Kevin Miller admitted Monday his Solon football team got pushed around last season in a 35-10 second round loss to eventual state champion Decorah.
This year in the second round, it was the Spartans that did most of the pushing.
Solon (10-1) rolled up 184 rushing yards in the first half on the way to a 35-0 lead before coasting to a 49-20 win over West Delaware (9-2) in the second round of the Class 3A playoffs.
Last year’s second round loss to Decorah served as a notice to Miller that the Spartans needed to get back to the physical ground attack that had been the program’s roots.
That is exactly what happened Monday as Solon scored its first six touchdowns of the game on the ground and attempted only three passes in the first half and four in the game.
“We just thought that we were more physical,” Miller said of Monday’s win. “We just felt that we were bigger and stronger up front and we wanted to assert ourselves. We were just going to ground and pound, to be honest with you.”
Through 10 games this season, Solon ranked eighth in Class 3A in rushing yards, averaging better than 276 yards per game on the ground.
The Spartans feature a pair of 1,000-yard rushers in senior quarterback Jacob Black and junior running back Brandon Kramer.
Black has run for 1,203 yards and 21 touchdowns this season, while Kramer has added 1,028 yards and eight scores.
“Jacob is a bona fide running back playing quarterback, but he still has the ability to throw the football,” Miller said. “We are a team that will take what you are going to give us.”
* HITTING THE ROAD: The road to a fourth consecutive state title becomes a little longer for Regina on Friday. After hosting in each of the first two playoff rounds, the Regals will hit the road Friday for the first time this postseason when they travel to Delhi to face No. 5 Maquoketa Valley.
Regina goes on the road because of the alphabetic tie breaker system, despite being the top-ranked team in its class.
“You know, it is what it is,” Regina coach Marv Cook said after Monday’s win. “We’ve probably been on both sides of it at some point. You know, we’ve had a home game because of it. I mean, both teams are undefeated, both teams won their district, both teams, I think, point wise, had the same kind of outcome, so it’s probably, you know, the fairest outcome, whether it’s flipping a coin or something.”
* A LITTLE BIT OF EVERYTHING: Fans are used to seeing Regina junior quarterback Drew Cook throw the ball around the football field.
Spectators have even gotten used to seeing the 6-foot-5 Cook take off and run the ball.
Monday, Cook got into the receiving act, catching his first pass of the season, a 21-yard touchdown grab from backup quarterback Nathan Stenger.
“We just put it in this week,” Drew Cook said of the play. “It’s been, like, a secret weapon we have.”
Cook finished Monday’s game 11-for-26 through the air for 146 yards and a score, and also ran for 62 yards to go with his touchdown catch.
* THOUSAND-YARD CLUB: Another area rusher reached the 1,000-yard mark Monday as Mid-Prairie’s Eesaa Baylor eclipsed the mark against Albia.
Baylor finished the year with 1,002 yards and 10 touchdowns.
* OFFENSIVE PERFORMER OF THE 2ND ROUND: It’s hard not to go with a guy who scores five touchdowns, and that’s exactly what Black did Monday against West Delaware.
Black ran for 148 yards on just 14 carries and scored touchdowns on runs of 1, 2, 4, 31 and 78 yards in Solon’s 49-20 win over the Hawks.
Black also threw for 83 yards in the second round win.
* RUNNER-UP: West High quarterback Nate Boland finished his prep career by completing 16-of-24 passes for 246 yards and a touchdown in a 27-24 overtime loss to No. 10 Bettendorf.
Boland also ran for 47 yards and directed a game-tying drive in the fourth quarter that ended with a 39-yard touchdown pass.
* DEFENSIVE PERFORMER OF THE 2ND ROUND: The entire Solon defense gets the nod after holding West Delaware’s potent offense in check in a 49-20 victory.
West Delaware entered Monday’s game leading 3A in total offense at better than 438 yards per game and also was averaging 42 points per contest.
Solon held the Hawks to just 36 first half yards.
Seniors Jordan Wymer and Seth Phillips had interceptions for Solon as the Spartans limited West Delaware to 9 yards passing and also blocked a punt.
* RUNNER-UP: Mid-Prairie senior linebacker Reid Miller had a huge night in what turned out to be the final game of his prep career.
Miller racked up 17 total tackles, including four solo stops and two tackles for loss in the Golden Hawks’ 26-16 loss to No. 2 Albia.
For good measure, Miller also threw for 253 yards and a pair of touchdowns.