Solon Wins, Goes For Record 4th Straight Title

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By Tracy McCullough

CEDAR FALLS - They had a snap sail way over the punter’s head and bounce about 35 yards backward, only to have him pick it up and unload a spinning boot that rolled and rolled and rolled down to the opponent’s 9-yard line.

They had the opponent’s tight end catch a pass and refuse to go to the ground, only to get stripped in a pile of about a half-dozen players and fumble. They had a running back fumble at the 3-yard line, only to fall on it in the end zone for a touchdown.

All that in one quarter.

The Solon Spartans got plenty of breaks last night in their 26-14 win over top-ranked Pella in a Class 3A state football semifinal at the UNI-Dome. But when you’re good, you tend to get them, and Solon is plenty good.

Good enough to be on the doorstep of history. The Spartans (12-1) play Sioux City Heelan (12-1) in Saturday afternoon’s 3A championship game, seeking their record fourth consecutive title.

“Nobody has done what we’re about to do,” Coach Kevin Miller told his team postgame. “I can taste it. It’s right there. These next four days, we need everything you’ve got. You’ve got to bring it.”

They’ve been doing that since Iowa City Regina ended their 42-game win streak the second week of the season. Solon responded, rebounded and finds itself playing for another championship — this one in a class higher than their previous three.

“We believed in ourselves,” said Solon’s Derrick Loveless. “I think making it with this team is probably the best feeling because we’re the only ones who really believed in each other (from) the beginning.”

Quarterback J.J. Hanus ran for a touchdown and threw for one as Solon jumped to a 12-0 halftime lead. It could have been worse, but kicker Marshall Koehn had an extra point and 35-yard field goal blocked.

Jedlicka’s fortunate TD run late in the third quarter pretty much put it out of reach. He broke free from the 14, but had the ball knocked away at the 3, only to recover his mistake.

“Luckily, it bounced off my hip, otherwise it would have gone backwards,” he said. “If it had bounced off my leg, it probably would have been Pella’s ball. Instead we got six points off of it.”

Pella scored on a 15-yard pass from Teag Klyn to Ryan Lanke with 8:56 left to make it semi-interesting, but Hanus broke loose on a 67-yard option run down the sideline just 56 seconds later to officially seal it.

He finished 123 yards rushing on 16 carries and threw for 81.

“The linemen created a huge hole, and I just hit it,” Hanus said.

Pella outgained Solon by a 337-323 margin, but that’s deceiving considering a lot of those yards came in fourth-quarter desperation time. And the Spartans were able to force three Dutch turnovers: one interception in the end zone and two fumble recoveries.

“That’s been our strength all year long, the play of our defense,” Miller said. “Early on, I thought they controlled the game. They got a little tired there in the second half. That was pretty obvious. We’ve got some guys that go both ways.

“But we’ve got great athletes there. All 11 of those guys can run. And if we’re going to win a state championship, that’s where it has to start. With our defense.”

Make that another state championship, Coach. Another state championship.
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