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Spartans rally past Demons

Solon overcomes 15-0 deficit for victory over Washington
Spartan Tyler Linderbaum rumbles 70 yards with a stampede of Spartans including Trevor Nelson, Matt Folkerts, and Nick Troyer after Linderbaum intercepted a pass for a momentum-changing touchdown on Friday, Sept. 16, at Case Field in Washington.

WASHINGTON– As is custom in Washington at Case Field, local Legion members began to raise the flag to the rat-a-tat of a snare drum roll and the band joined in with the National Anthem. The Washington Demons recognized service men Friday, Sept. 16, during the Class 3A District 5 game against the Solon Spartans, as uniformed members of the military and local firemen and law enforcement were invited by the Demons to join them on the field for the anthem. The back of the Demons’ uniforms bore the words pride, valor, respect and honor in camouflage trim. The local service men were invited to view the game, inside the fence, from the track around the field.
It could be summarized in a word: inspirational.
It was inspired football which elevated the Spartans from a 15-0 deficit, allowing them to score 36 unanswered points– including 12 by the defense– to defeat the Demons, 36-15, and solidify an inter-district rivalry.
Prior to the game, several other local publications tapped Washington as favored by as much as six points, citing the Demon’s returning talent, their desire for retribution for being eliminated by the Spartans last season in overtime during the first round of the playoffs and the fact Washington was averaging 43 points a game as quarterback Ryan Reighard amassed 1,181 yards of offense and 14 total touchdowns so far this season prior to meeting the Spartans.
Reighard and the Demon offense, second-ranked in the state for total yardage prior to the game, only added two touchdowns to his total facing the Spartans. Washington’s points came from a Reighard 54-yard drive, culminating in a 12-yard pass to Bryce Sinn capped by a Logan Escher extra point in the first quarter, and a 23-yard rush on a 35-yard drive off a Blayze Griffis pass interception capped by a 2-point conversion rushed by Reighard, in the second quarter.
However, someone forgot to let Solon know they were the underdogs.
Solon found opportunity on a Demons muffed punt, recovered by Grant Goldsberry with a little less than 5:30 remaining in the second quarter.
A few plays later, Griffis delivered a pass to Trevor Nelson for a touchdown. A missed pass attempt for a 2-point conversion left the Spartans trailing, 15-6.
Washington was forced to punt on its next possession and Griffis and Nelson worked their magic again. Griffis, evading defenders, rolled right as the play broke down, caught sight of Nelson alone and passed across the field for the score. Following another successful pass to Nelson by Griffis for a 2-point conversion, Solon trailed Washington by a single point, 15-14, shortly before entering the locker room at the half.
With years of collective coaching experience, what does the coaching staff tell the players?
“As a staff, we spend a majority of our time making adjustments to various aspects of the game and coaches meet with their position groups to discuss the adjustments that we need to make,” said Solon Head Coach Kevin Miller. “Simply, we talked about giving maximal effort every play and every player controlling the aspects that they have control over. The score at the end of the half definitely provided momentum going into halftime.”
Solon controlled the aspects they were able.
The third quarter went scoreless as the Spartan defense limited Washington to just two first downs.
Solon drove 45 yards in eight plays, taking the game into the fourth quarter, and on the second play of the fourth, Kendrick Harris, who shouldered much of the rushing duties on the evening, punched through to the end zone on a 1-yard carry. With a 2-point conversion pass, courtesy of Griffis and Nelson, Solon took the lead, 22-15.
Washington seemed poised as they drove down the field on the next possession, getting inside the Solon 30-yard line with less than nine minutes on the clock.
But Junior Tyler Linderbaum took control of what he could. Linderbaum intercepted a screen by Reighard on a third-down play, executed a spin move, broke tackles, and led a 70-yard stampede of Spartan white jerseys down the field for a score, much to the delight of the Spartan fans in attendance. Anthony Bullard kicked the extra point and Solon extended its lead, 29-15.
“There’s no doubt that the interception was the play that really broke the game open. From that moment on, we played with a different attitude and mentality,” Miller said.
Spencer Wegmann broke the Demons’ spirit on Washington’s next possession with his own interception and touchdown run. The quick pick-six silenced the hometown crowd and brought the traveling Spartan fans to their feet with elation. Bullard split the uprights to complete the final score of the game.
