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Solon clinches 3A District 5 top spot

Spartans cruise past Falcons, 42-0
Kendrick Harris, Justin Gibbs, Tyler Linderbaum and Joe Kral buy Blayze Griffis all kinds of daylight with which to find a receiver downfield during the Spartans’ 42-0 win over the West Burlington/Notre Dame Falcons on Friday, Oct. 14. (photo by Jeff Hess)

WEST BURLINGTON– The Spartans made it look easy on Friday, Oct. 14, as they cruised past the West Burlington/Notre Dame Falcons, 42-0, on the road, moving to 7-1 on the season and clinching the number-one spot atop Class 3A District 5, assuring home field advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
The Spartans’ postgame chant of, “We are who we are,” reverberated loudly on Bill Nelson field, the only brightly-lit spot in the corner of West Burlington, as the Solon boys put an exclamation point on the rebound from last season’s 6-5 Spartan record.
With just one game left at Fairfield before everything resets for the playoffs, the Spartans defense made a statement, holding the Falcons to just 123 total offensive yards. The Falcons were perplexed, limited to just 29 total receiving yards and 94 rushing yards.
Graeson Dall’s offensive contribution had fans wondering what could have been had he not missed games on offense while sporting a cast.
Dall hauled in a 29-yard pass from Blayze Griffis with just under three minutes of the game clock expired, putting Solon up, 7-0, following an extra point by Anthony Bullard. A little over two minutes later, Dall added 13 yards to his rushing total, finding his way to the end zone and growing the Spartan lead to 14-0, with another Bullard extra point.
Griffis and Dall hooked up again for a 15-yard pass to modify the scoreboard in the second quarter.
An apparent muffed snap forced a roll-out pass from Spencer Wegmann to Trevor Nelson leading to a two-point conversion with a little less than five minutes gone in the half. Solon was completely in control, 22-0.
Nelson put the cherry on top of the halftime lead, 29-0, with a 1-yard dart into the end zone. Bullard was good on the point-after.
In the third quarter, Griffis stretched his legs on a 35-yard run around the left side following a fake hand off to Kendrick Harris to add another seven to the score, sealed with another Bullard kick.
Bryce West scored on a 2-yard dash before the end of the third quarter to deliver the 42-0 score following the failed PAT.
The fourth quarter allowed Solon to build team morale and garner players some additional reps on the field as the score remained unchanged.
The Falcons’ coach visited the Spartans as they took a knee on the field following the game. “He congratulated the team on a great game and wished us good luck in the playoffs,” commented Spartan Coach Kevin Miller.
Blayze Griffis was 10-15 for 209 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions on the evening. He rushed the one time for 34 yards and a touchdown.
Griffis hit Dall four times for 76 yards and two touchdowns. Dall also rushed twice for 24 yards, including the 13-yard touchdown, and contributed a solo tackle and a tackle assist along with an interception on defense.
“Graeson had a another great game but many players made a significant contribution to our offensive production,” Miller said. “As we move forward, we must distribute the football to all of our playmakers, doing so makes us much more difficult to defend. We’re exciting about hosting a playoff game and look forward to playing in front of our home crowd.”
Jake Coons caught three passes for 74 yards. Grant Goldsberry reeled in one for 27 yards, Harris pulled in a 26-yard pass, and Nelson grabbed one for 6 yards.
Solon rushed for a total of 217 yards on offense, with Harris running for the lion’s share, 62 yards, on 16 carries. Coal Flansburg tallied 51 yards on just four carries, Adam Bock had a carry for 24 yards, Bo Black ran the ball three times for 9 total yards, and Nelson and Bryce West each had two carries for 6 yards.
On defense, Coons bulldogged three tackles, one a sack for loss, and a tackle assist; Nelson wrapped up two solo tackles and two tackle assists; Goldsberry wrestled two solo tackles; Jackson Walker tied up a solo tackle, one a tackle for loss, and two tackle assists; Adam Bock, Bullard, Matt Folkerts, and Tyler Linderbaum all contributed a solo tackle and a tackle assist with Linderbaum’s a sack for a loss; Payton Stahle and Zach Wegmann both recorded a solo tackle; Bo Black was in on five tackle assists; and Chase Gehrke, Justin Gibbs and Bryce West assisted on a tackle apiece.
Trevor McGill also intercepted a West Burlington/Notre Dame pass.
Bullard handled the kicking duties, going 4-5 on point-after attempts, kicking off seven times amassing 320 yards and two touchbacks, and punted once for 42 yards.
When asked about clinching the number one position in District 5, Coach Miller responded, “Certainly it’s very gratifying. I’m very happy for our players and everyone associated with the program. Our players commit a great deal of time in preparing for the season and work diligently on the practice field for the opportunity to earn a district title.”
The Spartans roll into their last stop, Fairfield (5-3, 3-3 in District 5) on Friday, Oct. 21, at 7:30 p.m., before the odometer resets for the playoffs.
When asked about facing Fairfield on the Spartans’ Friday stop, Miller responded, “Offensively (Fairfield has) some playmakers and have been scoring a lot of points the last couple of weeks, our defense will certainly be challenged. Defensively they will attempt to contain our run game. We have to mix it up and stay balanced on offense. We still have some work to do and have no intentions on sitting our starters. We’re focused on improving in all phases of the game and need to stay sharp if we hope to get where we want to go.”
Miller said the Spartan defense has been solid the last four-to-five games. “We believe that defense wins championships, but we must be opportunistic on offense and have consistent special teams play,” he said. “I know I sound like a broken record, but we’re truly focused on daily and weekly improvement. We’re getting better, but feel that our best football is ahead of us, if we stay focused on the process.”
Solon has outscored its opponents, 236-25, in the last six weeks of district play.
“This week we’ll start to crank it up a notch or two from an intensity standpoint. If we want to advance, we must strive for more consistency and play with a greater sense of urgency and emotion. The last few games we haven’t played with the type of emotion we’ll need to play with in the playoffs,” added Miller.