By Richard C. Lewis
Your Prep Sports
SOLON – A timely pick and a timely play call, and Solon has an opening round playoff win.
Blayze Griffis connected with Jacob Coons on a 36-yard TD pass 57 seconds before halftime, and Solon rode the momentum the rest of the way en route to a 49-14 win over Benton Community in a Class 3A playoff opener on Friday night at Spartan Stadium.
The No. 7 Spartans host a quarterfinal matchup against undefeated and Class 3A No. 1 Pella next Friday.
Solon’s key first-half scoring play came after Austin Kennedy picked off a Benton pass, with the Bobcats down just seven, 14-7, and 1:21 to go before the break.
“I read the route, and I saw the quarterback looking over (to his receiver), and it wasn’t the best pass, so I just came up under it,” said Kennedy, a senior defensive back, of his interception that gave Solon the ball at the Benton 24.
It seemed the Spartans would do little with the gift, called for a hold and after two incompletions set up a third-and-22 play.
Solon senior Blayze Griffis
But Benton called timeout, and Solon coach Kevin Miller changed his mind.
The veteran Spartans coach switched out of a safer play call, spread his team out and instructed his quarterback to look for Coons in the seam.
The idea worked perfectly.
“They were playing deep and outside, and so Jake just basically ran a seam route right down the middle of the field, and Blayze put it right on the money,” Miller said. “That was a big play. It gave us great momentum going into halftime.
Coons caught Griffis’s bullet in stride and waltzed into the end zone to give Solon a 21-7 lead just 57 seconds shy of the half.
“That was all Blayze,” said Coons, a senior and Iowa recruit. “He read the play perfectly, the line blocked great, and it was just a great read.”
Solon had won the opening coin toss but elected to defer. It turned out to be a very wise choice.
That’s because Graeson Dall fielded the second-half kickoff and took off on a 92-yard return to put Solon up, 28-7 and more or less deflating any Bobcats’ hopes of a comeback.
Solon senior Graeson Dall
“Opening kickoff, I knew we needed a big play there, and right when I caught that ball, I saw the hole open up, really it was a huge hole, and I had to house it right then and there. That kind of set the stage for the second half.”
Indeed, it did. The Spartans got two long TD runs from Blayze Griffis and a scoring run Coal Flansburg to salt the game away. Griffis also threw for two scores.
Dall also scored on a 26-yard pass from Griffis on a third-and-ten play to give Solon a 14-0 lead early in the second quarter.
Benton had been its own worst enemy until then, amassing more penalty yards than total offense, and it appeared the Spartans would run away early with this one. But the Bobcats drew within 14-7, with an eight-play, 91-yard touchdown drive capped by a 27-yard TD pass from Spencer Touro to Riley Pfiffner.
That was as close the Bobcats would get.
Last year, the Spartans eased into the playoffs with a 5-4 record and advanced to the second round, before losing to West Delaware, 38-14.
You can’t fault this year’s team, at 9-1 and on an eight-game winning streak, with having larger expectations and feeling like it can beat Pella, the two-time defending state champions that hasn’t lost since 2013.
“We’re playing with a lot of confidence right now,” Miller said. “Early on, this team didn’t have a lot of confidence, but we’ve really developed in that regard. We still know we can play better, and that’s what the kids are excited about. They want to see how much better they can become.”
Solon Benton Community
First downs 11 11
Rushes-Yards 38-237 34-116
Passing 108 148
Comp-Att-Int 6-12-0 12-25-2
Fumbles-Lost 1-0 3-3
Penalties-Yards 9-70 6-45
Benton Community 0 7 0 7 – 14
Solon 7 14 14 14 – 49
SOL – Kendrick Harris 1 run (Anthony Bullard kick)
SOL – Graeson Dall 26 pass from Blayze Griffis (Bullard kick)
BC – Riley Pfiffner 27 pass from Spencer Touro (Vance Bartelt kick)
SOL – Jacob Coons 36 pass from Griffis (Bullard kick)
SOL – Dall 92 kickoff return (Bullard kick)
SOL – Griffis 57 run (Bullard kick)
BC – Pfiffner 52 pass from Touro (Bartelt kick)
SOL – Griffis 33 run (Bullard kick)
SOL – Coal Flansburg 15 run (Harris kick)
Rushing – BC: Maurice Williams 20-102, Riley Pfiffner 1-(-5), Spencer Touro 10-21, Luke Wiebel 1- (-3), Grant Franzenburg 2-1. S: Kendrick Harris 18-73, Bryce West 2-22, Blayze Griffis 8-80, Graeson Dall 4-29, Jacob Coons 2-8, Bo Black 2-13, Spencer Wegmann 1- (-3), Coal Flansburg 1-15.
Passing – BC: Spencer Touro 12-25-2 148. S: Blayze Griffis 6-12-2 108.
Receiving – BC: Riley Pfiffner 10-131, Joshua Marcus 2-17. S: Jacob Coons 1-36, Graeson Dall 4-57, Payton Bandy 1-15.