Central Lyon/George-Little Rock finishes secondCEDAR FALLS, Iowa — Before Central Lyon/George-Little Rock and Solon even stepped onto the field for the Class 2A football championship Saturday, history had been made. By the time the two teams accepted their trophies, records had fallen.
By: Aaron Hagen, Worthington Daily Globe
CEDAR FALLS, Iowa — Before Central Lyon/George-Little Rock and Solon even stepped onto the field for the Class 2A football championship Saturday, history had been made.
By the time the two teams accepted their trophies, records had fallen.
With the same two teams meeting for the third consecutive season in the state finals for the first time ever, it was Solon which had a record-setting day in a 60-14 victory to claim its second consecutive state title.
“Anytime you lose a game it’s going to be tough, but it’s just one of those things where we got on a landslide and all of a sudden everything started to fall the wrong way,” CL/G-LR head coach Toby Lorenzen said. “When you play a team like that with big play possibility, it’s going to be a long day.”
Solon set a championship game record with 60 points and nine touchdowns in the game.
“We knew they were a great team coming in, but they hurt themselves,” Solon running back James Morris said. “All the credit goes to them, they are a great team, but they found themselves a couple of times with their backs against the ropes and our job is to win the game and execute, and I think that’s what we did.”
Spartan quarterback Matt Morrison and receiver Kyler Stahle set a record with their 93-yard touchdown strike in the first quarter.
Morris, who has committed to the University of Iowa, ran for 152 yards and three touchdowns, and scored on a 22-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown to lead the Spartans to 34 second-half points.
“It’s a great feeling,” Morris said following the game. “It’s a testament to our coaching staff and the way they prepare and the great job they do of scouting. We have some guys that are willing to work, and wins are a product of a lot of hard work.”
While it was Solon that threw the final punches, it was the Lions who had the early lead.
After picking up three first downs on their opening possession, the Lions were forced to punt.
Pinning the Spartans deep in their own territory, the Lion defense pushed Solon into a second-and-29 from its own 7-yard line.
From there, Morrison and Stahle connected on a 93-yard pass to give the Spartans a 7-0 lead.
It didn’t take long for the Lions to respond.
On the first play of the ensuing drive, Jordan Gacke (116 yards rushing) scampered around the left edge for an 85-yard touchdown as the Lions pulled within one, 7-6.
In an attempt to keep the ball away from Morris on the kickoff, Cody Zimbleman connected on a squib kick down the right sideline.
The Spartans were unable to recover as the Lions ended up with the ball on Solon’s 33.
CL/G-LR moved the ball, and just as the second quarter started, Scott Eben plunged into the end zone from one yard out, and with a successful two-point conversion, the Lions had a 14-7 lead.
“I was a little nervous,” said Solon head coach Kevin Miller, who led Solon to a state title in 1988. “But it was a 14-7 game and they got a score on a big play, but we were there and we were in proper position. We got sucked in and he bounced it, and then it was special teams where we didn’t jump on the squib kick and they capitalized and punched it in.”
On the next offensive play for the Spartans, Wes Sleeper took the handoff from Morrison on a sweep and rumbled 53 yards for a touchdown, tying the game at 14-all.
“I think our offensive production was pretty good all day long,” Miller said. “Quite honestly, coming in with a young line — we start four juniors and a sophomore — that was a little bit of a concern going against a senior-laden group. We just didn’t know if they could go toe-to-toe and bang with them in there, and they did.”
Set up by a 35-yard run by Morris, Morrison scored on a 5-yard run as the Spartans opened up a 20-14 lead late in the first half.
However, Solon wasn’t done yet.
Following an interception, Morris needed only one play to find paydirt from 15 yards out as Solon had a 26-14 lead at the break.
“We thought we played pretty well,” Eben said of the first half. “They had a couple of long plays, a long pass and a couple of long runs that they scored on, but we thought we were playing pretty well.”
For Lorenzen, it was exactly the type of game he expected.
“The first quarter played out exactly how we wanted it to play out,” Lorenzen said. “I felt really good at halftime in the fact that we’re a third-quarter team. We wish we wouldn’t have given them that last one before half, but going into halftime we felt that we were in good shape and we could easily score 12. But then we came out and had some bad things happen for us right away and we were playing catch-up from there on out.”
The Lions fumbled the second-half kickoff, and three plays later, Morris scored from 13 yards out to give Solon a 33-14 lead.
“We knew they were a big play team and you can’t give them a short field and you can’t give them big plays, and we let them do both,” Lorenzen said. “We’re setting ourselves up for a recipe for disaster if we do that.”
On the ensuing possession, Gacke was hit hard on a rushing attempt, and Morris was in the right place at the right time to score on a 22-yard return as the Spartans had a 40-14 advantage.
“Tom Holubar made a heck of a play on that,” Miller said. “He just formed him up, lifted him up and stripped the football and James picked it up and ran it in for a touchdown. Everything that could have gone wrong for them did, and everything that could have gone right did for us.”
CL/G-LR picked up a first down on its next drive, but was forced to punt. The Spartans responded with an 11-play, 85-yard drive capped by a 15-yard run by Morris to give Solon a 47-14 lead.
“In the first quarter we came out and played like we should have played all game long,” CL/G-LR’s Dylan Reynolds said. “But after that, a couple of scores and it just went downhill after that.”
Cody Strang increased the lead to 53-14 with an 8-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter.
“Last game, maybe last game forever and definitely your last high school game, and we ran into a powerhouse; we just couldn’t get it done,” Eben said. “They started to get momentum. They got a couple of fumbles and an interception and they got the momentum and rolled with it.”
Blake Bruene scored from three yards out in the final four minutes to put the finishing touches on a 60-14 Solon victory.
“We just weren’t tackling down the stretch and making plays,” Lorenzen said. “Once the bottom falls out, the bottom can really fall out, and that’s what happened.
“It was just a situation where everything that could go bad today went bad.”
The Lions lost three of their five fumbles and had two interceptions. Solon lost one fumble.
“Turnovers killed us,” Lorenzen said. “We haven’t had that many turnovers all year I don’t think all together, but what a time to have them in the state finals. That’s what happens sometimes when you start losing your edge a little bit, you start panicking at times, and all of a sudden that ball gets a little bit hard to hold on to.”
With a senior-dominated team, the Lions will lose 21 starters to graduation.
“It was not the way we wanted it to come out in the end,” Gacke, a senior, said. “But we had to take care of the ball better.”
But for Lorenzen, this team will have a special place in history.
“These are the toughest kids I’ve ever coached in my life, bar none,” Lorenzen said. “These seniors never lost a game at home their entire career from seventh grade on, and I think they lost three games their entire career, and two of them are on the dome floor. They don’t get any better than this bunch.”
CL/G-LR 6 8 0 0 — 14
Solon 7 19 21 13 — 60