Photo by Rob Howe
Your Prep Sports
SOLON – Season-ending losses always sting.
It wasn’t necessarily that Solon lost its playoff opener to Western Dubuque last season that stuck with the Spartans.
It was how the Spartans lost their playoff opener for the first since 1999 that stung the most.
“It’s one thing to lose it was just the manner in which we got beat,” Solon coach Kevin Miller said. “They physically imposed their will on us.”
Western Dubuque led 21-0 less than 10 minutes into the game and cruised to a 48-13 win that never felt that close.
The loss was a shock to the system for Solon team fresh off a second consecutive unbeaten regular and an eye opener for a program that had won 16 first round playoff games.
“Oh, it was horrible,” Solon senior lineman Michael Broghammer said. “Getting blown out like that. It was terrible.”
That 35-point loss to the Bobcats lingered well into the offseason for many of the returning players on the Solon roster.
On Thursday the Spartans get a rematch with Western Dubuque, a shot at some redemption and a chance to win a state title.
Second-ranked Solon (12-0) will face top-ranked Western Dubuque (12-0) in a battle of unbeatens in the Class 3A title game at 7 p.m. Thursday at the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls.
“We knew all year it was going to be Western Dubuque at the top again this season,” Solon senior linebacker Jax Flynn said. “Just to get another shot, especially in the championship game, to give it our all in our last game, it will be huge.”
Last season it was Western Dubuque that came to Spartan Stadium playing the underdog role.
Western Dubuque lost regular season games to North Scott and Cedar Rapids Xavier and entered the playoffs a district runner-up.
The opening-round win over Solon, the first postseason victory for Western Dubuque since 2001, helped springboard the Bobcats all the way to the 3A title game where it fell to Xavier 34-20.
This season its Solon that comes in comfortable in the underdog role.
“We are the smallest team in 3A, we are 342 (enrollment), they are double our size so we have to do things a little bit different than other 3A programs just as far as how we coach our guys,” Miller explained. “That’s significant at the end of the day, some people can discount that but they are double our size, they are almost 700 students and we are 342.”
“We’ve talked about that. We are embracing that underdog role. We are this small school that can’t play with the big schools. I think the kids have relished being in that role but we know we are going to have to play extremely well because they are an outstanding football team.”
Western Dubuque has been dominant all season playing just one game decided by less than 18 points.
The Bobcats most impressive performance came its last time out when it forced five turnovers in a 48-14 semifinal win over fourth-ranked Council Bluffs Lewis Central.
Western Dubuque is giving up 220 yards and 9.2 points per game and hasn’t allowed more than 14 points since week two.
“They get off the football, they run a lot of stunts and they twist and they try to wreak havoc,” Miller said. “”We are just going to have to stay within ourselves and be patient and not get frustrated. Last year I felt like we got impatient and we tried to make some things happen and as a result of that we turned the football over.”
In its win over Solon last season the Bobcats finished with 403 yards of offense.
This season many of those same key skill position players return led by senior quarterback Calvin Harris who has accounted for 39 touchdowns.
Harris has passed for 2,043 yards and 27 touchdowns and rushed for 360 yards and 12 scores.
Senior Ben Bryant has rushed for 911 yards while averaging 7.4 yards per carry and senior receiver Will Burds has 48 receptions for 893 yards and leads 3A with 16 touchdowns.
“It starts with Harris, he is an outstanding quarterback,” Miller said. “Bryant is a great back and they have Burds at receiver so they have a lot of tools.”
Solon has its own tools on defense.
The Spartans have helped opponents to 9.8 points and 189 yards per game this season.
“I feel like we have more weapons this year and we can get to the ball faster,” Flynn said. “I think we are a different defense this season.”
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