SOLON– It was one step forward and two steps back for the Solon Spartans Friday night.
Iowa City Regina, ranked No. 1 in Class 1A, pitched a shut-out against Solon, 38-0, in front of a large crowd at Spartan Stadium.
Despite the score, the Spartans were hanging tough with the Regals in the first half, but couldn’t overcome botched snaps, penalties and other miscues
“I thought we performed very well on the offensive and defensive lines. We went toe-to-toe with them,” said head coach Kevin Miller. “Unfortunately, we had some untimely mistakes that they capitalized on.”
Solon did indeed go toe-to-toe for a good portion of the first half.
After an unsuccessful first drive, punter Spencer Schaefer boomed a 60-yard punt that helped pin the Regals back.
The Solon defense held, and forced a shanked punt that gave Solon the ball back on the Regina side of the field.
Solon’s ensuing drive stalled after a motion penalty and the Spartans turned the ball over on downs deep in Regal territory.
Regina mounted a successful drive with the help of a 36-yard completion between quarterback Drew Cook and Riley Dixon, as well as an encroachment penalty on the Spartans. Solon’s defense stiffened and the Regals were held to a 27-yard field goal and a 3-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Jordan Wymer’s kickoff return again gave the Spartans decent field position at their own 35, and Solon put its own drive together.
Solon quarterback Jacob Black hooked up with wide receiver Connor Ham for a 15-yard completion, and Black and running back Brandon Kramer combined to establish a run game. The Spartans marched to the Regina red zone but could not punch it in, and Jackson Rushek’s field goal attempt hit the right upright and bounced back onto the field.
“We did some good things but didn’t execute very well,” coach Miller said. “We couldn’t get into any type of rhythm, I always felt like we were chasing the chains.”
The Regals recaptured the momentum on the next drive and didn’t look back, with yardage starting to come in larger chunks.
Cook and Jake Brinkman connected with a pass in the flat which mushroomed into a 55-yard score and the Regals had a 10-0 lead.
After the next Solon drive stalled, Regina took over possession near midfield and Cook began picking apart the Spartan secondary, leading to another score before the half and a 17-0 lead at the intermission.
Another promising drive by the Spartans was snuffed out in the third quarter.
Kramer wowed the crowd with an 18-yard run, spinning out of the arms of two Regina tacklers who looked to have him dead to rights.
But a motion penalty set the Spartans back, quarterback Black was sacked after another high snap, and on third and 18, Black was flagged for intentional grounding.
According to unofficial results, Solon was flagged for nine penalties, resulting in a walk-off of 81 total yards.
“We just need to clean things up,” Miller said. “If we can minimize and/or eliminate some of those miscues, we can evolve into a good football team.”
The Regal defense limited the Spartans to 155 yards of total offense, according to quikstatsiowa.com.
Black was 6-15 for 43 yards as a passer, but was credited with -7 yards total rushing on 14 carries, although many were the result of bad snaps.
Kramer led the Spartans with 100 yards on 20 carries.
Solon’s defense gave up 407 total yards of offense to Regina, with senior running back Riley Dixon accounting for 220- 169 rushing and 51 receiving.
Cook torched Solon for 192 passing yards, completing 13 of 24 throws.
“I believe in this team and truly believe our best football is ahead of us,” Miller noted. “We just need to focus on improving.”
The next test for Solon comes on the road at Mount Pleasant this Friday. The Spartans return home to host Clear Creek Amana Friday, Sept. 20, for Homecoming.