Following a Week 2 loss to Regina at home, Solon football coach Kevin Miller had a pretty simple message to his football team: Be more physical.
Miller’s plan, as straightforward as it sounds, has worked exceeding well for the Spartans.
Since the Regina loss, Class 3A No. 9 Solon (6-1) has rattled off an impressive five-game winning streak and comes into tonight’s matchup with Maquoketa (5-2) a victory away from clinching the Class 3A District 6 title.
“After the Regina loss, we went back to our roots and started trying to be more physical,” Miller said. “We wanted to be more solid within our schemes and just be fundamentally sound, in general. We wanted to get back to being physical and executing better.”
Solon has been nothing short of dominant during its current five-game winning streak.
The Spartans have outscored their last five opponents 228 to 37 and have allowed just three points in their past two games.
Miller’s emphasis on physicality and the Spartans’ running game has been evident during the current winning streak.
Since Week 2, Solon has averaged 317 yards per game on the ground.
The Spartans have run for more than 340 yards twice in the past two weeks, including a season-high 438 yards against Central Clinton.
After seven games, Solon ranks seventh among Class 3A competition in running the ball.
The duo of senior quarterback Jacob Black and junior running back Brandon Kramer spearhead the Solon running game.
Black has run for 837 yards and 12 scores this season, while Kramer has added 635 yards and five scores.
The duo has been especially effective during the current winning streak, combining for 1,120 yards and 15 touchdowns in the past five games while averaging better than 10 yards per carry.
“I feel like we are improving week in and week out,” Miller said. “I think the kids are feeling comfortable and confident with the schemes we have in place and have a better understanding of what it is they need to do to be effective within our schemes.”
Both teams enter tonight’s game 4-0 in District 6 action setting up a winner-take-all situation for the district title.
“First and foremost, that is one of the goals that you establish is winning a district championship,” Miller said. “Most of the goals are still intact but we have to take care of business. They are a fine team and it will be a real challenge for us.”
Maquoketa, which lost 27-17 at Solon last year on the way to a 5-5 season, has won four of its last five games after starting the season 1-1.
The Cardinals’ most recent setback was a 39-24 loss to 6-1 West Delaware in Week 5.
“We need to be fundamental, we need to play great defense, we have to value the football — all those things that we preach to our team on a regular basis,” Miller said of tonight’s game. “We are just focused on ourselves and if we execute like I know we are capable of that is all we can control.”
Although Solon has done most of its damage on the ground this season, Maquoketa prefers to move the ball through the air.
Behind the play of senior quarterback Trent Bollman, the Cardinals rank ninth in 3A in passing yards.
Entering tonight’s game, Bollman is completing 54 percent of his passes for 1,126 yards and eight touchdowns, and also has run for 130 yards and two scores.
Bollman’s top two targets are Cory Wirth and Ben Strathman. The duo has combined to catch 50 passes for 728 yards.
“They are a vastly improved football team,” Miller said. “They throw the ball really well. Their quarterback is a very good athlete and everything obviously works through him. Offensively, they are very dynamic. They make it very difficult to defend the various packages that they have, whether it be in the pass game or the win game.”