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Spartans continue to ride the crazy train

Solon moves to 6-1 on season with 26-0 win
Solon junior Storm Scott and senior Graeson Dall drag down Mount Pleasant junior Brody McGhghy during the Spartans’ 26-0 defeat of the Panthers at Solon Stadium on Friday, Oct. 7. (photo by Jeff Hess)

SOLON– It is heard at almost every football game. It inspires football fans and teams alike, but has somehow become a theme song for this season’s Spartan Football express.
“All aboard! Hahaha…
I, I, I, I… [fade]
Crazy, but that’s how it goes…
I’m going off the rails on a crazy train
I’m going off the rails on a crazy train…”
- “Crazy Train” by Ozzy Ozbourne.
Following last year’s 6-5 record and redistricting, this season the Solon Spartans have definitely boarded a crazy train.
They have put together a record of 6-1 after defeating the Mount Pleasant Panthers, 26-0, on Friday, Oct. 7. The Spartans still sit atop Class 3A District 5, at 5-0, having strung together a five-game winning streak since the Week Two, 34-0 non-district loss to Iowa City Regina. Solon has outscored its opponents, 220-80, and appear to be building steam.
The Spartans could have left the rails when Blayze Griffis lost his favorite aerial target, Graeson Dall, during the first game against Mount Vernon, or when it appeared the team might lose Trevor Nelson at Regina.
However, Kendrick Harris emerged as a rushing workhorse in the interim.
Following a week three rest, Nelson returned and kept the express positively producing on both sides of the ball with Jacob Coons, Bryce West, Grant Goldsberry and Harris continuing to contribute on offense. And do not forget the contributions on defense by Tyler Linderbaum and Dall, prior to his return to the offensive trek last week sans the cast.
“As a whole I’ve been pleased with how we’ve consistently improved over the course of (this) season,” Solon Head Coach Kevin Miller said. “The players did a great job of responding after the week two loss to Regina.”
The Spartan strong in the stands, complemented by the student section adorned in their pajamas, could hear the whistle and almost hear a raspy voice resonating, “Hahahaha,” for the better part of the first half as the express rolled into Spartan Stadium for the last time this regular season.
The Panthers heard the clatter of the wheels on the tracks as the Spartans kept them from a first down much of the first quarter.
Like the light on the front of the locomotive, Solon’s first score was a beacon of what was to come. With a little more than five minutes remaining in the first quarter of play, a 5-yard pass from Blayze Griffis to an unchallenged Kendrick Harris provided the first score of the evening. Anthony Bullard’s extra point added some steam, 7-0.
Mount Pleasant stopped Solon in scoring range, forcing a turnover on downs on the next two possessions, following three-and-outs of their own. They mounted a drive, resisting and taxing the Spartan Express as they rushed their way down the field, but a Dall interception, and subsequent return, stole any steam the Panthers might have been able to build.
Solon would score a few downs later and enter the locker room at the half with a 19-0 lead.
The Spartans scored one more time in the second half and when the horn sounded, 26-0, Solon arrived at the station still atop Class 3A District 5.
Griffis completed 13-21 passes for 150 yards and three touchdowns. He attempted three rushes but only totaled -5 yards.
Griffis’ passes were spread over five receivers with Dall acting as the conductor pulling in the lion’s share, six receptions for 76 yards and over half of the Spartans’ total receiving yards, including a touchdown. Coons totaled 47 yards of receiving on four catches, while Goldsberry, Harris and Nelson grabbed one catch apiece for 15, 5 and 7 yards respectively. Harris’ and Nelson’s were for touchdowns.
When asked about the chemistry appearing to exist between Griffis and Dall as a receiver, Miller replied, “We have designed plays to get the ball to Graeson but also other players, as well, to utilize the various abilities they possess. Graeson does a nice job after the catch getting additional yards.”
Harris connected with the engine of the Spartans’ offensive line and pounded the defense of Mount Pleasant 23 times for 94 total yards. Bryce West carried the ball five times for 24 yards, Coons rushed three times for 18 yards, Nelson handled the ball twice gaining 20 yards, and Dall scrambled twice for 18 yards and a touchdown.
“I believe the key to being productive on offense is to be balanced in your attack. When you’re able to effectively run the ball, it allows to set up your passing attack,” Miller said. “As a whole, we were very balanced on Friday night, I think we had 154 yards passing and nearly 170 rushing. If we can continue to be balanced and distribute the ball effectively we put ourselves in a position to be very successful on offense.”
Defensively, the Spartans were led by Nelson, who collected seven solo tackles, two of which were sacks for loss, and assisting on four tackles. Spencer Wegmann racked up three solo tackles and five tackle assists and Coons wrapped up three solo tackles, two of which were sacks for loss, and a tackle assist. Austin Kennedy had two tackles and four tackle assists, Grant Goldsberry recorded two tackles and two tackle assists and Bo Black had two solo tackles- one a sack for a loss. Tyler Linderbaum had a solo sack for a loss and four tackle assists, Trevor McGill had a solo and two tackle assists, Jackson Walker and Zach Wegmann collected a solo tackle and a tackle assist each– Wegmann’s was a sack for a loss. Greg Brandt, Cole Flansburg, Matt Folkerts, and Jack Stahle each had a solo tackle apiece, Dall contributed two tackle assists, and Justin Gibbs collected a tackle assist, as well.
Dall exercised his receiving magic even on defense intercepting a Panther pass and returning it for 15 yards.
Anthony Bullard was 2-3 on point-after attempts, 0-1 on field goals, punted twice for 76 yards and kicked off five times for a total of 221 yards.
Nelson and Dall handled punt return duties, Dall with two for a total of 6 yards and Nelson had one for 17 yards.
“Graeson possesses the ability to make an explosive play through either running or catching the ball,” Miller said of Dall adding dimension to the team. “He’s an additional weapon that we hope to utilize to a greater capacity as we move through the rest of the season.”
The Spartans leave the station on an express run to West Burlington Notre Dame (4-3, 2-3 in District 5) Friday, Oct. 14, and then roll into Fairfield (4-3, 2-3 in District 5) on Friday, Oct. 21. Both the away games sport a 7:30 p.m. start time.
“Right now our defense is playing at a very high level. I’m very pleased with how that unit is performing. We do some very nice things on offense but we’re still attempting to be more consistent,” Miller said. “We need to finish drives, when you get into the red zone you have to come away with points. West Burlington possesses players who have speed, we have to contain their speed on defense and not give up big plays. Defensively they give you various fronts to prepare for, so we have to do to a good job of executing.”