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Solon crushes West Delaware, 54-14

Spartans to UNI-Dome to face unbeaten Xavier in 3A semi

SOLON– Solon’s defense made statements all season and Coach Kevin Miller challenged the offense.
On Friday, Nov. 3, the Spartan offense answered resoundingly, defeating the West Delaware Hawks, 54-14, to advance to the state semifinals to face Cedar Rapids Xavier, the only other 11-0 team in Class 3A football.
“This was the first time, this season, we put all three phases together. Overall, I thought we executed at a high level and we valued the football. Defensively, we played well, other than a couple of plays where we failed to execute our assignments,” Coach Miller commented.
The weekly machine shed mantra posted south of Solon on Highway 1 by the senior parents this week: “Respect everyone fear no one.”
The scoring started early as the Spartan defense quickly forced the Hawks to a three-and-out and then the offense struck the first blow on the third play of Solon’s initial possession.
Quarterback Cam Miller hit the other half of the Sophomore Connection, receiver A.J. Coons, who broke a tackle and dashed 58 yards for the lead with less than three minutes expired in the first quarter. Aidan Dall’s kick cleared the uprights and Solon led, 7-0.
Like two prizefighters sizing each other up, those were the only points of the first quarter, but the Spartans had drawn first blood.
The Spartans chose the second quarter to steal any rhythm West Delaware could muster, Solon took advantage of field position on a short punt by the Hawks to punch into the end zone on a direct snap to Coal Flansburg for six yards to cap a 26-yard drive. Dall put up another good kick and Solon was out to a 14-0 lead.
It did not end there.
Following another three-and-out by the Hawks, Kendrick Harris ticked off 48 yards unmolested down the sideline and, following a Dall kick, put the Spartans ahead, 21-0, with a little over nine minutes remaining in the half.
The Spartans delivered a one-two punch to close the half, scoring on another 3-yard run by Flansburg, set up by another Miller-Coons connection for 55 yards. Dall kicked the point-after and Solon led, 28-0.
Tyler Linderbaum lent credibility to the saying “defense wins football games” by diving on a Hawk fumble during the ensuing possession to set the Spartans up on the 38-yard line. Miller connected with Ben Krutzfeldt for 39 yards and a touchdown. Coupled with a Dall kick, the Spartans led 35-0 at the half.
Following the half, Hunter Kula found the end zone, spinning his way in, like a slinky traversing stairs, taking steps at the end of his shirt tail as a West Delaware defender tried to drag him down. A failed point-after had the Spartans lead extended to 41-0, instituting the continuous clock.
West Delaware scored on the Spartans with a Nick Casey 23-yard pass to Mitchell Mangold to deny the Spartans a quarterfinal shutout. A Caleb Zehr kick for the Hawks made the score 41-7.
Solon answered the score with a 60-yard Adam Bock, student-section-igniting run for a touchdown, topped with another Dall point-after, to pad the Spartan lead, 48-7.
The Hawks finally clawed their way into some yardage and put themselves in position to score on a Caleb Kehrli three-yard run, followed again by a point-after by Zehr. The score stood at 48-14.
Mason Stahle provided the game’s final score in the fourth quarter for the Spartans with on a one-yard run, after carrying the ball on several downs to get there. A failed point-after kick, and the game’s final score was attained, 54-14.
Although there was a flicker in the Hawks’ eyes of scoring in the game’s final seconds, the Spartans extinguished it as West Delaware allowed the final seconds to tick off the clock.
Miller went 9-10 passing for 202 yards with two touchdowns, and rushed twice for a net loss of 15 yards. He hit five receivers: Coons twice for 113 yards including the 58-yard touchdown strike, Bock caught two for 20 yards, Payton Bandy reeled in three catches for eight yards but left the game before the half (returning with his foot in a boot), Krutzfeldt grabbed one for 39 yards and a touchdown, and Harris snatched one for a 22-yard gain.
