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Solon turns to Anamosas Lucas Stanton as head coach of Spartans

SOLON– A bit overshadowed by the fluid situation of the COVID-19 pandemic, Thursday, March 12, is a day echoing in the halls of Spartan history as Head Coach Kevin Miller’s stepped away from the football limelight to focus on his family.
Friday, May 1, with Miller’s steps fading in those hallowed halls, the next chapter was revealed as Lucas Stanton, a former Mount Vernon alum who coached the last three seasons at Anamosa, received the nod as the Spartans’ new head coach.
Solon Activities Director Casey Hack and new Head Coach Lucas Stanton took time to comment via email due to social distancing requirements following the announcement.
“Lucas Stanton is our next Head Coach,” Hack announced. “We had a great pool of candidates with varying levels of experience. All of the candidates had great strengths in many different areas.”
Naming a new coach for the Solon football program held significant ramifications following Miller posting a 190-32 record in 18 seasons and winning four state championships. The Spartans fell just short with a 12-1 record, finishing as Class 3A state runners-up last fall.
“We are indebted to Coach Miller for all he has done for Solon. Coach Miller has made a tremendous impact on so many students,” Hack explained. “It was really important to find the right candidate that would continue to build upon the same level of success, tremendous culture and high level of accountability that has been established at Solon. It was also important to find someone who loves football and has the knowledge and coaching experience to lead our program.”
Solon felt it found what it was seeking in Lucas Stanton. Stanton, a 2002 graduate of Mount Vernon High School, played at Cornell College from 2002 to 2005. He proceeded to serve as an assistant at Cornell and the University of Dubuque, then was an assistant at Marietta, Ohio, from 2011 to 2013. He was defensive coordinator at Mount Vernon in 2014, head coach at North Cedar in 2015, defensive coordinator at Dubuque Wahlert in 2016 and served as head coach at Anamosa from 2017 to 2019. Anamosa went 8-19 in Stanton’s three seasons, 2-7 last year.
Stanton elaborated on his background via email.
“I played football, basketball, track and baseball in high school. In college, I competed in football and track,” he said. “I was a three-year starter at running back in football. I coached college ball for five years, before going to Ohio to coach high school.”
Family is important to Stanton, as well.
He and his wife Kate, an elementary principal, have a son, Noah, 2.
Kate graduated from Iowa City West and the University of Iowa and was an elementary teacher and track coach at West before going into administration.
“Coach Stanton's reputation with peers, players and students speak to the type of person he is,” Hack commented. “He cares about all kids and wants to do whatever it takes to help them be successful. Players love playing for him, coaches love coaching with him and his knowledge and motivation around athletic training will impact all of our athletes.”
Stanton is a student of the game of football, Hack continued, has experience as a head high school coach, high school coordinator and college coach.
“He is a football junkie who puts in the time it takes to be prepared for opponents and puts his team in the best situation to be successful,” he added.
Stanton was drawn to Solon.
“Solon is obviously one of the top programs in the state of Iowa, so that right away is going to stand out to anyone,” he said. “However, being a local guy, I know that the support is there for the football program from the top down.”
The community support has been unmatched since Coach Ed Hansen’s tenure, he added.
“I was fortunate enough to know quite a few of the coaches on staff and know they are all quality people so that was also another factor in pursuing this opportunity,” Stanton said. “When you can retain your staff and not completely rebuild, it is huge. Most importantly, I know the kids here love Solon football and they have a strong desire to continue the excellence that has been established for the past 40-plus years.”
Concerns and reservations when taking over a program with such prior success can cause new head coaches concern. Such is not the case for Stanton.
“I honestly think if I was someone who came from somewhere else or had no relationship with the program I would be concerned or have reservations,” Stanton responded. “I believe if myself or anyone was overly concerned about it then they probably do not deserve the position. That doesn't mean I am not aware of those things being out there, but that's not something I can focus on because then I'm not giving our program the best version of myself. The truth is I know what this program was built on and how it was built. I don't plan on coming in and totally changing the system.”
When Miller was hired in 2001, Stanton noted, he was also replacing a hall of fame coach in Hansen.
“The system wasn't broken then and it's not broken now,” he said. “Sure, I am going to have some things I do differently but I know that my values and character in how I run a program are very similar. I totally understand people's reservations of following a Coach Miller but I don't think people who have been in coaching think that way and I certainly do not. Coach Miller is an outstanding human being first and foremost, and obviously won a lot of football games. I believe he focused on the process of developing young men first then football players. Those will still be the focus of Solon football.”
Stanton knows that comparisons will come with the job.
“I am not going to try to be anyone but the best version of myself,” he stated. “I really see this as a continuation of the program tradition. We have so many great men on staff who I have been fortunate enough to know for a while now. Every place has its set of challenges and I know what some of our challenges will be. We are going focus on the things we can control in our attitudes, preparation and effort.”
Head Coach Stanton hopes to maintain much of Solon’s tradition.
“We plan to retain as much of the previous staff as possible,” Stanton explained. “They are all great men and have had an integral part of making this program what it is today. I have had conversations with each of the coaches and look forward to working with them.”
Additional staffing decisions will be worked out before June, he said.
“We will only bring in guys who fit our staff and our philosophy,” he noted. “I am really looking forward to working with both the coaches and players at Solon.”
Stanton said he prefers his offense to be run-oriented, but will also spread the ball around.
“Our offense will adapt to our kids and the type of team we have,” he explained. “We will be a no-huddle style offense varying our tempo (and) speed.”
He looks forward to continuing a program that builds leaders and champions for life.
“That is our mission,” he added. “We will continue to build a program known statewide for class and toughness that continues to compete for championships through relationships, accountability and culture. I think that has been the case here for quite some time. We feel when we really focus on the process and giving our kids a positive experience, the scoreboard will take care of itself.”
Hack is excited for Stanton to get started, despite working in uncharted territory with COVID-19.
“He has already been in communication with coaches and players and they are all eager to get to work,” Hack said. “We have great students and they will rally around Coach Stanton and his message and will continue to hold themselves to the highest standard as student athletes.”
Hack hopes the football program can unify the community and students in a return to normalcy.
“We are looking forward to getting back to normal,” he emphasized. “The adversity this world has faced throughout the COVID situation has caused great sadness and difficulties for our coaches and students. The most important thing is for everyone to stay safe and healthy, but as soon as we can safely get back to normal, we will be excited to do so. I feel terrible for our spring athletes missing their season and our summer athletes for already having part of their season cancelled.”
The Gazette released an off-season poll ranking the Spartans No. 6 in Class 2A. Solon faces Williamsburg on Friday, Aug. 28, in Williamsburg, to open the 2020 season. Williamsburg was ranked No. 4 in the same poll.
On Friday, Oct. 16, Stanton leads the Spartans against his alma mater Mount Vernon in Spartan Stadium.