Mark Solis was forced to make a change at quarterback for his unbeaten Olentangy High School football team, and the first-year coach might have found a diamond in the rough.
After starter Noah Durst injured a ligament in his left, non-throwing hand, the senior quarterback opted to have season-ending surgery.
Solis may have found Durst's replacement in sophomore Deeb Haber, who passed for 168 yards and rushed for 51 in leading the Braves to a 25-19, come-from-behind victory over Big Walnut in the OCC-Capital Division opener Sept. 20.
"(Haber) didn't come out for the team or join us in offseason training, but he saw us in a scrimmage and I asked him what he thought (of the performance)," said Solis, whose team is 4-0 overall entering a Friday, Sept. 27, matchup at Orange. "He told me that he loved our offense, and that he regretted that he didn't come out for the team.
"(Haber) asked if I'd let him come out late (for the team) and I told him he could have a tryout. I was impressed with his workout and knew this kid has a chance to be special."
Solis said Durst injured his hand Sept. 6 during a 26-23, double-overtime win over Liberty and played during a 48-21 win over Lexington on Sept. 13 before deciding to have surgery. Through three games, he completed 57 of 87 passes for 684 yards with seven touchdowns and six interceptions for Olentangy, which is 4-0 overall.
"(The Braves) run a hurry-up offense, and they run it well," said Orange coach Brian Cross, whose team is 0-4 overall and 0-1 in the OCC-Capital. "They give you a lot of different formations and they are good everywhere. They are a solid offensive football team."
Against Big Walnut, junior running back Anthony Golden scored on runs of 55 and 2 yards and sophomore Chris Crumb had a 1-yard touchdown run. Haber connected with senior wide receiver Anthony Alloco on a two-point conversion pass and sophomore place-kicker Jacob Bell made a 34-yard field goal.
Orange lost to unbeaten New Albany 49-13 on Sept. 20 in its OCC-Capital opener. Sophomore running back Blake Skuratowicz scored on a 1-yard run in the second quarter.
"We scored in the second quarter on a 21-play drive that really was impressive because it was against (New Albany's) first-team defense," Cross said. "We were in a spread offense and I thought we did a good job of executing. We can try to build on that and try to get better at it each week."
Sophomore wide receiver Hunter Shepherd caught a 24-yard touchdown pass from freshman quarterback Will Phillis in the fourth quarter. Phillis was 4-for-7 passing for 78 yards, and junior quarterback C.J. Stablein was 5-for-13 passing for 29 yards.
"We know (the Pioneers) are struggling and they have had several injuries," Solis said. "They have low numbers and it's tough for them. Right now, we're staying focused on us and what we have to do to get better."