and 105.8 through the air.
â€œAny time we get the ball, we want to score,â€ McQuaid said. â€œEvery practice has been directed at us playing better. The second half seems to be important. When weâ€™re consistent, we play pretty well.
â€œIâ€™d be hard-pressed to think someone will shut Brunswick down completely. For us to win, we have to be firing on both sides of the ball.â€
If there is an X-factor, it will come in Brunswickâ€™s ability to move the ball. A year ago, the Blue Devils found out the hard way that just showing up will not get the job done. The Blue Devils have shown the ability to wreak havoc on offense, but Nowak feels his team needs to set the tempo early.
And the countyâ€™s winningest coach thinks he has the horses to get the job done.
â€œI really believe we have a good game plan,â€ he said. â€œWe have some talent. We have Ricky, Brit, Kyle, Jared, Tevin Jackson and Tyler Ferrell. We can dictate how we get them the ball and how our offense flows.â€
Bournival may be reached at email@example.com or 330-721-4045.