IOWA CITY — Solon made a big statement last night.
The distance between the top-ranked and third-ranked teams in Class 3A is a lot further than the drive it takes to reach each other. Top-ranked Solon handled No. 3 Iowa City Regina, 42-7, in a Class 2A District 5 battle last night at Regina High School. Solon seemed to have a little more adrenaline pumping and wanted to put its stamp on a game that determined the district champion and increased the Spartans win streak to 35 games.
“To a certain extent,” Solon Coach Kevin Miller said. “We knew this was a good football. We new this was going to be our greatest challenge to date. I’m very proud of the way our kids came out of the gate and asserted themselves physically.”
The first half was the James Morris show. Morris racked up 171 yards on nine carries, including three touchdowns. He made it look easy at times, scoring on two of his first three touches. Morris finished with 191 yards.
Morris gave the Spartans a 7-0 lead with a 60-yard dash on their second offensive play. Morris burst through the left side of the line and rumbled down the left sideline outrunning everyone.
“That’s James being James but at the same time a lot of that starts upfront,” Miller said. “Again we challenged that offensive line and they truly did respond.”
Solon ruinning back Andy Ashton added 108 yards and a touchdown.
It was much of the same when he scored on runs of 45 and 33 yards in the second quarter. The 33-yard score appeared to be stopped for a 5-yard gain when Morris kept churning and ran through and over a couple defenders before pulling away for the score, making it 28-0.
Morris was quick to point out the big plays are possible when everyone is doing their job. He praised his wide receivers for breaking those big plays.
“Wide receivers just getting down field and locking onto their men. That really opens up big plays,” Morris said. “That’s what it is in college and on the professional level, all 11 guys finding somebody to block.”
Miller said that the defense and offensive line were challenged this week to enforce the Spartan style of play.
“We controlled the line of scrimmage,” Miller said. “We were able to dictate what we wanted to do.”
Morris did some damage with his arm as well. Taking over for injured quarterback Wes Sleeper, Morris floated a pass for Derrick Loveless, who caught it and cruised to the end zone, for a 60-yard scoring strike. Loveless also had a 46-yard interception return for a touchdown in the second half.
“Derrick’s a great receiver and he made a great play,” said Morris, who went 2 of 4 for 76 yards. “It wasn’t a great throw by any means. He had to stop on a dime and come back for it. It’s cool to air it out.”
The Spartans (8-0, 6-0) didn’t expect such a lopsided victory over the highly-ranked Regals.
“I know if we take care of business and we do well and I know what we’re capable of doing games can get out of hand,” Morris said. “I wasn’t expecting it.”
The Regals (7-1, 5-1) looked strong at the start, taking the opening drive to Solon’s 16. Regina had a pass dropped in the end zone and then gave up a sack that resulted in a fumble. Solon was in control after the turnover.
Regina responded right before the half. After appearing to be stopped deep in their territory and Solon calling a timeout, expecting to get the ball back before halftime, the Regals converted a 4th-and-10 from their 25 yard line with a Sean Sullivan 26-yard run.
Backup quarterback Tyler Nelson hit Braden Lehman for a 42-yard pass to the 5. Lehman then made a juggling catch in the back of the end zone from Jack Verducci, who returned from an injury, two plays later. Regina pulled within 28-7 at the half.