The youthful Solanco football team came of age Friday night.
An offensive line comprised solely of underclassmen paved the way for a big game from senior fullback Nick Yannutz as the Mules evened their record by downing host Kennard-Dale 27-21.
Running behind juniors James Sprout and Seth Harnish and sophomores Connor Smith, Cole Gladfelter, and Jake Frampton, Yannutz amassed 186 yards on 20 carries and scored all four Solanco touchdowns.
"We really wanted to get the win and we played hard," Yannutz said. "We focused on what we made mistakes on [in the opener] during practice and then this game we executed and did really well."
Yannutz gained 149 of those yards and tallied three TDs in the second half. Senior signalcaller Grady Unger rushed for 107 yards on nine attempts.
"The more exposure these young kids get, the better they're getting," Solanco coach Tony Cox said. "Our whole offensive line are sophomores and juniors so they're getting a lot of reps at practice because we don't use any of them on defense hardly ever. They're getting a lot of reps and they're doing a great job of picking things up. Kennard-Dale did a great job. They started stunting us but our kids were picking it up. Grady Unger did a great job of making reads. He checked us into plays. I didn't even know what we were running sometimes. I had no idea what he called. But he saw something up front, made the check, and did a great job."
Although Solanco did most of its damage on the ground, the game's biggest first down came through the air. Clinging to a 27-21 lead and facing a 3rd and 8 from the Rams 36 with 2:45 remaining, Unger threw a slant to Ryan Smith for an 11-yard gain and Solanco ran out the clock.
"Ryan Smith has been doing a great job catching the ball," said Cox. "All the receivers have been doing a great job blocking and everything else. I saw Ryan and said we're going to throw the slant. Grady is good at throwing the balI and I knew if he caught it, it would be a first down and Ryan Smith did a great job catching the ball."
The Mules also performed well on special teams. Caden Fuller blocked a K-D field goal attempt on the game's first possession.
A blocked punt led to the only score of the first half, a four-yard run by Yannutz 46 seconds into the second quarter.
Solanco secured the lead by recovering a fumble on its own one-yard line midway through the second quarter.
Yannutz galloped 46 yards for a TD to put the Mules ahead 13-0 with 9:46 left in the third quarter. After K-D cut the deficit down to 13-7, Yannutz scored on a 13-yard jaunt two plays after a 49-yard burst up the middle.
Kennard-Dale trimmed the margin to 19-14 with 10:28 to play in the fourth quarter. The Mules countered quickly. On 3rd and 6, Unger scampered 54 yards down to the hosts' four and Yannutz scored on the next play. Ronnie Fulton ran for a two-point conversion to pad Solanco's lead to 27-14.
The Rams responded with 4:23 left to make it 27-21 but Harnish pounced on the ensuing onside kick and the Mules got the key first down on the slant to seal the deal.
"We've got that first taste of victory and that can lead us into the rest of the season," Yannutz said. "With that win we become even more malleable and we work more. We strive to do greater things."