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Back to the final

Spartans ascend, Warriors fall, Bobcats loom Solon outlasts Sergeant Bluff-Luton, 43-36, in prime time semifinal
Solon quarterback Cam Miller greets the crowd after the Spartans advanced to the Class 3A football championship with a 43-36 semifinal win over Sergeant Bluff-Luton in the UNI-Dome Thursday, Nov. 14. Solon will face undefeated Western Dubuque Thursday, Nov. 21, in the final.

CEDAR FALLS– The Spartans are one step away from the title.
Solon is back in the Class 3A championship after a thrilling 43-36 semifinal win over the Sergeant Bluff-Luton (SBL) Warriors on Thursday, Nov. 14, at the UNI-Dome, in Cedar Falls.
The game set up the championship matchup, scheduled for Thursday, Nov. 21, at 7 p.m. at the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls, between the 12-0 Solon Spartans and the 12-0 Western Dubuque Epworth Bobcats. The Bobcats defeated the Lewis Central Titans, 48-14, in the other 3A semifinal.
Solon started with the ball and wasted no time in capitalizing, scoring on their first play from scrimmage, re-igniting the Cam-Coons Connection, as Cam Miller connected on a 65-yard pass to A.J. Coons for six and an extra point by Cael O’Neill was good, the Spartans’ took the lead with just nine ticks off the game clock.
O’Neill booted it the Warriors and they began a time-gobbling plod down the field as the Spartans played solid defense trying to limit the Warriors’ ability to put together a big play. The march of the Warriors was stopped when they breached the red zone, facing a first and goal on the seven.
Solon bowed up stopping a run, flushed the quarterback from the pocket causing him to throw it away and then Trey Stebral provided smothering coverage on the ensuing pass to force a 25-yard David Claussen field goal for the Warriors. Solon led, 7-3, with 7:57 remaining in the first quarter.
Solon’s next drive was highlighted by a 10-yard charge by Miller on a keeper, a 10-yard swing pass from Miller to Andregg to get across the 50-yard line, and another deep strike for 43 yards to Coons for the score. O’Neill put the cherry on top, splitting the uprights and it was Solon 14, Sergeant Bluff-Luton 3.
The Warriors received the O’Neill kick on their next possession and started with the ball on the 41 following the return with 6:28 aglow on the scoreboard. They marched down the field, using the running of the Warriors’ Cory Bates to sustain the drive. Bates on a third and three took a handoff and dashed in for a score. A penalty before the extra point backed up the SBL kick five yards and the additional yards gave Solon’s Jax Flynn the opportunity to get there and the kick was no good.
Solon led, 14-9, with 2:02 remaining in the first.
The Spartans got off a couple plays prior to the end of the first quarter but Miller was swarmed during the final seconds to bring up a third down and 12 to start the second quarter.
Miller and Coons connected again to get across midfield for the first down. The Spartans followed up by picking up several third downs with double-digit yardage before getting into the end zone. Miller connected with Coons one more time, as Coons reeled in a one-handed catch in the back corner of the end zone on a seven-yard pass for the score. O’Neill, reliable as always, kicked the PAT and Solon held a 21-9 lead over SBL with 9:29 remaining in the second quarter.
The Solon defense limited the Warriors on the next drive but allowed SBL’s Carter Schumacher to reel in a couple Daniel Wright passes and Bates’ small stature and speed made him a tough target. The Spartans allowed the Warriors to get to the 41 and slowed their progress, allowing only a swing pass to bring up a third and six. SBL converted on a fourth and three, and Ashton Verdoon subsequently scored on a 28-yard reception. The point-after was good and Sergeant Bluff-Luton trailed 21-16 with 5:32 remaining in the second quarter.
