MAQUOKETA– It took a while to get going, but once Solon’s offense came to life, it helped turn a 10-point deficit into an 11-point halftime lead.
In a wild, back-and-forth scoring barrage, the Spartan football team outlasted the Maquoketa Cardinals to claim the Class 3A District 6 regular season title Friday in Maquoketa, 49-31.
Although Solon struck first on a 35-yard interception returned for touchdown by Jacob Black, the Spartans found themselves on the wrong end of a 17-7 deficit early in the second quarter.
Maquoketa scored 17 unanswered points with a 32-yard touchdown run, a 32-yard field goal and an 82-yard punt return by Cardinal Ben Strathman.
“Offensively we are doing some nice things but we still lack consistency,” said head coach Kevin Miller. “In fact, we didn’t have a first down in the first quarter.”
But both the offense and defense gained steam in the second quarter.
The Solon offense responded with a touchdown on a 1-yard run by Brandon Kramer to cap a 57-yard drive, closing the Spartans’ gap to 17-13.
The defense recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff and Black connected with senior Nathan Hawkins for a 5-yard touchdown to retake the lead.
“We turned it around when we opened it up and threw the football,” Miller noted. “They (Maquoketa) committed a lot of players to stop or contain the run. Jacob did a nice job of finding open receivers and those receivers made big plays after the catch.”
Black was 8-14 for 126 yards through the air, connecting three times with Hawkins and Jordan Wymer, and twice with Connor Ham. Wymer scored on a 17-yard pass to extend the Solon lead to 28-17 at halftime.
Kramer broke a 41-yard touchdown run to open the third quarter scoring, and Solon was up 35-17.
But Maquoketa wasn’t done yet.
Cardinal running back Cohl Kueter scored on a 33-yard run, and the fourth quarter began with Maquoketa in striking distance, 35-24.
Solon, however, was able to keep possession of the ball offensively and scored twice in the final period, adding touchdown runs by Kramer and Black.
“Defensively, we have to be better fundamentally, we made too many mistakes,” Miller said. “Any time you allow a team to score 31 points, it’s concerning. In most cases, drives were extended because of penalties and they capitalized by scoring touchdowns.”
There were also a lot of positives,, including two interceptions of Cardinal quarterback Trent Bollman (by Black and Wymer), two fumble recoveries (by Evan Burrowes and Nate Kennedy) and 10 total tackles for negative yardage. Two sacks were recorded by Danny Whitmore (his nine tackles led the team) and one by Logan Linderbaum.
Offensively, Solon gained 243 yards on the ground, led by Kramer with 132 on 15 carries. Black added 84 on 12 attempts, while Wymer had 20 yards on six carries.
The win moves Solon to 7-1 for the season and 5-0 in conference play, with a single game remaining on the regular season schedule. The Spartans head to Van Horne Friday to take on the Benton Community Bobcats.
“I’m happy for the players because winning a district title was one of our goals that we established prior to the season,” Miller said.