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Spartans exit 3A football playoffs in second round

Brandan Childs checks down his receivers as Justin Gibbs and Tyler Linderbaum protect him Nov. 2 during second round action in the Class 3A playoffs. (photo by Jeff Hess)

MANCHESTER– Arguably it was the best night for football this season on Nov. 2 when the Solon Spartans traveled to meet the West Delaware Hawks. A season of wins and losses looking like an EKG culminated in Manchester as the Spartans departed the playoffs at the hands of the Hawks, 37-14.
The Spartans broke their group huddle to open the game, for the last time this season, to their customary Greek chant of “molon labe,” or translated, “come and take.” The phrase originates from Spartan history, when the Persian armies demanded the Greeks surrender their weapons at the Battle of Thermopylae, and King Leonidas I responded to their request with the phrase.
It somehow fit when thinking about the history between Solon and West Delaware.
Solon met West Delaware last year in the second round of Class 3A playoffs when they fell to the Hawks in Manchester, 28-14 on Nov. 3, 2014. Solon defeated West Delaware, at home in 2013, 49-20, also in the second round of the playoffs.
The Hawks received the ball on the opening kickoff and Solon stopped them a short time later. The ball was kicked to the Spartans and they, too, drove for a bit and had to kick away. And so the first quarter progressed, until, with 5:19 remaining in the first quarter, the Hawks’ quarterback Max Ridenour hooked up with a pass to John Nagle in the end zone and, with an Aaron Thole extra point glancing off the left upright, and the Hawks led, 7-0.
Penalties would play into the game and Solon’s following drive saw a pass to Matt Roeder, a possible momentum changer, called back due to a flag. Solon punted the ball away with 3:15 left in the first quarter.
With 10:51 remaining in the second quarter, the Hawks scored again as Ridenour ducked, dived, and dashed 2 yards into the end zone. Another Thole point-after and West Delaware led, 14-0.
On the following possession, Solon started to find some positive yardage on short passes to Nato Christensen and Halston Durr, intermixed with carries by Brandan Childs.
There were some tense moments when the Hawks appeared to intercept a pass intended for Durr, however the defender was flagged for pass interference, giving the ball back to Solon, poised on the 20-yard line with 7:44 remaining in the first half. After stagnating on passing, the Spartans gave the ball to the Hawks on downs at the 19-yard line after three failed attempts to find the end zone.
The Spartans made a stand, culminating in a wave of Spartans washing though the line and engulfing the Ridenour with 5:15 remaining in the half, forcing the Hawks to punt it away facing a fourth and 20 on the 9-yard line.
The Spartans struggled again and returned the ball to the Hawks who inevitably kicked it back to Solon following big stops by the Spartans with 45 seconds remaining in the half on the 34-yard line.
The Spartans drove the field through time-outs, sideline management and a spectacular catch by Durr on his back on the ground after grappling with the defender in the air, to keep the drive alive. The drive concluded with Christensen’s big reception in the end zone, coming down hard on the ball, slow to get as if the wind had been knocked out of him. But he recovered quickly enough to hold for the extra point put up by Childs with 10.7 seconds remaining in the half, with the score 14-7.
The momentum seemed changed, as if Solon found the same spark that propelled them to the previous week’s playoff win in Washington.
Solon received the kick to open the second half of play and started the quarter by moving the ball, but West Delaware took over on downs with 7:48 remaining in the third quarter at their own 35-yard line. One play later, the hometown stands erupted as the Hawks took it all the way for a score, capped by a Thole extra point. Hawks led 21-7 with 7:37 remaining in the third quarter.
Following a three-and-out by Solon on the subsequent possession, the Hawks, from a first and 10, ran almost the exact same play as their previous possession all the way in for score. The Hawks led, following Thole’s extra point, 28-7.
For the remainder of the third quarter, Solon would not find the end zone.
The Hawks put up one more touchdown as Ridenour found Malone with a pass. Solon would exact a modicum of revenge by blocking the extra point to limit West Delaware’s lead to 34-7.
Solon’s defense found success in the fourth quarter, holding the Hawks to only a field goal by Thole, with nine minutes remaining. West Delaware led, 37-7.
Blayze Griffis helmed the Spartans on their final drive of the game and scampered in from 2 yards out, after Spencer Lawson had cut, spun and weaved his way to the 2-yard line like a Clydesdale.
With a final score of 37-14, the Spartans’ checkerboard season of wins and losses, punctuated by a three-game win streak, ended at the hands of the West Delaware Hawks much the same as it did the previous season.
Childs, typically poised and comfortable scrambling behind the line, arguably let his frustration show for the first time this season with an intentional grounding call in the fourth quarter of the game. Solon had started to see success with short passes to the outside but never fully capitalized on them to spread West Delaware’s assault on the Spartan’s offensive line. Childs’ quick outs with a pass seemed to offer the only real relief from the pressure he felt.
Childs was 14-27 passing for 131 yards and a touchdown and rushed 16 times for 23 yards. He was 2-2 on PATs. Griffis was 2-2 passing for 36 yards seeing limited play in the fourth quarter and had three rushes for a total of 2 yards and scored Solon’s other touchdown.
Christensen pulled in eight receptions for 65 yards including the 15-yard pass from Childs for the touchdown. He had four solo tackles and three assists in the game on defense.
Lawson rushed four times for 21 yards, had one catch for 32 yards, and recorded three solo tackles, including a sack for loss, and five assists.
Durr grabbed four of Childs’ passes for 64 yards, and Matt Roeder and Graeson Dall each grabbed one for 2 and 9 yards respectively.
Kendrick Harris and Dillon Diltz each carried the ball for 1 and 7 yards respectively.
The Spartans rushed a total of 55 yards and passed for 167 yards in their loss to West Delaware.
Trevor Nelson and Tanner Wymer hammered the Hawks, making their presence felt on defense. Nelson had six solo tackles and four assists with Wymer recording seven solo tackles.
Bo Black recorded three solo tackles and three assists with Diltz wrapping up three solos, one for a loss.
Tyler Linderbaum made an impact with two solo tackles, one for a loss of 7, and one assist.