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Solon football gears up for 14th straight playoff appearance

Spartans open with Western Dubuque in Class 3A first round

Solon Spartans head coach Kevin Miller (center) congratulates Solon quarterback Cam Miller after Miller scored a touchdown during the first half of their high school football game against the Washington Demons at Spartan Stadium in Solon, Iowa on Friday, Sept. 28, 2018.  (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Solon Spartans head coach Kevin Miller (center) congratulates Solon quarterback Cam Miller after Miller scored a touchdown during the first half of their high school football game against the Washington Demons at Spartan Stadium in Solon, Iowa on Friday, Sept. 28, 2018. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

SOLON — There is no magic formula, Solon football coach Kevin Miller said.

Year after year, the Spartans have made their way into the playoffs. This season’s 9-0 squad will be making the school’s 14th straight postseason trip, opening the Class 3A playoffs with a home game Friday night against No. 8 Western Dubuque (7-2).

Miller, in his 18th season as the Solon head coach, said it is a commitment from all involved that drives the Spartan gridiron success.

“It’s a credit to our players and our coaches as far as adhering to the system we have in place,” said Miller, who has a 183-32 record at Solon. “It’s a whole program effort from the parents to the players to the coaches. Everyone believes in what we are doing and we are lucky to have so many fantastic people associated with the program.”

The numbers bear Miller out. Solon has been in the playoffs 22 times with a 54-23 overall postseason mark. The Spartans have been in a 3A or 2A title game nine times, winning five, including four straight from 2007-2010.

The program also has sent many players on to the NCAA Division I level. Former Spartan Dalton Ferguson is a starter on the offensive line at Iowa as a fifth-year senior. Tyler Linderbaum, a mainstay for the Spartans on both lines last year, has seen limited action at Iowa in his freshman season. Another former Spartan, kicker Marshall Koehn, had a solid career at Iowa and was, most recently, on the New York Giants roster before being waived earlier this month.

And the Division I run of Solon players will continue next year with senior linebacker Coal Flansburg moving on to Iowa State.

“When we were all in middle school, we always went to the football camps and looked up to (these guys),” said senior running back/linebacker Adam Bock, who will play for FCS South Dakota State next year. “You want to carry on that tradition.”

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Seeing players move on and have success at the next level makes the younger players take notice, according to Miller.

“They see the guys in front of them and how they go about their business,” he said. “They see them setting a great example of how things are supposed to be done and that is how we have developed that consistency in the program.”

This year, Solon is seeded fourth under the Iowa High School Athletic Association’s new playoff format. If the Spartans can down Western Dubuque on Friday, they would play the winner of Waverly-Shell Rock (8-1) and North Scott (8-1) in the quarterfinals.

“We have got a little better each week,” Miller said. “We had some adversity early but we have been able to identify some of the things we need to improve upon and as a result of that I think we will be tougher going into the playoffs.”

The offense is led by Miller’s son, Cam. The 6-foot-1, 200-pound junior has completed 99 of 166 passes for 1,393 yards and 25 touchdowns. Junior receiver AJ Coons has been his top target with 45 catches for 719 yards and 12 touchdowns. Bock leads a balanced rushing attack with 622 yards and 10 scores.

“Our team has really come together over the past couple of games,” Bock said. “We have really formed a great bond as teammates. Obviously the level (of the opponents) is going to increase so our level of focus will have to increase as well.”

Solon is the smallest 3A team in the state this season. Miller takes pride in the fact his team is among the elite in a very talented group of teams in Eastern Iowa.

“I believe there are four or five 3A schools in Eastern Iowa who could be very competitive in 4A,” Miller said. “(Cedar Rapids) Xavier is obviously outstanding and Western Dubuque has been in 4A, so we know that is a talented team.

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“For us being a smaller 3A school, we have to do things a little bit better. We have to focus on the details and worry about our team and not so much the opponent, just like we always have.”

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