LORAIN — Ten points probably cost Lorain a shot at a postseason berth a year ago.
“About four or five plays,” said Mark Solis, entering his second year as coach of the Titans.
The Titans and Solis are not about to let that happen again. Lorain lost by just three points at Division II state runner-up Avon, six points at Shaker Heights and one point against Maple Heights.
Those three losses were the difference in a possible 8-2 season. Throw in the 18-7 loss that ended the year at playoff-bound Shaw, and one can sense just how close the Titans were to something really special.
“We talked about it with our kids in the offseason,” Solis said. “It fueled our offseason preparation. We really had a full offseason with our kids.
“I can tell you this, we’re a lot stronger now than we were anytime last year just from the work we did in the weight room. Our kids are squatting, power-cleaning and we got a lot of good core strength. I think that will give us the ability to be physical with people this year.”
Solis has had success everywhere he’s been, including Elyria High in 2005 when he took the Pioneers to their first and only playoff appearance. He was 40-11 at Crestview, his alma mater, before a three-year stint at Elyria (20-12). He spent four years at Twinsburg, going 32-14, before taking over at Lorain last year.
Solis likes how his team is taking shape overall and his offensive line in particular.
“They’re big,” he said. “They’re physical but what we really like about them is their athleticism — their ability to run in space.”
Seniors Brandon Lutz, Malcolm Thomas and Seth Medina anchor the line that Solis figures is about six or seven players deep. Travis Szabo, Jowahn Charleton, Gevonte Thomas and Clayton Breeds will also share time on the offensive line.
“I think we can make a playoff run,” said Thomas, a senior guard and linebacker. “I think we can really do it. We’re a lot more focused and we’ve got more people on the train. I think everybody’s bought in. We’ll be a lot more physical this year than we were last.”
Sophomore Eddie Williamson will be the quarterback. He threw three touchdown passes in a scrimmage against Massillon Perry and certainly has the speed and wherewithal to run the ball as well.
Pablo Gonzalez has returned off a knee injury suffered late last year. Sherman Saunders, a sophomore, will also see action in the backfield. He had 2,100 yards on the ground for the Titans freshman team a year ago. Jordan Alpater transferred in from Elyria Catholic.
Defensively, Lorain will use a 4-2-5 base look. Solis feels it fits the strengths of his team. On special teams, because Lorain has eliminated soccer this year, Solis picked up some players to handle his punting and kicking duties.
Lorain opens with Midview and takes on Avon Lake and Avon for the non-conference portion of its schedule. Solis figures Cleveland Heights should be the team to beat in the Lake Erie League.
“I don’t think anybody in Lorain County has their first three games like we do,” Solis said. “I have a tremendous amount of respect for the coaches of those programs. Bill Albright, Dave Dlugosz and Mike Elder — Avon speaks for itself as the defending Division II state runner-up. You have Avon Lake — enough said — and you have Bill Albright who’s been there 26 years and runs a solid program and has one heckuva quarterback and a couple wideouts. Our first three are going to be a challenge.
“Cleveland Heights is loaded with athletes but the nice thing about it is we won’t have to face them until Week 9.”
Solis’ approach to the game can be pretty simple.
“Sometimes people make the game of football too complicated,” he said. “It’s really not that hard. The team that usually blocks the best and tackles the best and limits their mistakes — those are the ones that usually win.
“We want to run the football. We can spread the field but we’re not going to sling the ball around. We’re going to run the football and we’ve got the guys to do it.
“We have a chance to be good.”
- CONFERENCE: Lake Erie League
- 2011 RECORD: 5-5, 3-4
- COACH: Mark Solis, 2nd year (5-5 at Lorain; 99-42 overall in 13 seasons)
- RETURNING LETTERMEN: 24
- RETURNING STARTERS: 14
- FAST FACT: Solis is out to duplicate what he did at Elyria in 2005 when he took the Pioneers to the playoffs in his second year at the helm.
- Aug. 24: at Midview
- Aug. 31: Avon Lake
- Sept. 7: Avon
- Sept. 14: at Warrensville Hts.*
- Sept. 21: Shaw*
- Sept. 28: at Bedford*
- Oct. 5: at Maple Hts.*
- Oct. 12: Euclid*
- Oct. 19: at Cleveland Hts.*
- Oct. 26: Warren Harding*
All games at 7 p.m.
*Lake Erie League