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Spartans take round one

Win over bobcats advances Solon to face No. 1 Pella Friday, Nov. 4, at home
Spartans Jackson Walker, Jacob Coons (obscured), Spencer Wegmann, Bo Black and Grant Goldsberry swarm over the Bobcat offensive line driving back Benton’s running back Friday, Oct. 28, at Spartan Stadium. The Spartans defeated Benton, 49-14. (photo by Jeff Hess)

SOLON– After several dreary days, the sun peeked from the heavens and shone favorably on the Spartans.
Benton Community’s Bobcats traveled to Solon for the first round of the Class 3A football playoffs and the Spartans’ responded with an offense that wracked up 49 points and a defense that limited the Bobcats to just 14.
That effort places the Spartans on a collision course with No. 1-ranked Pella on Friday, Nov. 4, at Spartan Stadium, starting at 7 p.m.
Arguably the most significant Bobcat-momentum-stealing moment of the game came on the opening kickoff of the second half, when the Spartans broke the Bobcat’s spirit.
Solon won the coin toss at the beginning of the game, electing to defer, and when the ball fell in Graeson Dall’s hands, the game was over. Dall fell in behind Grant Goldsberry, Trevor Nelson and Jackson Walker– who broke off as they advanced up the field to pick up defenders– and Dall streaked 93 yards up the field for a touchdown. An Anthony Bullard extra point made the lead 28-7.
Prior to that, in the first half with about a minute remaining, the Spartans faced a third-and-22 following an interception of Bobcat quarterback Spencer Touro by Austin Kennedy. The Spartans were pushed out of scoring range by a holding penalty, compounded by the Bobcat defense preventing two pass completions. The Solon coaching staff shrugged off any kind of conservative call after Benton called a time-out, and Jacob Coons streaked across the middle of the field on a seam route, Blayze Griffis locked on, and 36 yards later, following a PAT by Bullard, the Spartans were up 21-7 at the half.
“We felt it was a safe play call that gave us a maximum (of) protection,” Solon Head Coach Kevin Miller said. “Also, the ability to use misdirection in the backfield along with two vertical routes to create confusion in their coverage.”
Early scoring came from a 1-yard carry by Kendrick Harris for Solon in the first quarter, and a 26-yard Spartan pass play from Griffis to Dall in the second, followed by the Bobcat’s 27-yard passing touchdown in the second quarter from Spencer Touro Riley Pfiffner for Benton’s seven points.
said of the play call,
Griffis posted another score in the third quarter with a 57-yard sprint of his own.
Benton scored again in the third quarter on a 52-yard pass play, but in the fourth quarter Griffis scored again, this time on a 33-yard run capped by another Bullard point-after kick. Benton was unable to contain the Solon onslaught and Coal Flansburg later crossed the goal line on a 15-yard run for the Spartans’ final score, capped by an Alex Allen kick.
Griffis was 7-13 passing on the evening with two passing touchdowns, the longest the 36-yard completion to Coons. He rushed for 80 yards on seven carries and scored twice rushing, the longest the 57-yard carry for score.
Griffis’ favorite target was again no surprise. Dall lassoed four passes for 57 yards including the 26-yard touchdown. Coons pulled in the 57-yard reception, Payton Bandy grabbed one for 15 yards, and Harris netted a 2-yard reception.
Rushing is the Spartans’ forte and their ability to misdirect, enhanced by the offensive line’s ability to create openings, was on display against the Bobcats. Harris carried the ball 16 times on the evening for 70 yards including the 2-yard touchdown run. He was seconded by Griffis’ performance rushing. Dall had four carries for 27 yards, Bryce West ground up the field twice for 22 yards, Coal Flansburg rushed once for 15 yards with the score, Trevor Nelson carried the ball twice for 13 yards, Coons ran with the ball twice for 7 yards, and Spencer Wegmann touched the ball once for a loss of 3.
Defensively during the first round playoff game, the Spartans held the Bobcats to 137 total yards rushing and 135 yards receiving with Austin Kennedy and Trevor McGill each intercepting Benton’s Spencer Touro. Dall, Goldsberry and Nelson each recovered a Bobcat fumble.
