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Spartans conquer Mustangs, 26-20

Big first half pushes Solon past No. 1-ranked (2A) Mount Vernon in football opener
Spartan Kendrick Harris attempts outrun Mustang Sam Moore to get outside as Graeson Dall moves to pick up Paul Ryan and another Mount Vernon defender Friday, Aug. 26.

“Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends
We’re so glad you could attend
Come inside! Come inside!
…We would like it to be known the exhibits that were shown
were exclusively our own,
All our own. All our own…”
– Karn Evil 9 Lyrics by Emerson Lake and Palmer

So the curtains fell away on the Solon Spartans’ first production of the new football season. With an awards presentation before the introductions, the show started as an action adventure with a interlude including fireworks, but finished as a drama.
Although the Spartans defeated their Highway 1 rivals from the north, the Mount Vernon Mustangs, 26-21, as a result of a lead amassed in the first half, the Mustangs were knocking at the door until 0.7 seconds remained in the game.
Unfortunately for the Mustangs, this may arguably have been their best chance in 14 years of extracting revenge against their white whale, the Spartans.
Prior to the performance, the director was honored. Keith McSweeney, the former part-time activities director (AD), was recognized for his years of service juggling the titles of AD, teacher and baseball coach. When the district chose to make the AD a full-time position, McSweeney chose to remain a teacher and coach.
Shortly afterwards, the Solon Spartans lined up hand-in-hand at the exit from the locker room, swaying to the rhythm of the song “New Noise,” by Refused, before their crescendo into a sprint down the sidelines to the cheers of the home crowd.
The title credits were rolled in the familiar voice of Don Ellis and rivals prepared to do battle.
The first half of play was all action, mostly from the Spartans. The Mustangs, ranked No. 1 in Class 2A, struggled to find their rhythm as they tried hard to shrug off the rust.
Solon was up by 20 points by the midpoint of the second quarter following two Blayze Griffis-to-Trevor Nelson touchdown passes, one for 10 yards and the other for 40 yards, and a 5-yard Graeson Dall rush. The scoring was only slightly blemished by a missed extra point.
The silver, white and burgundy emblazoned stallions seemed to shrug off the early game setbacks just before halftime. Drew Adams cocked his arm and let fly a 63-yard-missile to Cale Snedden to put Mount Vernon on the board. A missed extra point left the scoreboard glowing 20-6 when the final ticks of the half expired.
It was a few minutes into half time when Solon fans cringed as Dall emerged from the locker room without his pads and nursing an ice pack on his hand. However, the mood quickly turned as the Solon High School Marching Band took to the field to honor the branches of armed forces as part of Armed Forces Night at the stadium. The band paid homage with the music of each branch and completed the tribute with a fireworks display originating from the Solon softball field.
The star-spangled-clad student section erupted with its approval.
As the curtain went up on the second half, Bo Black returned the opening kick off 84 yards to score, making it 26-6. It would be Solon’s last score of the evening as the extra point was missed.
The Mustangs, their backs firmly against a wall, went to work. Their next drive culminated in a 1-yard touchdown run by John Cochrane. A successful 2-point conversion by the Mustangs’ Sam Moore cut Solon’s lead to 26-14.
The Mustangs stampeded on their next possession culminating in a score from another Adams-Sneden hook-up of 17-yards. Just over eight minutes remained in the game when the Spartans took over.
Clock management began to work against the Mustangs with a little over 3:30 remaining as they took receipt of the ball after stopping the Spartans. Mount Vernon yielded the ball, unable to capitalize, with 2:12 left to play.
The Spartans offered the Mustangs one last opportunity with less than a minute to work, again unable to score. The Mustangs began to drive but an interception by Solon’s Jack Stahle sealed Mount Vernon’s fate with 0.7 seconds burning on the scoreboard.
Griffis took a knee to move Solon to 1-0 on the season and served Mount Vernon a 14th consecutive loss to the Spartans.
Griffis went 14-23 for 170-yards passing, hitting Dall four times racking up 45 yards and Nelson four times for 55 yards and the aforementioned touchdowns. Black and Harris each caught two passes for 8 and 17 yards respectively. Jacob Coons (23 yards) and Grant Goldsberry (22 yards) each caught one of Griffis’ passes.
Kendrick Harris rushed 21 times for 111 yards while Griffis scrambled eight times for 16 yards. Prior to his injury, Dall had the previously-mentioned 5-yard touchdown run.
Austin Kennedy led the team with nine solo tackles and two assists. Trevor Nelson posted six solo tackles and three assists; Goldsberry and Tyler Linderbaum amassed four solo tackles apiece with three and two assists respectively; Spencer Wegmann and Jacob Coons each had three solo tackles with Wegmann assisting on four; Dall, Matt Folkerts, Harris and Trevor McGill each posted two solo tackles and an assist; and Black, Greg Brandt, Jackson Walker and Bryce West drug down a solo tackle apiece with four, one, three and one assists respectively. Justin Gibbs had one tackle assist and scooped up a Mustang fumble.
Anthony Bullard punted the ball eight times for 254 yards, his longest a 45-yard boot, and Adam Bock kicked two point-after attempts on the evening.
When asked how bad Dall’s injury was and how it affected play calling, Solon Head Coach Kevin Miller commented, “Currently we’re unsure of the status of his injury and without a doubt it affected the play calling. Going into the game, we planned on utilizing his abilities to run and catch the football.”
“I do think Graeson’s injury impacted the game,” Miller responded when asked if Dall’s injury contributed to the Spartans inability to score offensively in the second half of the game. “But Mount Vernon made some good adjustments and we just didn’t execute like we needed to.”
Nelson was called upon on both sides of the ball, racking up two touchdowns and 7.5 total tackles. When asked if this was by design or if he put himself in those positions, Miller commented, “Trevor did play well on both sides of the ball. Offensively we were able to put him in positions where we could utilize his abilities and maximize his big-play ability. Defensively, Trevor has a nose for the ball and has a thorough understanding of what we’re trying to do.”
Solon faces No. 1-ranked (Class 1A) Iowa City Regina on Friday, Sept. 2, in Iowa City. Regina will enter the game 0-1 after a 35-26 loss at Cedar Rapids Xavier in week one. Regina went 10-25 for 212 total yards passing with three interceptions and two touchdowns. The Regals also rushed 26 times for 157 yards and two touchdowns in the week one loss.
When asked how he felt facing two No. 1-ranked, rivalry teams back-to-back on the schedule to open the season, Miller said, “Honestly we’re focused on improving in every aspect of (the) team’s development. We didn’t speak too much about rivalries the past few weeks, solely concentrated on getting better. Regina is very good upfront on both sides of the ball. Hopefully competing against a big physical team last week and in our scrimmage, will prepare us for what proves to be a great challenge upfront (against Regina).”
“We have to be sound in every phase of the game,” Miller elaborated when asked what he saw as the key to Solon’s producing yardage on offense and holding Regina defensively this year. “Regina won’t beat themselves, very fundamentally sound and extremely disciplined. With that being said, we’ll have to be sound defensively and produce opportunities to score by being balanced in our offensive attack. There’s no doubt that this will be a physical contest, where both teams pride themselves in being sound.”
Last season, the Spartans saw the field on Friday night, but lightning delays forced the postponement of the game to Saturday.
Hopefully, Friday, Sept. 2, as the Spartans take their show on the road, the curtain will come up at 7:30 p.m. undeterred and the second feature of the season will take place.