Solon vs Mentor Thoughts

The Rematch was one of the most incredible football games I have ever witnessed. I know that is putting it bluntly but it is the way I felt as I walked out of Byers Field on Saturday night. I saw Solon’s season end with a 42-40 loss to Mentor, however, the game was one of the best I had seen in person.

Walking into the stadium, it was not unlike the many times I had been to Byers Field before. There was the smell of the food when you walk in, the wind blowing in, and excited fans on both sides filling the old concrete stands. Most everyone knew the game was going to be The Rematch from earlier this season and had an idea what to expect.

The weather outside was windy but not nearly as cold as it could have been for a mid-November game. Usually games around this time of year in Ohio are anywhere between 30-40 degrees at night but Saturday was much different. There was wind but it was pleasant outside for a football game.

Solon managed to go up 7-0 early on due to a fumble recovery that ended up in the endzone but the first half belonged to Mentor. I managed to get my first taste of this no huddle offense that tore the Solon apart in the matchup between the two teams this season and saw how effective it can be. Solon’s defense looked worn out and before you knew it, Mentor was up 35-14 at halftime.

Before the two teams went into the locker rooms at halftime, I couldn’t help but wonder what the second half would bring. Solon was definitely in a hole at this point and Mentor seemed unstoppable. I was hoping we would get a better second half and that the game would not continue to be lopsided.

In the second half, Mentor stopped playing like they had in the first half and it opened up the doors for Solon to make a comeback. Mentor looked lackadaisical on offense to start out the third quarter and it showed. Solon managed to get the ball back and a 70 yard pass from Patrick Kramer to Tres Barksdale and a 55 yard interception return byJustin Kresevic turned what seemed to be a blowout into a ball game. In just one quarter, Solon scored 14 unanswered points and woke up the Solon crowd.

As the fourth quarter began, I noticed the noise inside the stadium began to increase. Similar to several of the games I had witnessed there before, both sides of Byers field started making noise for their respective teams and it got very loud. As the Mentor fans stood to cheer on the Cardinals, the Solon fans stood and cheered just as loudly to root for the Comets. I had seen this happen many times before inside this stadium and was not surprised to see the crowd volume increase.

Mentor managed to put another touchdown on the scoreboard early on in the fourth quarter but as the Solon student section had chanted, the Comets were “not done yet”. Khoury Crenshaw broke free for an 80 yard scamper and found his way into the endzone for six points. All Solon needed was the extra point and the lead would be cut to seven.

Solon placekicker Alex Knight lined up for the extra point and…..it was blocked! I had taken the picture of Knight kicking the ball and was in disbelief when I heard the sound of it hitting someone’s hand and falling to the turf. If Solon were to get another touchdown, a two point conversion was going to be needed.

Solon would get their chance when a Patrick Kramer pass found Cory Stuart in the endzone for six and all Solon needed was the two point conversion and the game would be tied. Kramer rolled out to the right, threw the pass and…it was incomplete. Solon was down 42-40 as the game approached the three minute mark in the fourth quarter.

Mentor managed to get the ball on the next possession and after Solon made several key defensive stops, Tomislav Derezic, one of the best kickers from Northeast Ohio, lined up to try a 55 yard attempt. Drezic had success in warmups making field goals from 60 yards and this seemed like it would be a chip shot for him.

I could feel the Solon fans get nervous as the ball left Drezic’s foot and sailed towards the goalpost. The ball had the distance but sailed wide to the right. With the score 42-40 and no time outs left with close to two minutes to go, Solon would get one more chance to get another score.

Hoping Solon would march down the field, I stayed toward the opposite end of the field (something I normally don’t do as a photographer). I wanted to be ready to capture any long break, pass or big play Solon may have had up the sleeve that would break the tie and put them ahead. I wanted to be ready to capture that moment that could end the game that had been spectacular to that point.

After a few plays, it came down to fourth down. Solon did not have any timeouts left and if they didn’t make a first down, it was game over. By this point, not a single person was seated inside this stadium and noise from both sides of the stands filled the air. No one wanted to miss this play.

It was fourth and six and Solon had to make the first down. Kramer went back to pass, threw towards the sideline and couldn’t connect. In just a few seconds, Solon season was finished and Mentor was going to walk away with the victory.

It’s not how I wanted to see Solon go out. I had followed this team throughout the season and it was hard to see that Solon was going to lose by such a small margin in the very end. The season was going to be finished for the team I had followed all season and my time on the sidelines this high school football season had come to an end.

Even though Solon’s season was done, I couldn’t doubt myself that I had witnessed one of the greatest football games in my lifetime. It was one of the closest matchups I had ever seen and the second half was one of the most exciting I had ever witnessed. It had truly been an incredible game and I had the opportunity to witness it through my camera lens.

I’ll admit that I felt sad my time on the sidelines this season had come to an end, however, I had a lot to be grateful for. On my drive home, I thought of how nice it was for Patrick Kramer’s mom and dad, Alex Knight’s dad, Austin Stock’s dad, and Angela Williams to provide the support over the season. All of these people had commented how much it meant to them that I took time to take pictures at the game and I will never forget how much I appreciated Knight’s dad sending me the score of the Solon vs Brunswick game via Facebook when I was out of town.

I also was grateful for the players, cheerleaders, band members and students who enjoyed my pictures as well. Drew Barksdale had made a point to mention to me how much he “loved my works” and several other of his peers mentioned the same sentiment. It made me feel good that my work was enjoyed by others and that my time on the sidelines meant a lot to these people.

Lastly, the coaches and Jim McQuaide’s son were also people who were supportive of me during this season. I’ll never forget the kindness they showed me and it was an honor to be apart of their season.

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~ by jeffrsabo on November 14, 2011.

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