Solon coach Kevin Miller. Jackie Blake Jensen/IC Pixx.By Ryan Murken
Your Prep Sports
SOLON – Kevin Miller knows a thing or two about long winning streaks.
Miller directed Solon to 42 consecutive wins from 2007 to 2010.
He also knows something about ending long winning streaks. Miller and the Spartans snapped a state-record 56-game winning streak in the 2014 season opener.
Miller isn’t concerned about any of that when second-ranked Pella (10-0) brings its state-leading 38-game winning streak to Spartan Stadium on Friday for a 3A quarterfinal meeting with No. 7 Solon.
Instead Miller is focused on his team rather than winning streaks or past success.
“When you put that type of streak together you have to have a system in place where kids expect to be successful,” Miller said. “They are well coached but they expect to win and when you expect to win that is a difficult thing to overcome as an opponent and that is why we aren’t concentrating on them we are really focused on what we do.”
It’s easy to get caught up in the success surrounding Pella. The Dutch have had plenty the past several seasons.
Pella has won back-to-back 3A titles and hasn’t loss since the 2013 quarterfinals. During its current 38-game winning streak Pella has 11 shutouts and has outscored opponents 1,676 to 343.
“We’ve talked to our kids about we aren’t playing 2014 or the 2015 Pella team we are playing the 2016 team,” Miller said. “We are going to do what we do because that’s what we know.”
The 2016 Pella team has been plenty good.
Pella hasn’t played a game closer than 20 points this season and has scored at least 34 points in every game.
The Dutch have shined on defense, limiting opponents to 174 total yards and 5.6 points per game.
“They are very good on defense, their two safeties are good players and up front they are solid,” Solon senior quarterback Blayze Griffis said. “It should be a good battle.”
Pella has been its usual dominant self through 10 games this season.
On Friday, Solon (9-1) plans to be itself.
The Spartans have won eight straight games since a week two loss to Regina outscoring opponents 339-53 during that stretch.
“Regina was a huge turning point and after that we have gotten better every day at practice and it’s definitely shown,” Griffis said. “A lot of it is just confidence. Everyone just believes in each other, you can feel it that everyone trusts the guy next to them.”
Solon has relied on a strong defense and opportunistic offense to return to the 3A quarterfinals for the first time since 2013.
The Spartans are limiting opponents to 231 total yards and 10.8 points per game this season. Solon has forced 28 turnovers, 26 of which have come during its current eight-game winning streak.
“If you look at our recipe for success this season it’s been great defense, valuing the football, creating turnovers with our defense and great special teams play and we’ve made some timely plays on offense,” Miller said. “If we continue to not turn the football over, play great defense and create some turnovers with our defense we feel like we have a great opportunity in front of us.”
The top task for Solon defensively on Friday will be controlling Pella senior quarterback Nick Finney.
Finney has passed for 1,843 yards and 24 touchdowns while completing 63 percent of his passes and has added a team-high 1,075 rushing yards and 12 scores.
His top two targets have been 6-foot-5 senior receivers Donovan Holterhaus and Ryan Van Wyk.
Holterhaus has caught a team-high 49 passes for 824 yards and 13 touchdowns while Van Wyk has 32 grabs for 569 yards and five touchdowns.
“Their quarterback really makes them go and they have two outstanding receivers,” Miller said. “Their offensive line has done a great job throughout the year. They are a very, very good football team and we know that we are going to have to come and play our game.”