Solon, Ohio - After addressing his Football Wildcats on a sun-drenched Stewart Field and preparing for the bus ride back to Saint Ignatius on Tuesday afternoon, Hall of Fame Head Coach Chuck Kyle '69 discussed what areas pleased him during the annual preseason scrimmage/practice drills with Coach Jim McQuaide's Solon Comets.
"I think in the normal scrimmage part of it, defensively we did pretty well," said Coach Kyle, whose Wildcats, en route to a Division I State Runner-Up finish in 2016, defeated Solon, 31-17, in a Regional Semifinal matchup at Mentor's Jerome T. Osborne Sr. Stadium.
"That was good to see because as you look at last year we did graduate several linemen and linebackers, guys who were established and experienced," Coach Kyle continued. "We had faith in the kids coming up (this year), but you have to get them on the field. Going against Solon, you know it's a playoff-caliber team."
As far as the performance by Saint Ignatius' experienced and deep defensive secondary, Coach Kyle said there were some good plays turned in and some plays that he and his staff will have to work on, such as one-on-one matchups that went in favor of the Comets' quick and athletic receivers.
"Offensively, it's different in the first scrimmage," Coach Kyle said. "I think we will end up running the ball better than we did. We finally broke one (a smooth cut and burst of speed by junior tailback/defensive back Jack Kennedy). "Throwing the ball, I think we'll be fine and catching the ball we did very well.
"We'll get more productive than we were today," said the man who has guided his alma mater to a record 11 state football championships, three national titles, two state runner-up finishes and a national runner-up spot. "The offensive line just needs more time working as a unit, working on technique stuff such as coming off a block too early. I'm sure Solon found out some things too."
HERE IS A LOOK AT SOME OF THE KEY MOMENTS IN A SCRIMMAGE THAT FEATURED TWO OF THE FINEST COACHING STAFFS IN ALL OF OHIO.
The action started on Tuesday with special-teams drills and both teams saw right away what they have to work on, as Solon had difficulty getting off a punt and then the 'Cats let a punt that was catchable hit the turf and roll deep into Saint Ignatius territory. "Catch the ball," yelled members of the Wildcats' coaching staff simultaneously.
A tip of the corner's cap goes out to veteran senior kickers Matthew Trickett and Drew Alessandro, who both did very well with their kickoffs.
In the offense versus defense line drills, Wildcats two-way standout and Captain Jack Jamieson, junior defensive lineman Zach McMahan, two-way mainstay and University of Kentucky recruit Darian Kinnard, senior nose tackle Aidan Gill, junior defensive end Aidan Wells and promising sophomore lineman Braeden Yarian each unleashed some timely pressure and penetration.
As the drills continued, Coach McQuaide's Comets put their skill, speed and athleticism on display during both the 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 matchups. Solon's gifted wide receivers Taj Ward and Travon Raphael each hauled in long scoring passes off the arm of 6-foot-4, 185-pound senior quarterback Joe Cartellone. Those were the one-on-one matchups Coach Kyle was referring to. Raphael is a 6-foot-4 burner.
Saint Ignatius would respond defensively with some strong penetration up the middle, courtesy of a batted down pass by relentless junior linebacker Tommy Eichenberg, pressure off the edge by senior linebacker Logan Joyce, an interception by senior defensive back Andrew Chalhoub that saw Andrew win the battle for the ball, a timely pass breakup by Jack Kennedy, and some pad-rattling tackling in space by senior defensive back Max Mook.
Saint Ignatius' offense began to settle in, as a highlight-reel, inside run and burst to the outside by Jack Kennedy helped set up a touchdown pass from senior quarterback Kyle Hall to senior wide receiver Max Pike. Hall would later combine with the sure hands of senior wide receiver Sammy Snyder on a crossing pattern that saw Sammy pick up significant yards after the catch.
Some of the Wildcats' other big moments were the defensive pressure applied by Gill and senior linebacker Gabe Liberatore, the open-field tackling by sophomore running back/linebacker Jack Welcsh, the defensive secondary coverage by multi-killed sophomore Connor Cmiel and junior Nate Previts, runs to pay dirt by sophomore James Crosby and junior Andrew Phillips Jr., and touchdown passes off the arm of junior quarterback Michael Sarko to Cmiel and sophomore tight end Sam Daugstrup.
Solon certainly didn't go quietly on its home turf, however, as the Comets responded with touchdowns through the air by Ward and Raphael, and a TD gallop by senior Andrew Mason. Coach McQuaide also watched senior defensive back JT Caver come up with two interceptions.
Saint Ignatius was able to hold off the Comets' late momentum behind the tackling of Joyce and two solid plays in the secondary by junior corner Jett Elad.
BERNIE IN THE HOUSE: Taking in the scrimmage at Solon was former Boardman High School, University of Miami Hurricanes and Cleveland Browns standout quarterback Bernie Kosar. Bernie also played on a Super Bowl Team with the Dallas Cowboys and was a quarterback for the Miami Dolphins.
Bernie told the 'Cats how impressed he was with their intensity and reminded them to savor this time, because you can never get back the special moments that high school football brings to your life.