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Spartans advance to quarterfinals

Solon smothers Vikings in 34-2 win
Solon junior Hunter Kula hits Decorah’s Drake Shelton from behind as Greg Brandt moves to contain on Friday, Oct. 27, at Spartan Stadium, during the Spartans’ 34-2 defeat of the Vikings to advance to the quarterfinal round of the playoffs. (photos by Jeff Hess)

SOLON– Neither rain, nor sleet, nor cold of night could deter the Spartans on Friday, Oct. 27, at Spartan Stadium as Solon emerged victorious from a postseason football clash with the Decorah Vikings, 34-2.
“They played tough and physical,” Solon Head Coach Kevin Miller said when asked if Decorah had provided the competition he expected. “Once again our defense was stellar, we gave up some yards in the first half on the ground but were much better in the second half. I was especially pleased with our secondary and overall coverage. Offensively, we did some nice things but lacked consistency. We must be better on the offensive end if we hope to get where we want to go.”
Not even the windy and cold conditions affected the way the Spartans did what they have done all season.
The Solon defense forced Decorah to kick the ball away after three plays into a prevailing wind. The Sophomore Connection, quarterback Cam Miller and A.J. Coons, connected on a 12-yard pass facing fourth down to cap a 72-yard drive and take the lead. Aidan Dall kicked the extra point and the Spartans led, 7-0.
Decorah appeared to be on its way to scoring in the first quarter, up until Solon’s Jack Stahle grappled his way into possession of a pass intended for a Viking receiver near the goal line and returned it 58 yards before he was forced out of bounds. Solon was unable to capitalize on the interception and tension began to grow as the score stagnated at 7-0 until well into the second quarter.
With just under five minutes remaining before the half, Coal Flansburg made it 14-0, punching the ball into the end zone on a 2-yard rush from snap. Dall once again was good on the point-after.
The score appeared to be set for the halftime break when Coons, on defense, jumped a pass intended as a Viking strike downfield and returned it 48 yards for a score as the clock hit zero. Dall’s point-after, with no time remaining in the half, split the uprights.
The Spartans’ opening drive of the third quarter culminated in another Flansburg surge into the end zone, 4 yards this time, for a score. Dall missed the point-after and Solon led, 27-0.
The only chink in the Spartan armor came in the third quarter, as Decorah’s Brannan Hogan pinned the Spartans on the 1-yard line with a punt, setting up quarterback Miller being tackled in the end zone on a broken play for a safety. The Vikings denied the Spartans a scoreless game, 27-2.
The Spartans responded in the fourth quarter as they worked the clock, gobbling up time. Solon’s Mason Stahle rumbled 34 yards for a score and Dall put the exclamation point on the game with a point-after.
The Vikings allowed time to expire as the final moments ticked away and accepted their trophy from Athletic Director Zach Wigle at midfield, 34-2.
The Spartans held Decorah to five completions on 20 attempts passing for only 44 yards, intercepting the Vikings three times. On 27 rushing attempts, Solon limited the Vikings to just 124 total yards to advance to the quarterfinals to face the West Delaware Hawks on Friday, Nov. 3, at Spartan Stadium.
Cam Miller was 6-10 passing for 58 yards and one 12-yard touchdown. He rushed six times for 46 yards.
Greg Brandt helmed the Spartans briefly at the close of the game and was 0-1 passing, recording no rushing yards.
Miller hit Payton Bandy three times for 31 yards, Coons twice for 21 yards and a touchdown, and Ben Krutzfeldt reeled in one pass for six yards.
The Vikings managed to hold the Spartans to 257 total yards rushing with Kendrick Harris carrying the lion’s share of the calls to handle the ball, 20 times for 52 yards. Hunter Kula handled the ball nine times for 51 yards; Stahle and Adam Bock accumulated five touches apiece for 58 and 37 yards, respectively, one of Bock’s for the 34-yard touchdown; and Flansburg tucked the ball away three times accumulating 13 yards and two scores.
Defensively, the Spartans executed in the windy, frigid conditions without getting rattled. Bock led the defense with seven solo tackles and seven assists, Harris recorded three solo tackles and one assist with one of the solos for a loss, and Tyler Linderbaum recorded three solo tackles and one assist the same day he was recipient of a jersey and invitation to compete in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. Matt Folkerts racked up two solo tackles and three assists, one a solo sack for loss; Ryan Geistkemper had two solo tackles and one assist; Flansburg contributed five assists; Brandt assisted on three tackles; Chase Gehrke and Ben McAtee each had a solo tackle; Dillon Hoit, Jackson Pipolo, Stahle and Spencer Wegmann recorded two assists apiece; Dall, Krutzfeldt and Storm Scott assisted on a tackle apiece.
Coons recorded a interception and return, 48 yards, for touchdown. Stahle intercepted one pass, returning it for 58 yards, and Storm Scott recorded one interception for no gain.
Bock kicked off six times with one touchback and amassed 263 yards. He also handled punting duties, four times for 160 yards, the longest 50 yards.
Harris also returned one kickoff 59 yards.
With the regular season over, everyone advancing in the playoffs is 1-0, arguably only as good as their last game. The Spartans (10-0, 8-0) meet the Manchester West Delaware Hawks (8-2, 7-1) on Friday following the Hawks’ defeat of Waverly-Shell Rock, 20-13.
The Hawks held Waverly-Shell Rock to 6-12 passing for only 91 yards and only allowed 163 yards on 41 carries in the win.
The Hawks’ Nick Cassey went 18-28 passing for 196 yards with one 48-yard touchdown and was intercepted once. He hit Tyler Kelley six times for 93 yards and a touchdown, Mitchel Mangold nine times for 80 yards, Kabryn Cook twice for 18 yards and Grant Morris once for five yards.
Waverly-Shell Rock’s running game included 26 carries for 130 yards and two touchdowns, Jordan Bries rushed 11 times for 95 yards, Grant Morris ran twice for 11 yards and Nick Casey ran six times for a net loss of 36 yards.
“West Delaware has a potent offense. They run a lot of different sets and are extremely balanced with their passing and rushing attack,” said Coach Miller in analysis of the Hawks. “We can’t allow them to make big plays, they have some tall (wide receivers) that could present some problems for our secondary. We need to make them one-dimensional and put pressure on their (quarterback). Offensively, we have to be balanced, we need to spread it around and be more consistent.”
When asked what the Spartans needed to do to be successful against Waverly-Shell Rock, Coach Miller responded.
“Do what we’ve done all year on defense, play tough and physical and not give up big plays,” he said. “Offensively we must be balanced and value the football. We can’t turn the ball over to compromise field position and give them momentum.”
Asked how the team prepares now that the game has changed to win or go home, Coach Miller commented, “We spend more time on the details, watching film, scouting reports, etcetera. We also become more detailed with our practice regimen, all of our coaches are able to focus on their position group and give them more individual attention.”
Coach Miller reflected on how he felt the team has evolved and grown this season. “I believe they are more unified. They have really come together as a team. They celebrate each other’s successes and believe in one another.”
The Spartans will have to come together Friday, Nov. 3, at Spartan Stadium at 7 p.m. to defeat the Manchester West Delaware Hawks in quarterfinal action if they hope to celebrate a return to the UNI-Dome, in Cedar Falls, on Thursday, Nov. 9, to compete in the semifinal round at 8:21 p.m. against the winner of the Friday, Nov. 3, Cedar Rapids Xavier (10-0) and Davenport Assumption (8-2) game.