Harris also carried the ball for Solon eight times for 75 yards, but Kula was the Spartans’ leading yardage earner, racking up 96 yards on four carries, including the 48-yard touchdown. Bock carried the ball three times for 67 yards, including the 60-yard score, Flansburg rushed five times for two touchdowns and 24 yards and Stahle amassed 16 yards and a touchdown.
Ryan Geistkemper led the defense with six tackles and three assists; Bock had three tackles and four assists; Flansburg contributed one solo and six assists; Greg Brandt and Linderbaum had three tackles and one assist, Zach Wegmann corralled two solos and three assists; Spencer Wegmann had three solo tackles; Mason Stahle had one solo and four assists; Storm Scott and Jack Stahle each had two solo tackles and one assist; Dall, Dillon Hoit and Rowdy Koehn had two solo tackles apiece; Hunter Brown, Chase Gehrke and Clay Gerdin each had one solo and two assists; Harris had one solo tackle; Coons had two tackle assists; and Jason Pipolo assisted on one tackle.
Brandt added another interception to his resume, returning it for 27 yards. Harris and Linderbaum added a fumble recovery apiece.
Alex Allen was 0-1 and Dall was 6-7 on point-after attempts.
Bock kicked off nine times with one touchback for 468 total yards and punted twice for 45 yards.
Bandy returned one punt for 31 yards before leaving the game and Harris returned one for 41 yards.
Reminiscent of the Eric Church song bearing the same sentiment, the Solon Spartans are outsiders to the semifinals, with their last visit Thursday, Nov. 14, 2013, when they lost to the Washington Demons, 14-9, ending the season 11-2.
Should they defeat Xavier, it would be their first visit to the championship game since Saturday, Nov. 20, 2010, when they beat Sioux City’s Bishop Heelan, 45-7, to be state champions at 13-1, their only loss to Iowa City Regina.
Coach Miller commented about meeting Xavier in the past and the obstacles he felt they pose.
“They traditionally play great defense and will make you earn everything you get offensively,” he said. “In the past, we’ve struggled to sustain drives and moving the ball has been an issue. They pride themselves in stopping the run, so we will have to perform well on the offensive line. Offensively, they’ve thrown everything at us. Two years ago, they ran four-to-five trick plays. We must prepare for everything.”
Xavier is the in crowd and the Spartans are the other ones. Xavier has been in the final or semifinal game in four of the last five seasons; Solon, only once in the last five years.
Both teams are at 11-0, posting double-digit scores predominantly and allowing no more than 21 points in regular season district play.
Xavier is 75-116 passing for 1,054 yards with one interception while Solon is 99-166 for 1,739 yards with four interceptions. The Spartans have rushed 421 times for 2,352 yards and the Saints rushed 388 times for 2,354 yards.
Xavier defeated Davenport Assumption, 44-21, on Friday, Nov. 3. Quarterback Quinn Schulte was 4-9 passing for only 59 yards and only Schulte and Braden Stovie rushed for the Saints 38 times for 337 yards.
Coach Miller pointed out what he felt Xavier presented as a threat to for the Spartans. “Great defense and a highly efficient offense,” he said. “Quinn Schulte is a great athlete at quarterback and we must contain him if we hope to be successful.”
Both teams are the only remaining 11-0 teams in 3A competition entering the semifinal round. It is all over now except to find out who goes to the finals still undefeated and who exits 11-1.
Two 11-0 teams– the bad news, the young guns, the ones that everyone else runs from– meet at the UNI-dome, in Cedar Falls. It is time for the gloves to come off, it is time for the fighters, and, at 8:21 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 9, it will be time for the all-nighters.
“We have a quick turn around, so we will reduce the amount of physical contact and spend more time watching film and focusing on being mentally prepared,” Coach Miller said on how the preparation changed for the quarterfinals. “We are focused on being mentally prepared, we want to improve fundamentally but, at this point in time, the mental preparation is equally as important. We’ve had a great year but we still have some goals that we hope to accomplish.”
You can almost hear the Spartans, bouncing on their toes, helmets to the heavens, chanting, “We are who we are.”