November 20, 2010

St. Edward looking like Top 10 team

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Lakewood (Ohio) St. Edward showed up for its game with Solon (Ohio) High Friday night with a chance to advance to the final four of the Division I state tourney - arguably the country's toughest postseason event - and to solidify its recent rise into the Top 20 of the RivalsHigh Top 100 rankings.

It then used the first two quarters to make a case that it isn't ranked high enough and deserves to be in the discussion of the country's best teams.

No. 17 St. Edward ran out to a 35-0 halftime lead on the way to demolishing previously unbeaten No. 43 Solon, 42-14.

With the victory, St. Edward improves to 13-0 and advances to the state semifinals along with Toledo Whitmer, No. 38 Hilliard Davidson and No. 93 Huber Heights Wayne.

The winner of the tournament will have strong credentials for a spot in the Top 10. The only question about St. Edward is whether a sloppy second-half will cost them such a placement next week.

"I wasn't really surprised by the start, but they're a really tough team so you never know how you're going to get started," St. Edward coach Rick Finotti said. "For [Solon] to keep fighting the way they did when they were down shows that they're a heck of a program.

"Those first three drives everything really went right, though. We knew what we wanted to do, and then the running was going so well that we stuck with that for a little longer."

The statistics from the first half told all anyone needs to know about just how good the Eagles can be. St. Edward dominated the time of possession because its dominant defensive front kept Solon from getting anything going.

At halftime, St. Edward had outgained Solon in total yards, 251-72, even outrushing the option-attack Comets 185-49 (the Eagles finished with 309 yards rushing).

St. Edward star running back Terrell Bates had 90 of his 103 yards and all three of his touchdowns by halftime. Quarterback Kevin Burke ran for 87 yards and passed for a pair of touchdowns in the first half - then added an impressive 63-yard touchdown run in the second half to help him finish with 179 yards on the ground.

Solon, which had never trailed in a game before Friday, found itself in a hole less than three minutes in and was never truly in the game. Solon was held to just 49 yards on the ground in the first half and only crossed midfield once.

For the game, Solon converted just one of 12 third-down plays - amazing considering Solon had won its two previous playoff games by a combined 72-7.

"This was just not our night tonight," Solon coach Jim McQuaide said. "But a lot of that was down to [St. Edward].

"[St. Edward is] patient, efficient, their quarterback is a great runner and they have a great back. They're a great team."

The rout started with a dominant 10-play, 80-yard drive that lasted just 2:46 before Bates plunged in from the 1.

Bad quickly became worse for Solon, which got a personal foul dead-ball penalty on only its second play, setting up a three-and-out possession and a punt. After steadily moving the ball down the field with a series of power runs up the middle, Burke went to the air and found 6-foot-6 tight end Sam Grant from 4 yards out to give the Eagles a 14-0 lead less than halfway into the first quarter.

From there, things got even uglier. The Comets were forced to punt the ball again, eventually giving the ball back to St. Ed's with 2:31 remaining in the first period. Thirty-seven seconds later, the Eagles were back in the end zone, celebrating Burke's second touchdown pass of the game, an impressive 62-yard deep ball lofted perfectly into the hands of wide receiver Colin McManaman.

St. Edward then took advantage of two Solon turnovers to score twice more before the half.

Solon tried to get back into the game in the third quarter, using a 44-yard interception return by Ryan Schwenke and a 56-yard run by Chris Humphrey to pull to 35-14. St. Edward, however, responded with Burke's TD run to end any thought of a comeback.

"We came out a little flat at the start of the second half and made some mistakes, but we got back locked in on their game plan and took care of business," St. Edward senior defensive back Rob Coury said.

Whether the effort is enough to get them into the Top 10 - next week at least - is all that remains to be seen.

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