Your Prep Sports
SOLON – Dating back decades Solon has seemingly cranked out all-state caliber linebackers every fall.
From the days of James Morris to the duo of Adam Bock and Coal Flansburg to last year’s leading tackler Carson Shive the focus of the Solon defense has long been a set of playmaking run-stuffing linebackers.
That hasn’t changed this fall with sophomore Brett White manning the middle linebacker spot.
What was tweaked as the Spartans geared up for a possible postseason run in 2021 was an increased attention to tightening up the pass defense.
“That was kind of a point of emphasis during the offseason just from a staff standpoint was to improve on our pass defense,” second-year Solon coach Lucas Stanton said. “We felt like that had kind of been a weaker point of our defense, it wasn’t because of the players out there it was just that we do such a good job of focusing on our front seven and stopping the run that maybe that was neglected.”
The secondary, an area that Stanton believed before the season could be improved has developed into a major strength for third-ranked Solon (11-0) which faces second-ranked Boyden-Hull/Rock Valley (11-0) in a Class 3A semifinal on Saturday at 4 p.m. in the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls.
“We definitely thought it could be a strength,” Solon senior safety Parker Pentico said. “We have quick guys, smart guys and if we all do our jobs we knew we could be a tough group.”
Pentico and fellow seniors Logan Sieverding and Jake Quillin all returned in the secondary after getting varsity experience a year ago.
Solon was solid against the pass in 2020, allowing 114 passing yards per game and giving up seven passing touchdowns in 10 games with those three playing key roles.
Led by those three along with senior first-year starter Michael Pipolo the Spartans have made a massing jump in their pass defense.
“Coach Curt Miller has done such a good job of directing our secondary this year and the kids are smart and they do a great job,” Stanton said. “We have good athletes back there are going to do some good things.”
Solon is holding opponents to just 97 passing yards per game this season and has allowed four passing touchdowns in 11 games.
The Spartans haven’t given up more than 149 yards through the air in a game and have held seven opponents under 95 yards through the air.
“We’ve been working our butts off every day all season,” Sieverding said. “We thought this group could be really special.”
Sieverding and Pipolo have manned the corner back spots for Solon this season with Pentico starting at safety.
Solon has had its success in the secondary despite a season-ending injury to Quillin the top coverage option for the Spartans.
“We have that next man up mentality and everyone has to be locked in when the time comes,” Sieverding said. “We’ve had some guys step up.”
The 5-11, 170-pound Sieverding ranks second on the team with 41.5 tackles and is tied for the team-lead with Pipolo with three interceptions.
Pentico (6-0, 170) has 27 tackles including 8.5 for loss and two interceptions from his safety spot and Pipolo has made 21.5 tackles.
“We had a lot of focus on our pass defense,” Pentico said. “I feel like we have some guys that can cover and move around and that’s become a strength of ours.”
The Solon secondary will face by far its toughest test of the season on Saturday against a pass-happy Boyden-Hull/Rock Valley offense that enters averaging 185 yards a game through the air.
Boyden-Hull/Rock Valley senior quarterback Tanner Te Slaa has thrown for 1,928 yards and 28 touchdowns while completing 67 percent of his passes.
“We are excited,” Pentico said. “We know there will be some opportunities for us to make plays and we are excited to have those chances. We have to come up with the plays when they present themselves.”
Boyden-Hull/Rock Valley has three players with more than 20 receptions led by senior Caleb Kats with 35 grabs for 622 yards and nine touchdowns.
Landyn Van Kekerix has 24 grabs for 575 yards and Van Katzfey has caught 20 passes for 293 yards.
“They are quick but I think if we work as a team well we will be fine,” Sieverding said. “We just have to do our jobs.”