MENTOR, Ohio - Playoff status will be on the line as the Solon Comets battle the host Mentor Cardinals in a Northeast Ohio Conference Valley Division contest Friday night at Jerome T Osborne Stadium.
One team is seeking home field advantage while the other is battling for a postseason spot.
Mentor (5-1, 1-0) is sitting sixth in Division I, Region 1 of the OHSAA football computer rankings. Solon (4-2, 1-0) is 14th. Eight teams in each region advance to the state playoffs with the top four hosting first round games.
"If we want to play at home we have to win this one," Mentor coach Steve Trivisonno said. "It's a big game. We're excited and looking forward to it."
The Cardinals won last year's contest, 44-20, at Stewart Field.
Mentor is led by senior quarterback Mitch Trubisky (6-3, 200), a North Carolina recruit. He has completed 100 of 161 passes for 1,485 yards and 17 touchdowns this season. Trubisky is the school's all-time career passing leader with 6,080 yards surpassing Bart Tanski last week.
"Mitch is an exceptional player," Trivisonno said. "Not many kids can do what he is doing week in and week out. He is the real deal. He was awesome last week against Brunswick."
Trubisky also has rushed for 232 yards and six touchdowns in 2012. Senior Nick Delisa has 276 yards rushing on 34 carries.
Mentor's top receivers are juniors Conner Krizancic and Brandon Fritts. Krizancic has 31 catches for 489 yards and seven touchdowns. Fritts has 25 receptions for 419 yards and six TDs.
"We're much more consistent running and passing the ball than we were earlier this season," Trivisonno said. "Our offensive line is a lot better which is nice to see. We getting on the same page. We have a complicated offense. We're getting in sync. '
Defensive leaders for the Cardinals are senior strong safety Reese Armstrong and junior linebacker Justin McMahon with 22 tackles each including 11 solos.
"We've come a long way on defense but we still have a long way to go," Trivisonno said. "This year, we're not where we were a year ago. We're still struggling early in games. Physically, we're a year away from being really good."
Mentor's only loss was to St. Ignatius, 48-21. In their last three games since the setback, the Cardinals are averaging 50 points per game. Solon's two defeats were to Glenville, 40-17, and North Royalton, 25-18.
"We have to win the special teams battle," Trivisonno said. "They have guys that can fly and we must do our best to contain them. I think they're as an athletic team as there is in the state. It's always scary when you can have six good plays on defense and one bad one that goes for a touchdown."
Solon's Jim McQuade is in his 24th season as a head coach, including the last 10 with the Comets.
"We're a very different team now than we thought we'd be in the summer," McQuade said."We have a lot of guys playing in different positions. This is not the team we envisioned in the summer. Players had to step up and in some cases fill different roles. We're getting better. We'll see where we are Friday night."
The Comets will be without starting junior center Nick Spitaleri, senior left guard Sandip Janda and junior right guard Matt Mayer. All three players are nursing injuries.
"We've been mixing, matching and moving guys around all season," McQuaide said. "Injuries are part of the game and you have to deal with it."
Khoury Crenshaw, a junior, is the key man in the backfield for the Comets.
"He is developing into a real good running back," McQuaide said. "He is making good cuts inside, outside and reading his blocks well. He is the defending state 100-meter champ."
The Comets are a run-oriented team which has won or shared the NEO Valley Division title the last three years.
"We're pretty good at running the football," McQuaide said. "We need to do a better job throwing the ball."
Five different players have seen duty at quarterback this season.
They are senior Drew Barksdale, junior Brandon Byrd, sophomore Matt Laubscher, senior George Berry and sophmore Ryan Gallagher. Berry will start against Mentor. Wide receivers are seniors Darian Hicks and Drew Barksdale, a Boston College recruit.
"The key for us is to keep Mentor's potent offense off the field," McQuaide said. "We need to keep the ball away from them and get points. That's very important. We need to score."
Hicks, a Michigan State recruit, is the defensive leader in the secondary for the Comets.
"Our biggest challenge on defense is their quarterback," McQuaide said. "He (Trubisky) is a great player. He was good last year and is better this year. He makes all the throws. He is also a good runner and we have to be able to tackle him. We have to give him different looks.
The Comets know this is a must win game if
they have any hopes of making the playoffs.
"We have more guys playing both ways this year than we've had the last couple of years," McQuaide said.
It's been a "shifty" season lineup wise for Solon but McQuaide believes the players have responded well to the situation.