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Spartans fall

Waukon clamps down on Solon offense in 24-8 loss

WAUKON– It’s hard to win a football game without the offense scoring any points.
Despite opportunities, Solon’s varsity football team could only find the end zone once against Waukon, when Gage Marty picked up an Indian fumble and rumbled 25 yards across the goal line.
The Spartans were eliminated from the Class 2A football playoffs after a 24-8 loss to the Indians in Waukon Friday, Nov. 6.
Solon was down 16-0 with less than 10 minutes remaining in the game when Colton Hoffman forced the Indians into muffing a double-handoff. Marty, in a lineman’s dream, scooped up the loose ball and dashed down the sidelines to breathe life into Spartan fans.
Solon quarterback Blake Timmons found Hoffman waving in the end zone for a two-point conversion and it was a one-possession game, 16-8.
Waukon marched to midfield on the ensuing drive, but Indian quarterback Creed Welch just overshot the fingertips of an open receiver deep in Solon territory, and the Spartan defense held.
The Waukon punt pinned Solon inside its 10-yard-line, and the Indian defense forced the Spartans to punt against the wind from their own end zone.
The Indians took over at the Solon 34, and in four plays were in the end zone. A two-point conversion gave Waukon a 24-8 lead with four minutes remaining.
And that was game.
The Spartans were hampered by drive-killing penalties and turnovers, as well as a stout, stingy Indian defense.
Waukon held Solon to 112 yards of total offense. The Spartans ran the ball 33 times for 64 yards, a 1.9-yard average, led by senior Jackson Ryan (12 carries, 31 yards) and Timmons (13 carries, 22 yards).
Sophomore Timmons was 5-16 for 48 yards and two interceptions.
Yet Solon was still very much in the contest, down 16-0 at halftime, thanks to its own robust defense, which picked off Indian QB Welch twice (both by junior Parker Pentico) and held Waukon to 257 yards for the game.
“I was really proud of our defensive play,” observed Solon Head Coach Lucas Stanton. “They kept us in the game.”
Stanton said his staff had prepared for the possibility of being down one or two scores.
“Unfortunately, we just couldn't get things going the way we wanted to in that third quarter after halftime,” he said. “We felt that with our style of play, we would wear them down, which we definitely started to do in that third quarter and we could feel the momentum shifting, but credit to them, every time we started to get it, they would steal it right back.”
One of the Spartans’ best chances came early in the game.
After an initial three-and-out by Solon, Waukon took over on its own 37.
Just short of midfield, Welch fired across the middle and was intercepted by Pentico, setting up a Solon drive into Indian territory.
But facing a fourth and six at the Waukon 28, Timmons threw his first pick of the evening, and the Indians had the ball back at their own 9-yard-line.
Facing second-and-11 from the 8, Welch grabbed a bad snap, was flushed from the pocket and scampered free just long enough to launch a deep shot to wide open receiver Avery Rocksvold for a 54-yard completion.
Two plays later, senior Ethan O’Neil broke free for a 38-yard touchdown run and Waukon had a 6-0 lead with two minutes remaining in the first quarter.
Two penalties on the next Spartan drive pinned them deep, and the Indians used a timeout to force a kick into the wind.
Despite a good punt from Timmons, Waukon took over at the Solon 40, and thanks to another Spartan penalty, were able to march down the remainder of the field, with Welch finding his receiver on a crossing route in the end zone.
With a successful two-point conversion, the Indians were up, 14-0, with just under 11 minutes left in the first half.
“Anytime you are in a close game and you have penalties like that it is going to contribute somewhat to the outcome,” Stanton said. “Two of them prevented us from sustaining drives. Penalties and turning the ball over in close games versus quality opponents like Waukon can hurt. There were other contributing factors for sure, but the margin for error the further you get in the playoffs narrows.
“All that being said, we were still in position to do something,” he continued. “The kids played their hearts out and never gave up and I'm proud of the way they competed to the very end.”
Late in the second quarter, the Indians had again pinned the Spartans deep.
A procedure penalty moved Solon back even further, and a sack didn’t leave much room for Timmons to punt.
The Indians took advantage with a block, and the safety gave them a 16-0 halftime lead.
Neither team scored again until the fourth quarter.
Solon retired for the season with a record of 7-3. Waukon improved to 8-1.
Stanton was proud of how his team rebounded from a rocky early start.
“While we didn't reach our ultimate goal, to put things in perspective a bit, we did achieve other goals and still have things to be proud of,” he said. “We returned a solid defense this year, but we had so many question marks on offense going into the year. We only returned one touchdown from a year ago and ended up averaging almost 40 points a game.
“Ultimately, we were a better team at the end of the season than we were at the beginning of the season,” Stanton added.
It was also a season of challenges resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, he said.
“It was an odd summer because of the COVID restrictions, and then we just went full swing into a season, but had many restrictions we had to adhere to so that we could keep on playing,” he observed. “It was just an accomplishment that we had no real issues with COVID. I think our staff and kids did a great job of doing what we could do to make sure we could keep playing.”
Stanton lamented the loss of his seniors, noting he felt like he was just really getting to know many of them.
“I really thought (seniors) Lucas TePoel, Carson Shive, Jackson Ryan and Ben Cusick shined the other night,” he said. “Those guys fought through a lot and did everything they could to give us a chance. I was happy to see Lucas back on the field for us and perform the way he did.”
TePoel led the team’s defense with nine solo tackles, including three for a loss. Hoffman and Cusick added seven solo tackles, Ryan six. Shive had a sack.