Lucas TePoel fielded the next kick at about the 12-yard line and returned it the 40 for Solon’s next drive. A tense moment ensued on the next carry, Miller kept the ball and scrambled up the field, but the Warriors knocked it free. Luckily the Spartans landed back on the ball for a nine-yard gain. Seamus Poynton on the next carry for Solon bounced off a SBL defender and gained seven. Miller on a race to the right garnered five, followed by a hand off and straight up the middle running by Poynton to put the Spartans on the 19-yard line. A run by Miller was stopped by the Warriors for only a two yard gain, but Miller kept the ball and punched his way to the five yard line. Solon called a time out and returned to the line Miller powered forward on the next few plays behind the offensive line and on a one-yard, second-effort found pay dirt with 51 seconds remaining in the half. O’Neill split the uprights and Solon led, 28-16.
O’Neill kicked off once again in the half and SBL found themselves starting on the 23-yard line with less than a minute to work. SBL started with a quick pass for nine yards to the sideline to stop the clock, and a second-and-one pass to the 34 stopped the clock for the chains to be moved. Maintaining the pace, SBL faced a third-and-eight from their own 37, converted by Wright hitting a receiver on a crossing route to the Solon 31-yard line. Wright found Carter Schumacher down the sideline for a score and another Clausen kick narrowed the gap before halftime, Solon led, 28-23, with just three ticks left in the half.
The third quarter, SBL started with a decent runback to the 46 and marched, Solon unable to stop its drive, and a 41-yard strike to the Solon 15 set up another Bates carry close to the goal. Wright kept the ball and three plays later crossed the line. In an edge-of-the-seat moment, a two-point conversion attempt fell incomplete. The Warriors had their first lead of the game, 29-28, with 9:11 remaining in the third.
Solon moved to the SBL 35 on the next drive, but turned the ball over on downs for the first defensive stop of the evening.
Any momentum the Warriors may have felt was quickly stifled as their start on their own 35 quickly became a first-and-twenty from the 25 following an offensive holding penalty. Hayes Diersen’s pursuit into the Warrior backfield increased SBL’s plight, forcing a second-and-24 on the following play. However, a Wright to Imming strike prompted a third-and-two at the 43. Solon’s Jackson Ryan broke up a Wright pass for the Warriors on the next play and SBL faced a fourth-and-two. A quick running play and SBL converted it with 5:23 remaining in the third. However, on a third and 13 in the next series, Ryan intercepted a Wright pass, hurried by Andregg, he mishandled it on the sideline, and Trey Stebral fell on the ball for a Spartan recovery and Solon’s first stop of the evening.
Solon couldn’t capitalize. The next drive stalled at the Warrior 46, prompting the first punt of the game.
SBL started at their 13 following and a holding call on the Spartans advanced the Warriors to the 23.
SBL chewed up almost four minutes of the fourth quarter driving deep into Solon territory, capped off with a three-yard run by Bates to give the Warriors a 36-28 lead following the extra point.
Just under eight minutes remained in the fourth quarter.
With the assist of a face mask penalty against the Warriors, the Spartans marched across midfield behind Poynton’s rushing and receptions by Ryan and Andregg. Miller hit Andregg from 40 yards out for a touchdown, ending a six-play, 79-yard drive that took roughly two minutes. It culminated in a little razzle-dazzle by the Spartans on the two-point conversion, courtesy of a handoff by Miller to Andregg who pitched it to Lucas TePoel on a reverse and TePoel hit Miller on his way to the end zone. Solon tied it up 36-36, 5:41 still remaining in the game.
Solon pooch kicked it to SBL, which took over on the 35. On a handoff from Wright to Derric Fitzgerald, Solon’s Diersen found his way to the backfield to stop Fitzgerald for a three-yard loss. The same results occurred for the Warriors on the next play as Wright hit Fitzgerald with a pass ending in another three-yard loss. The hits kept coming as Wright was drug down by Colton Hoffman and Michael Broghammer, in the process the offense was called for holding which was declined, resulting in a fourth-and-19. The punt was a good one and took an SBL bounce to the Solon 20.
An Andregg catch, a Miller scramble and a Poynton run put Solon out to the SBL 35. A facemask penalty on the next play gave the Spartans a first and 10 on the 19 setting up a 19-yard Poynton rumble for a score. An extra-point by O’Neill and the Spartans led with 1:04 remaining, 43-36.
O’Neill kicked to SBL, it was recovered at the 13 and returned to the 43 with 55 ticks on the clock.
