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Solon finishes with 54-14 win at Fairfield

Spartans to face Benton Community in first round of playoffs Oct. 28
Graeson Dall, trailed by Trevor Nelson, breaks across the field to avoid Fairfield defenders as Matt Folkerts picks up a block on Friday, Oct. 21. The Spartans defeated the Trojans, 54-14. (photo by Jeff Hess)

FAIRFIELD– The sky was swimming with hues of blue, red, and orange reminiscent of Jerry Moon’s oil landscape painting “Absolution” as the Spartan faithful made their sunset trek southwest to witness Solon’s 54-14 victory over Fairfield on Friday, Oct. 21. The team, once again showing its depth while building team morale by playing several positions deep, amassed 308 yards rushing and 177 yards through the air on offense, and defensively held the Trojans to 181 total yards rushing and 101 total yards receiving.
Solon Head Football Coach Kevin Miller said he was extremely pleased with the Spartans’ overall performance. 
“We played with a greater sense of urgency and our intensity level was much improved,” Miller said. “Very pleased with how every player contributed in some capacity to the outcome of the game.”
The Spartans scored early and often on the Trojans’ senior night, activating the continuous clock with a halftime score of 41-0. Solon put up 14 unanswered points in the first quarter and 27 unanswered points in the second quarter.
Fairfield did not find the scoreboard until the third, scoring seven as Solon began substituting players. Solon replied with six of their own in the third, following a missed point-after. Both teams added seven to their totals before the horn blared signaling the end of the regular season.
When asked about the running backs’ ability to bounce into and out of tackles, like pinballs, especially prominent during play against Fairfield, Miller responded, “All of our backs ran exceptionally hard, but the line did an outstanding job of sustaining blocks.”
Kendrick Harris rushed 15 times for 72 yards and four touchdowns, the longest a run of 18 yards, to lead the Spartans’ ground game. Bryce West ran eight times for 68 yards, including a touchdown carry for 37 yards. Quarterback Blayze Griffis called his own number three times for 53 yards, Graeson Dall handled the ball three times for 40 yards, Coal Flansburg ran five times for 32 yards, Anthony Bullard carried the ball once for 20 yards, and Trevor Nelson and Spencer Wegmann each rushed with the ball once for 10 and 2 yards respectively.
Griffis and Spencer Wegmann helmed the Spartans’ aerial attack against the Trojans. Griffis was 7-11 for 173 yards and three touchdowns, the longest score for 23 yards, while Wegmann went 1-1 for 4 yards.
Nelson was the go-to receiver on the evening, pulling in four passes for 62 yards, three of which allowed him to penetrate the end zone, the longest of which was 23 yards. Bo Black caught one pass for 72 yards, Dall had a quiet night with one catch for 22 yards, Payton Bandy hauled in one for 17 yards, and Zach Cusick grabbed one for 4 yards.
Austin Kennedy led Solon defensively with four solo tackles and two tackle assists, Bullard had four solo tackles, Zach Wegmann wrapped up three solo tackles and three tackle assists with one a sack for a loss, Grant Goldsberry and Jackson Walker grappled for two solo tackles and three tackle assists apiece (Walker had one for a loss), Tyler Linderbaum wrestled his way to two solo tackles and two tackle assists along with a Trojan fumble recovery, Greg Brandt and Storm Scott had two solo tackles and one tackle assist, Nelson grabbed a solo tackle and three tackle assists, Black had a solo tackle and two tackle assists, Dall a solo tackle and a tackle assist, Adam Bock and Chase Gehrke had two tackle assists each, and West had a tackle assist.
Bullard was 4-7 on PATs and kicked off eight times for 471 yards.
Dall returned a kickoff for 82 yards and a punt return for 58 yards, while Harris had one kick return for 26 yards.