Bo Black recorded five solo tackles and three tackle assists, Spencer Wegmann collected four solo tackles and five tackle assists, Tyler Linderbaum and Trevor McGill amassed four tackles apiece while one of Linderbaum’s was a tackle for a loss, Jackson Walker had three solo tackles and four assists with one for a loss and two sacks for a loss, Nelson had two solo tackles and three tackle assists, Kennedy and Adam Bock each had two solos and an assist, and Payton Stahle had two solo tackles. The Spartans had five players recording a solo tackle and a tackle assist: Payton Bandy, Coons, Goldsberry, Zach Wegmann, and Bryce West; only Coons had one that was a sack for a loss. Harris had one solo tackle, Matt Folkerts assisted on three tackles, and Rowdy Koehn and Jack Stahle assisted in a tackle apiece.
Bullard, who was perfect on six point-after attempts for the evening, kicked off seven times for 330 yards with two touchbacks, and punted the ball five times for 159 yards, the longest for 41 yards. Allen was 1-1 on point-after attempts and kicked off once for 48 yards.
Dall fielded two punts along with the 93-yard kick off return. Goldsberry returned a punt for 15 yards.
“The level of intensity that we practiced with over the course of the week was ramped up (a) notch or two and it did impact how we performed. Our defense was solid once again and we made some timely plays on offense and special teams play were simply outstanding,” Coach Miller said.
When asked what the Spartans could change regarding preparation for Pella, their next round opponent, on Friday, Nov. 4, Coach Miller responded, “We really aren’t going to change much. Our focus is still on improving from a fundamental and technical standpoint. If we focus on that process, we will execute more consistently. We need to continue to elevate our level of intensity and focus in practice.”
The Spartans are set to meet the Pella Dutch fresh off a Friday defeat of Oskaloosa, 34-14. Pella finished the regular season 9-0, defeating Oskaloosa, Dallas Center-Grimes, Bondurant-Farrar, Carlisle, Grinnell, Knoxille, Norwalk, North Polk and Nevada during the regular season. The Dutch have not lost a game since Nov. 8, 2013 (at home against Washington) and they hold two consecutive district championships.
This season, including the first week playoff games, the Dutch are 112-185 passing for 1,974 yards, scoring 27 touchdowns with five interceptions. Pella rushed 290 times for 2,001 yards and 31 touchdowns.
The Spartans’ passing statistics on the season are 93-146 for 1,494 yards, scoring 20 touchdowns with five interceptions. Solon rushed 344 times for 1,763 yards and 26 touchdowns.
Defensively this season, the Dutch amassed 316 solo tackles and 122 tackle assists, 59 solo tackles for loss and 14 sacks. They intercepted the ball 14 times amassing 261 return yards and one touchdown and recovered 11 fumbles, returning recoveries for 38 yards with one for a touchdown.
Solon’s defensive numbers, this season, include 284 solo tackles and 133 tackle assists, 34 tackles for loss and 22 sacks. The Spartans intercepted the ball 12 times collecting 130 return yards with two touchdowns and recovered 16 fumbles, returning recoveries for 73 yards with three touchdowns.
When asked what he viewed as Pella’s weaknesses and what he thought the Spartans could exploit, Kevin Miller responded, “Pella doesn’t have any real glaring weaknesses. They play hard and are very sound fundamentally, they won’t beat themselves and we’ll have to earn everything. We aren’t going to change much schematically; we will continue to focus on what we’ve been doing all year. We have to value the ball and not give them a short field. Our special teams will be a factor as well, we have to win the special teams battle.”
Asked what it was going to be like standing across the field from No. 1 ranked Pella and how the team and coaches would deal with the ballyhoo, Coach Miller replied, “There’s no doubt that Pella is playing with a lot of confidence. Pella has won two consecutive titles and won over 30 some games in a row. The key is for us to stay within ourselves and not get wrapped (up) in the hype. We are going to do what we do, and if it’s not good enough, we can live with the outcome.”