Solon’s offense kept to the ground and the defense controlled the field as the clock ticked toward expiration. Griffis took a knee with less than 25 seconds on the clock to end the game and solidified Solon’s place at the top of Class 3A District 5.
“Blayze did a great job of managing our offense and distributing the football. The play-action pass was there and he did a tremendous job of making plays within the scheme,” Miller said of Griffis’ performance passing.
Griffis went 8-13 against a stout Demon pass defense, racking up 101 yards passing with two touchdown tosses and two interceptions. He tucked the ball away and scrambled five times for 20 yards.
Griffis’ passes hit four receivers on the evening.
Nelson snared three of Griffis’ passes for 40 yards, two for touchdowns. He was responsible for 16 of Solon’s points including two 2-point conversions.
“Trevor played a significant role on both sides of the ball. He’s a very versatile athlete that gives (us) the ability to utilize his abilities to run and catch the ball. We hope to expand his role as we progress as an offense,” commented Miller.
Jacob Coons also snatched three passes, accumulating 36 yards and carried the ball once for -2 total yards.
Payton Bandy grabbed one pass for 20 yards.
Harris was responsible for one catch for 5 yards, but shouldered the workhorse portion of the ground game, carrying the ball 22 times for 54 yards, including a 7-yard touchdown run. He also returned two kickoffs for a total of 51 yards.
Defensively, the Spartans controlled the game as Graeson Dall, still sporting a cast on his bum wing, would not be denied defensively and claimed eight solo tackles and assists on three.
Linderbaum amassed six solo tackles, including one sack for a loss, and five tackle assists.
Nelson recorded five tackles and five assists including a sack for a loss.
Grant Goldsberry tied up four tackles and three tackle assists with one interception for a 10-yard return. He also had a kickoff return of 17 yards.
Spencer Wegmann contributed two solo tackles and seven tackle assists. Austin Kennedy and Jackson Walker each had two solo tackles and three tackle assists. Walker’s included one for loss. Zach Wegmann brought down two solo tackles and assisted on two, including two for loss and a sack. Coons managed two solo tackles and one assist and Trevor McGill had two solo tackles. Matt Folkers wrapped up one solo tackle with three tackle assists, including one a sack for loss.
Bo Black had one tackle and assisted on two. Payton Bandy contributed one tackle with one assist and returned two punts for 31 total yards. Bryce West had one solo tackle and one assist.
Anthony Bullard assisted with two tackles. He went 100 percent on PATs (2-2) and kicked off five times for 275 yards and one touchback. He punted six times for 221 yards, the longest 51 yards.
Justin Gibbs assisted with a tackle and scooped up a fumble recovery.
Although Solon lost one fumble, they capitalized on missteps by their opponent, recovering four of five on Demon fumbles. Solon held Washington’s Ryan Reighard to 12-21 passing for only 107 yards and his rushing to just 151 yards, and the Demons’ total rushing yards to 220.
Solon faces Oskaloosa, at home, for Homecoming on Friday, Sept. 23, visits Fort Madison on Friday, Sept. 30, returns home again Friday, Oct. 7, to host Mount Pleasant, takes to the road to visit West Burlington Notre Dame, Friday, Oct. 14, and finishes the regular season in Fairfield on Friday, Oct. 21. All games have a 7:30 p.m. kick off.
Oskaloosa defeated Mount Pleasant on Friday, Sept. 16, 30-13, and sits at 3-1 on the season with their other wins over Fort Madison (49-0) and Grinnell (23-6). They suffered a week-one loss to Pella, 37-13.
Against Mount Pleasant, Oskaloosa’s quarterback Ethan Arnold was 18-33 hitting seven receivers for 291 yards with one touchdown pass of 78 yards with one interception. The Indians’ three ball carriers– Blake Allsup, Ethan Arnold and Bennett Spry– carried the ball 29 times total for 169 total yards, Arnold racked up 87 of the total yards and two of the touchdowns. Defensively, Oskaloosa held Mount Pleasant to just 26 total yards rushing and 105 total yards passing.
“Oskaloosa is team that possesses a versatile attack on offense and defensively they give you various alignments and coverages to prepare for,” Coach Miller said. “They also have a very solid (quarterback) that can make plays in the pass game. We must continue to improve and shore up some of the miscues that we identified on Friday.”
Inspired play, like the Spartans displayed against the Demons, could carry Solon into the postseason.