Jacob Coons was noticeably absent from Solon’s performance after tweaking a knee during practice earlier in the week. “We’re hopeful that Jake will be ready to go Friday. We felt it was in his best interest to rest him to ensure that he’s fully recovered for the playoffs,” Miller commented.
Solon ended the regular season 8-1 and 7-0 as Class 3A District 5 champions.
The Spartans’ season credits included: a 316-94 scoring record for the season; rushing 309 times for 1,532 total yards during the regular season with a 5-yard-per-carry average for 22 touchdowns; passing 86-153 for receptions totaling 1,384 yards with three interceptions and 18 touchdowns during the regular season; amassing 250 solo tackles and 119.5 tackle assists, including 28 solo tackles and 18 sacks; intercepted the ball 19 times for 130 return yards and two touchdowns– the longest a momentum-shifting 70-yard rumble for score by Linderbaum in Washington; and recovering 13 fumbles for 73 yards in returns with three touchdowns. The one loss of the season was at the hands of Iowa City Regina, 34-0.
Miller was asked if this season’s opponents have prepared the Spartans for this restructured postseason.
“It’s really hard to say. (Three) of the teams we played on our schedule made the playoffs, and I believe two of the teams possess the ability to make a long run in the playoffs,” Miller said. “However, as I’ve stated before, we are simply focused on our improvement. We have no control over our schedule, but we do have control over our ability to improve.”
The Spartans are slated to meet the Benton Community Bobcats on Friday, Oct. 28, at Spartan Stadium, in Solon, with a game start time of 7 p.m. in the first round of the win-or-go-home District 3A playoffs. The winner will move on to meet either Pella or Oskaloosa in the next round on Friday, Nov. 4.
The Benton Bobcats visit Solon sitting at 7-2 on the season, 6-1 in Class 3A District 3. Their only two losses on the season came at the hands of early-season opponents, District 3 champs Cedar Rapids Xavier (47-14) and non-district opponent Marion (46-22). The Bobcats outscored opponents 256-193 on the season while also facing non-district Oelwein and district competitors Decorah, Waverly-Shell Rock, South Tama, Charles City, Independence and Vinton Shellsburg. The Bobcats’ season credits also include: passing 97-182 for 1,219 yards with nine touchdowns and 11 interceptions, carrying 386 times for 2,003 yards averaging 5.2 yards per carry with 24 touchdowns, amassing 277 solo tackles and 107 tackle assists with 45 tackles for loss and 11 sacks, intercepted their opponents 18 times for 114 return yards and a touchdown, and recovered 10 fumbles for six total return yards.
“Benton will present challenges on both sides of the ball,” Coach Miller commented. “We must be disciplined on defense and play assignment football. They have a good offensive line, so we must do a great job of controlling the line of scrimmage. Additionally, they have a solid quarterback and running back that have the ability to make big plays. Defensively, they pride themselves on stopping the run. We must stay balanced in our attack and keep them off-balance.”
He said it will be great to play at home. 
“We’ve had two long road trips and we are very excited to play at home in front of our fans,” he added.
Absolution by definition from the Oxford Dictionary is, “Release from guilt, obligation, or punishment.” Clearly the obligation of the regular season is released and the Spartans have emerged in a better position than last season’s 5-4 showing, but it is win-or-go-home time for the Spartans.
“We must have our best week of practice with concentrated effort and intensity,” Miller said. “We need to take our overall focus and intensity to another level. If we hope to advance, we must value each practice and snap as the most important. We won’t overlook anyone and be prepared to compete at the highest level possible.”
Class 3A teams Storm Lake, Glenwood, Carroll, Sergeant Bluff-Luton, Webster City, Norwalk, Creston, Boone, West Delaware, Waverly-Shell Rock, Cedar Rapids Xavier, Davenport Assumption, Pella and Oskaloosa all share the same thing as Solon and Benton Community going into the game Friday, Oct. 28. They share the same 0-0 record in the Iowa High School Athletic Association 2016 Class 3A postseason.