Wright hit Carter Schumacher on the right side for a gain of seven. Wright’s next pass on the hurry fell incomplete with 31 seconds remaining, stopping the clock for a third-and-three.
Solon was called for an illegal substitution penalty, giving the Warriors a first-and-10 on the Spartans’ 45. Wright hit Dane Meier on an eight-yard pass for a second-and-two with 28 seconds, then fired over the middle intended for Imming, incomplete. Wright completed one over the middle for a first-and-10 at the Spartans’ 22 and took a time-out with 19 seconds left. A Wright pass to the left sideline netted eight and stopped the clock with 12 seconds, the Warriors facing a second and two. Wright took charge and scrambled to the 11-yard line for a first-and-10 as SBL called a time-out with five ticks remaining. The Spartan defense penetrated, forcing Wright to scramble, tossing a ball up intended for a receiver in the back of the endzone. The ball was batted away by TePoel as the final second expired.
Solon triumphed, 43-36, and everyone breathed again, deeply.
“It was certainly one of the more emotional games I've been involved with. I thought our players did a tremendous job of staying poised throughout the course of the various peaks and valleys the game presented. I'm very happy for our players and coaches, I know how much they've invested in this journey,” Head Coach Kevin Miller said.
The Spartans are headed to their first state title game since 2010 after a game featuring 67 total passing attempts totaling more than 600 yards, 900 yards of total offense, a punt by both teams and only five total possessions not resulting in points, two by Solon and three by SBL.
The defense suffered from a lot of missed tackles, but ultimately rose to the challenge at the end of the game. Wright, the leading passer in Class 3A, went 33-45 passing for 319 yards.
Coach Miller was proud of the defense for coming up with plays when needed.
“We did some nice things on defense,” he said. “Unfortunately, we had some breakdowns that led to big plays. I felt like our defense was playing on its heels, instead of attacking. We need to attack and not allow the offense to dictate how we play. However, we made plays when we needed to and that's what championship level teams do.”
Cam Miller threw 15-20 for 306 yards including four touchdowns, the longest 65 yards, and he rushed 14 times for 47 yards. He hit Andregg eight times for 157 yards and a touchdown. Coons had four receptions for 125 yards and three scores, and returned three punts for 43 total yards. Poynton reeled in two of Miller’s passes for 17 yards and fielded one kickoff, returning it for 19 yards, but his real impact on the game was his 11 rushing carries for 112 yards and the game deciding 19-yard touchdown. Miller completed one pass to Ryan for seven yards and Ryan was credited for the Spartans’ one interception.
O’Neill was five for five on point-after attempts and kicked off seven times accumulating 300 yards. Trey Stebral was called upon only once, punting for 39 yards.
“Seamus (Poynton) did a tremendous job of rushing the football and the line was outstanding in creating some big holes for Seamus to run through,” Coach Miller commented. “Jace (Andregg) and A.J. (Coons) were simply outstanding in the pass game and Cam (Miller) did a nice job of managing the game and distributing the football.”
Coach Miller admitted it was a challenge juggling the roles of parent and head coach.
“Honestly I'm just trying to savor every moment I can with him,” he reflected. “I tried very hard to not allow the emotion of the game affect how I coached. I'm trying to keep everything in perspective and not lose focus on what's most important and that's enjoying the ride because it will ultimately come to an abrupt end.”
The Spartans face Western Dubuque on Thursday, Nov. 21, at 7 p.m. in the UNI-Dome, in Cedar Falls, with the 2019 Iowa High School Athletic Association Class 3A championship in the balance.
“Western Dubuque is the best team we'll face this year,” Coach Miller offered. “Offensively they have a number of playmakers our defense will have to prepare for. Defensively they play exceptionally hard and physical. They pursue the football very aggressively and we have to stay within ourselves offensively.”
If Solon finds its way to the summit of Class 3A, Coach Miller feels it would be among the program’s greatest achievements.
“To be the smallest school in 3A and defeat a program that's well over twice our size, speaks volumes of our players’ commitment and dedication to one another,” he said.
He added, “It's been an unbelievable ride thus far.”