Photo by Rob Howe
Your Prep Sports
CEDAR FALLS – All season long the Solon defense came up with big plays at critical moments.
The Spartans had opportunities to continue that trend in the Class 3A state title game on Thursday at the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls.
Instead it was Calvin Harris and top-ranked Western Dubuque that made the plays at key times.
Western Dubuque converted its final seven third down opportunities of the first half leading to three consecutive touchdown drives and never looked back on its way to a 37-17 win over second-ranked Solon.
“They gave us opportunities to stop them on third down but we just didn’t execute them,” Solon senior linebacker Jax Flynn. “Give them credit. They made plays.”
Harris passed for 203 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for another 80 yards as Western Dubuque (13-0) won its second state title and first since 2001.
The loss stopped Solon (12-1) short of an unbeaten season and its first state title since 2010.
While the UNI-Dome scoreboards say Solon wasn't successful on Thursday veteran Solon head coach Kevin Miller said otherwise.
“For this team to continue to improve the way that they have over the span of the last 14 weeks to me that is the true measure of success,” Miller said. “Just because we didn’t win a championship doesn’t mean we weren’t successful. In my mind we were highly successful because of the amount of growth and development that this team made over the span of the last three months, that’s what coaching is all about. To me they are successful because of the things that not only they have done in our program but within our school. I define that as success.”
Things couldn’t have started much better for Solon.
The Spartans forced a Western Dubuque three-and-out on the opening possession of the game forcing an incompletion from Harris on third and eight.
Solon took over at the Bobcat 30 following a bobble snap on the punt and seven plays later took a 7-0 lead on a 3-yard touchdown run by senior quarterback Cam Miller with 7:07 left in the opening quarter.
“I thought we had a good plan and we had some momentum early,” Cam Miller said.
The Spartans had a chance to build on that momentum on its second defensive possession.
On third-and-nine the Spartans nearly got to Harris before he let go of a pass to senior Ben Bryant.
Three Spartans had their hands on Bryant but couldn’t make a tackle as the senior spun forward for 10 yard and first down.
Five plays later Harris hit Bryant for 19 yards and a first down on third-and-six.
Jake Hosch then tied the game 7-7 with 2:32 left in the opening quarter when he caught a seven-yard swing pass from Harris.
“There were a few plays there in the first quarter where we could have made plays,” Kevin Miller said. “On the second possession they ran a screen on third and long and we had two or three guys that could have made plays and we didn’t.”
The third-down success for Harris and the Bobcats was only getting started.
After a Solon punt Western Dubuque converted three third downs on a 13-play, 89-yard drive that ended with a 2-yard Hosch touchdown run.
Western Dubuque then took a 20-7 lead with a 6-play, 50-yard march on which it converted on third-and-12 and third-and-10.
Bryant made it 20-7 when he went 16-yards up the middle on a third-and-10 play.
“I don’t know how many third down conversions they had but it was insane,” Kevin Miller said. “You have to get off the field on third down and we didn’t do it. To win championships you have to close them out on third down and we didn’t do that.”
Western Dubuque was 7-of-8 on third downs in the opening half while facing an average of 9.2 yards to go.
On its seven converted third downs the Bobcats averaged 17.3 yards with Harris either rushing for passing for first downs.
“I just felt like the first half we didn’t get the number of possessions we needed to have because we couldn’t close them out on third down,” Kevin Miller said. “That was really the story.”
Solon got as close as 23-10 on a 22-yard field goal by Cael O’Neill with 3:07 left in the third quarter.
On the next play from scrimmage Harris hit Will Burds for a 70-yard touchdown that pushed the Bobcat lead back to 30-10.
“They have good backs, they have a really good quarterback so they were able to do a lot of things,” Solon senior Jace Andregg said. “They have a lot of good skill position players and they were just the better team tonight.”
Cam Miller completed 29-of-37 passes for 174 yards and a touchdown and also rushed for 83 yards and a touchdown in the final game of his prep career.
Andregg caught a career-high 13 passes for 66 yards and AJ Coons had six receptions for 39 yards before leaving the game in the second quarter with an injury.
“We were going to take the underneath stuff and be patient, that was the game plan coming in,” Kevin Miller said. “Then when AJ goes down that changes things. I’ll be honest our game plan revolved around getting the ball to Jace, AJ and Seamus (Poynton) and having Cam distribute the football. They outplayed us and they were a better football team than us but it certainly changes the dynamic of the game and the temperament of your football team when a good player such as AJ goes down.”
The loss ended an impressive three-year run for Solon that saw the Spartans go 32-3 with a pair of state semifinal appearances and a runner-up finish.
“This team in my opinion achieved a great deal,” Kevin Milller said. “If you would have told me at the beginning of the year that we would be playing for a state championship I’m not so sure that would be the case but it says something about our kids and their belief in one another and their belief in the system.”
First downs 17 17
Rushes-yards 22-103 32-132
Comp-Att-Int 29-37-0 12-20-0
Passing yards 174 203
Total yards 277 334
Punts-avg. 2-41.5 1-35
Fumbles-lost 2-2 2-0
Penalties-yards 7-67 3-21
SOL – Cam Miller 3 run (Cael O’Neill kick)
WD – Jake Hosch 7 pass from Calvin Harris (Gabe Ulrich kick)
WD – Jake Hosch 2 run (Ulrich kick)
WD – Ben Bryant 16 run (Run failed)
WD – Ulrich 22 field goal
SOL – O’Neill 22 field goal
WD – Will Burds 70 pass from Harris (Ulrich kick)
WD – Bryant 3 run (Ulrich kick)
SOL – Jace Andregg 2 pass from Miller (O’Neill kick)
RUSHING – SOL: Cam Miller 13-83, Seamus Poynton 5-16, Jace Andregg 4-4. WD: Calvin Harris 7-80, Ben Bryant 12-39, Jake Hosch 7-22, Dakota Hoffman 1-4, Jackson Burger 2-0, Will Burds 1-(-6), Gabe Ulrich 1-(-7), Team 1-(-1).
PASSING – SOL: Cam Miller 29-37-0 174. WD: Calvin Harris 12-20-0 203
RECEIVING – SOL: Jace Andregg 13-66, AJ Coons 6-39, Seamus Poynton 4-20, Cole Arduser 3-40, Jackson Ryan 2-3, Lucas TePoel 1-6. WD: Will Burds 4-128, Ben Bryant 4-35, Thomas DeSollar 3-33, Jake Hosch 1-7.
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