CEDAR FALLS — Newspapers are trying to reach a younger crowd just to stay viable these days. The internet changed everything.
So risking a lot with this reference, Solon and Sergeant Bluff-Luton played a game of Pong at the UNI-Dome on Thursday night. Only the older generation would understand.
Spartans receiver-defensive end Jace Anderegg’s blank stare when asked about the rudimentary 1970s video game, the original video game, in which a blip was volleyed back and forth, said it all. Google it, everyone.
“I played that on Atari. You betcha,” said Solon Coach Kevin Miller, after his team out-Ponged Sergeant Bluff-Luton, 43-36, in a classic Class 3A state football semifinal.
Thank you, Coach!
At any rate, Seamus Poynton’s 19-yard touchdown run with 1:04 left provided the winning points as the third-ranked Spartans (12-0) rallied to the 3A title game for the first time since 2010 by surviving this back-and-forth shootout. The opponent next week is top-ranked Western Dubuque (12-0).
“Losing in the playoffs in previous years really kind of taught us a lot,” said Solon’s A.J. Coons, who had three touchdown catches. “Just being gritty and being resilient this year. We’ve been in games like this, been in a lot of close games. We kind of know not to get too high, too low. Just stay level headed, and anything can change at the end of the game.”
Solon was in a 36-28 hole midway through the fourth quarter but a 40-yard bomb from quarterback Cam Miller to Anderegg with 5:41 left was followed by a tying two-point conversion, a reverse pass from Lucas TePoel to Miller. Solon’s defense stopped SB-L and forced a punt on the ensuing possession, with the Spartans taking over at their 20 with 4:06 left.
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Miller and Anderegg hooked up on a big 9-yard pass play that converted a 3rd-and-7, then the rest of the drive was rather methodical. Poynton busted loose over the middle for the TD.
Sergeant Bluff-Luton was not done, taking over at its 43 with 55 seconds left and reaching the Solon 11 with five seconds left. But quarterback Daniel Wright got a little bit of pressure off the edge and threw a pass to the middle of the end zone that was knocked down incomplete.
“With a minute left, I kind of felt like it might be enough time for them with the offense that they have that’s so versatile, and with the playmakers that they have,” Anderegg said. “But our defense held out and got it done.”
Wright — 3A’s leading passer — completed 33 of 45 throws for 279 yards and two touchdowns for Sergeant Bluff-Luton (10-2), which goes four and five wide on every formation. Miller completed 15 of 21 passes for 315 yards and four TDs.
Coons had four catches for 131 yards, Anderegg eight grabs for 164.
“Solon hasn’t been to a championship game in nine years,” said Cam Miller. “Just to bring our town together like this is unbelievable.”
Tone? You said tone?
That was set on the very first play of the game when Miller dropped back and launched a beauty of a bomb to Coons down the left sideline for a 65-yard Solon touchdown. Just nine seconds in, and the Spartans had a 7-0 lead.
SB-L’s first possession penetrated deep into Solon territory, the 7-yard line, specifically, but the Warriors couldn’t dent the end zone, settling for a 25-yard David Clausen field goal. That would be the only defensive stop on either side, albeit a pseudo one, in the first half.
The Miller-Coons connection struck again on Solon’s ensuing possession. This time it was a fly pattern to the right sideline for the South Dakota State receiving recruit, beating his defender and hauling in a perfectly thrown ball for a 43-yard TD and a 14-3 Spartans lead.
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Sergeant Bluff-Luton countered with a 7-yard Cory Bates touchdown run, though. The extra point was blocked, making it a 14-9 game after a quarter.
Solon went back ahead two scores early in the second, when Miller threw a jumpball pass to the left corner of the end zone from 8 yards out that the 6-foot-4 Coons went up and rebounded, so to speak. The extra point made it 21-9.
SB-L returned serve with a TD on the ensuing possession. Wright and Ashton VerDoorn hooked up on a 28-yard catch-and-run off a wide receiver screen.
Then it was one more score for Solon before half’s end. Miller sneaked it in from a yard out with 51 seconds left, capping a 60-yard drive.
Sergeant Bluff-Luton was not done. Wright hit Carter Schumacher with a 32-yard touchdown pass with three seconds remaining, making it a 28-23 Solon lead at halftime.
The Warriors took the second-half kickoff and drove downfield, taking their first lead, 29-28, on a Deric Fitzgerald 1-yard run. A Bates 2-yard TD run made it 36-28.
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