Now, that was a finish.
It was down to the wire for the Solon Spartans Friday night in a 27-17 win over Maquoketa, a game much closer than the score would indicate.
Having taken the lead early in the fourth quarter, Solon was backed up deep in its own territory and forced to punt nursing a 21-17 margin. The Maquoketa Cardinals had the ball just on Solon’s side of midfield with about six minutes left in the game.
A touchdown, and only a touchdown, would give the Cardinals the game.
A defensive holding penalty gave Maquoketa a first down at the 38, and the Cardinals pounded senior running back Josh Kirk into the red zone, converting one fourth down along the way.
But Solon’s defense stiffened at the goal line.
It came down to fourth and goal from the Solon 2.
Maquoketa quarterback Trent Bollman stepped back and delivered a short flare pass to Kirk, who was swarmed immediately by Spartan jerseys short of a score.
With less than two minutes in the game, Solon’s offense marched on the field, looking for a first down that would allow them to burn the rest of the clock.
Instead, Solon quarterback Rory Siddell broke loose on third down for a 91-yard touchdown, giving Solon an extra six points and the winning 27-17 score.
“The goal line stand was tremendous,” said Solon coach Kevin Miller. “To get a stop inside your 1-yard-line says a lot about the character of our team and the growth that we have made.”
It was another come-from-behind win for Solon, which trailed 10-7 at halftime, and was behind 17-7 midway through the third quarter. Maquoketa had kicked a first-quarter field goal, and Solon responded with a touchdown from Siddell in the second, but the Cardinals answered with a 45-yard touchdown run by Kirk.
After three-and-outs by both sides to start the third quarter, Maquoketa used a 36-yard screen pass and a Spartan personal foul to move into scoring position for Kirk from 5 yards out, capping a 73-yard drive.
But that’s when things started going Solon’s way.
Jordan Wymer’s kickoff return gave the Spartans excellent field position at the Maquoketa 48, and Solon made the most of a short field, converting a third and 9 to Chris McNutt to the Cardinal 14. Siddell then eluded the entire Cardinal defense on a 14-yard run to the end zone, and after the extra point, Solon was within striking distance, 17-14.
The Spartan defense forced a three-and-out and again the offense worked with a short field, going 47 yards in only five plays, capped by a 22-yard touchdown rumble down the far sidelines by Wymer.
With 14 unanswered points, Solon had taken the lead and the momentum.
“We played a solid second half,” said coach Miller. “In my opinion it was the best half of football we have played all year. The key is for us to put four solid quarters of football together.”
Siddell was at the core of the offense. His 214 rushing yards on 23 carries led the team.
“Rory played extremely well in the second half,” Miller commented. “He made great decisions with the football and managed the game very well.”
Wymer added 27 yards on four carries.
Siddell was 8-14 through the air for 63 yards. Six different Solon players caught a pass, led by Chris McNutt with three receptions and 21 yards.
The Spartans amassed 325 total yards of offense, compared to 289 for Maquoketa. Maquoketa’s Kirk had 147 yards on 25 carries.
Defensively, Solon was led by a host of players. Eli DeWitt, Colton Dall and Danny Whitmore each had eight tackles, while Tim Lance and Aaron Shulista had seven. Shulista had three tackles for loss, and Logan Linderbaum came up with the only Spartan sack at a crucial time in the fourth quarter.
“Defensively, we settled in that second half and did a much better job of tackling and not giving up the big play,” Miller said.
The Spartans end the regular season at home Friday, Oct. 19, against Benton Community.