SOLON– The first half was business as usual.
The second half wasn’t.
Senior quarterback J.J.Hanus scrambled for a 48-yard touchdown with less than a minute to go to salvage a 28-21 victory over the Central DeWitt Sabres in the season opener for the Solon varsity football team Friday night at Spartan Stadium.
Solon scored 14 unanswered points in the first quarter and the Spartan faithful were feeling pretty comfortable.
But as the second half began, the 14-0 lead vanished in a flurry of turnovers and the momentum swung swiftly to the Sabres. Suddenly, the breaks were no longer going the Spartans’ way.
On the second play of the third quarter, a Solon fumble gave Central DeWitt the ball near midfield and the Sabres put together a strong drive for their first score. The extra point was deflected and Solon’s lead was 14-6.
On the ensuing kickoff, another fumble gave the ball to the Sabres on the Solon 29. The Solon defense held on a fourth and inches, but the Spartans weren’t able to capitalize.
Central DeWitt picked right back up after a three-and-out by the Spartans. Now the bloop plays were favoring the Sabres. Time and again Central DeWitt junior quarterback Mitch Green would bobble a handoff, but salvage positive yards.
The Sabres drove from their own 40 into the Solon red zone, and this time, they converted on the fourth and inches, scoring and then tacking on a 2-point conversion to tie the game late in the third quarter.
The two teams exchanged turnovers into the fourth quarter, when an interception stopped the Spartan offense dead in its tracks at the DeWitt 16-yard line.
On the next play, Sabre fullback Dustin Petersen ran off the right tackle, broke into the open and sprinted down the far sideline for an 84-yard touchdown. The extra point gave DeWitt a 14-21 lead with just seven minutes remaining in regulation.
But the Solon troops rallied.
Aaron Shulista capped a 61-yard drive with a 2-yard touchdown run and the game was tied after Josh Proehl’s extra point.
The defense held DeWitt to three plays, and the offense was back on the job near midfield.
Hanus, pressured for a good portion of the evening, scrambled away from the Sabre pass rush on a second down play and found the end zone 48 yards later to put the Spartans ahead for good with 58 seconds left on the clock.
Hanus finished the game 7-17 for 101 yards and one interception, and led the rushing game with 81 yards and two touchdowns. His first came on Solon’s first offensive possession, when it looked as though the Spartans would run away with the game.
On the next Sabre possession, Cody Fritz wrestled the ball away from a Central DeWitt running back and emerged from the scrum, running it 22 yards for the Spartans’ second score.
Fritz was the second leading rusher for Solon with 64 yards on 12 carries, and had four solo tackles and two assists on defense.
Solon’s defense allowed 311 yards on the ground, but only 42 in the air. Jay Pike led Solon with five solo tackles, seven assists, a caused fumble and was unofficially credited with the blocked extra point. Dan Whitmore had four solo tackles, including two for a loss. Colton Dall had four solo tackles and two assists.
The Spartans will next face last year’s 2A champion and the last team to beat them, the Iowa City Regina Regals, Friday, Sept. 2, in Iowa City.