Solon senior quarterback Blayze Griffis By Ryan Murken
Your Prep Sports
There are no strangers in a rivalry. The familiarity is part of what makes a rivalry like the one between Solon and Regina so special.
Through changes to schedules and districts and shifts in classes the two schools separated by less than 15 miles have continued to meet annual in most sports from junior high to varsity.
“We’ve got a great rivalry with Solon, we’ve been playing these guys since youth sports,” Regina senior Trae Rogers said. “We know them and they know us.”
The knowledge of the opponent has played a factor in back-to-back one possession games in the series.
Another down to the wire finish is expected when Solon (1-0) travels to Class 1A top-ranked Regina (0-1) on Friday.
What turns the tide in Friday’s showdown?
Here are five factors that should determine who walks away with a win on Friday.
Rush to Finish
Not surprisingly, in a game between programs that pride themselves on physicality and running the football the team that best establishes the run has historically held the upper hand.
The team with more rushing yards has won each of the last five games in the series.
Regina held a 170 to 98 edge in rushing yards in last year’s 21-13 win and Solon outgained Regina 195 to 123 on the ground in a 29-28 win in 2014.
The Regals outrushed Solon by an average of 113 yards per game in three consecutive wins of 24 points or more from 2011 to 2013.
“Regina is always a fun team to play and compete against because you know every game is going to be a dog fight,” Solon junior lineman Tyler Linderbaum said. “They play hard and they play physical so you have to be ready.”
It’s hardly a revelation to point to turnovers as a determining factor in a close game.
However, after last year’s season opener that featured a combined 11 turnovers you can bet both sides have placed an added emphasis of securing the ball this week.
Solon turned it over seven times in last year’s one-possession loss to Regina, losing four fumbles and tossing three interceptions.
The Spartans didn’t commit a turnover in a week one win against Mount Vernon while Regina committed three turnovers in a season-opening loss to Cedar Rapids Xavier.
“We can’t make mistakes against a team like Regina,” Solon coach Kevin Miller said. “You just can’t turn the football over you have to minimize your mistakes and you can’t give up big plays.
Regina finds itself in a unique situation on Friday – coming off of a loss.
The Regals lost for just the third time in seven seasons and 85 games last week, falling to Class 3A top-ranked Xavier 35-26.
Regina doesn’t have much experience following up a loss but has bounced back well needed.
Regina senior Trae Rogers
The Regals responded with a 31-14 win over Pella Christian following their only loss last year and downed Cascade 38-14 in week two in 2014 after dropping their season opener to Solon.
Regina hasn’t lost more than one game in a season since going 10-2 in 2009.
“The intensity has definitely picked up,” Rogers said. “We are more tuned in now and coaches are really on us about doing our jobs and sticking to what we have to do.”
Balancing it out
First and foremost, both teams want to run the ball and showed the ability to do that in week one.
Solon rushed for 132 yards against Mount Vernon thanks to a 111-yard performance from junior Kendrick Harris and Regina ran for 157 against a stout Xavier defensive front.
The team that can mix the run and the pass effectively will have an advantage on Friday.
Regina senior Tommy Rapp threw for 212 yards and a pair of touchdowns in his first career start in week one while Solon senior quarterback Blayze Griffis completed 14-of-23 passes for 170 yards and two scores against Mount Vernon.
“They are doing a lot of run-pass option stuff which really stresses your linebackers so we are going to have to be really sound in what we are doing and try to make to make them one-dimensional and stop the run and force them to throw,” Regina coach Marv Cook said. “Their quarterback is efficient; he can really move the ball around when he is in rhythm so it’s going to be a great challenge for us.”
Big Game, Big Plays
The stat that pops off the page from Regina’s loss to Xavier is the rushing totals.
Xavier tallied 386 yards on the ground with 291 coming from tailback Maliki Wilson.
Wilson gained better than half of those yards on three carries, touchdown runs of 68, 62 and 32 yards.
Regina isn’t panicking about the big plays.
“We just all need to work on doing our jobs,” Regina senior Mason Simpson said. “The things that they got big plays on were just our mental mistakes so we just need to do our jobs and we’ll be fine.”
Both offenses are more than capable of coming up with big plays.
Solon scored on a 40-yard pass and an 84-yard kick off return in week one and Regina had three scoring plays of longer than 47 yards against Xavier.
In last year’s meeting with Solon, 82 of Regina’s 300 yards of offense came on touchdown plays of 34 and 48 yards.
“When you play quality football teams the margin for error is minimal,” Miller said. “We have to prevent big plays and not turn the football over and just play stout defense and at the end of the day when opportunities present themselves to make plays we have to cash in.”