Your Prep Sports
Friday night lights will give way to a Saturday afternoon showdown for Solon and Boyden-Hull/Rock Valley in the Class 3A state semifinals.
Third-ranked Solon and second-ranked Boyden-Hull/Rock Valley will kick off a set of matchups of unbeatens in the 3A semifinals on Saturday when they meet at 4 p.m. at the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls.
The prize for the winner is a meeting with the Harlan (11-0) and Humboldt (11-0) winner next Friday in the 3A title game at 1 p.m.
Will Harlan get a shot at a second consecutive state title? Can Solon return to the championship game for the second time in three season?
Those questions will be answered on Saturday but first here is a look at three keys for Solon in its semifinal showdown with Boyden-Hull/Rock Valley.
Weather the Storm
The perfect conditions of the climate-controlled UNI-Dome is a welcome site for both of these teams with high-powered offense but this isn’t a meteorological storm that Solon needs to weather on Saturday.
Instead, the Spartans need to weather a potential early-game surge from the Nighthawks who have an edge in state semifinal experience.
Regardless of what coaches do in preparation the UNI-Dome is a unique venue and can be an intimidating environment.
Boyden-Hull/Rock Valley was in the UNI-Dome a year ago and returned a large group of players from that team that lost to Harlan in the 3A semifinals.
That gives the Nighthawks an edge they will likely be looking to exploit early.
Solon dug itself out of a 12-point first-quarter hole against West Delaware in a 23-19 quarterfinal win against the Hawks but falling behind early is playing with a fire against an experienced team like Boyden-Hull/Rock Valley.
Spread the Wealth
Solon didn’t put up huge yardage numbers offensively against West Delaware (263 total yards) but the Spartans were balanced and that will likely be a key again on Saturday.
The Spartans had 135 rushing yards and 128 passing yards in the win at West Delaware and will need to have both areas of offense clicking on Saturday against an aggressive Boyden-Hull/Rock Valley defense.
The duo of quarterback Blake Timmons and Sean Stahle has been effective all season and will continue to be at the front of the Spartan offensive attack but Solon got a number of players involved early against West Delaware.
Senior Logan Sieverding was successful in getting to the edge in the run game (4 carries for 57 yards) and five different Spartans had a reception against West Delaware.
Solon has been balanced all season, averaging 246 rushing yards and 152 passing yards per game.
Those stats would like be even more balanced if it weren’t for some lopsided games that led to lots of runs in the second-half.
Look for Solon to find creative ways to get the ball to its speedy group of playmakers in space on Saturday to open up room for Stahle who had a season-low 15 yards rushing in the quarterfinals.
Special For a Reason
They are called special teams for a reason and Solon saw that first hand in its quarterfinal win scoring the go-ahead touchdown on a blocked punt return for a touchdown.
In close games special teams can be the difference and the Spartans will need to be sharp in all aspects of special teams on Saturday.
Senior place kicker Brent Lumpkin has been solid all season (62-of-65 on PAT and 3-of-7 on field goals) and was excellent in tough conditions against West Delaware.
(A note of interest, Boyden-Hull/Rock Valley has not converted a field goal this season).
It isn’t just the kick game that could be key on Saturday.
Boyden-Hull/Rock Valley has a pair of dangerous returners in Landyn Van Kekerix and Bryson Van Grootheest who together are averaging better than 37 yards per kick off return and have returned three kicks for touchdowns.
Solon needs to be sound in kick coverage and perhaps swing field position with its own return game fueled by Stahle who has taken back a kick and two punts for touchdowns.