SOLON — Kevin Miller loves to talk about his defense and special teams. “The Spartan Way,” as he says, is founded on those principles.
But Solon’s off-and-on offense has been the critical component this season. The Spartans can put points on the board quickly. If they eliminate some turnovers and clean up some plays, watch out.
“If we shore things up, it could be scary,” quarterback Rory Siddell said. “We make a lot of big plays. It’s just we can’t make those little mistakes.”
The Spartans (4-1, 2-0 3A District 6), who travel to winless Anamosa on Friday, overcame five turnovers and a two-score hole in last week’s thrilling, 18-14, win over DeWitt Central.
Solon allowed an onside recovery to start the game, then had a fumble, interception and a blocked field goal on the first three possessions. Siddell had an interception on a tipped pass and a fumble on two of the first three possessions of the second half.
Siddell, who ranks fifth in Class 3A in total offense, carried the Spartans back. Solon drove 84 yards in three minutes late in the second half, ending in a 7-yard pass to Chris McNutt with 11:09 left. Siddell connected with Austin Holub on passes of 45 and 24 yards to help set up the score.
Solon trailed 14-12 in the waning minutes, but things quickly changed once the Spartans forced a punt. Siddell found Nathan Hawkins on a quick curl route, and the junior made one move and then raced down the sideline for a 53-yard touchdown.
“We had a difficult time moving the ball on the ground, so we had to go to the passing game,” Miller said. “I thought our athletes did a great job of making plays after the catch in particular. It’s one thing to throw the football, but it’s what we did after the catch that really made a big difference in the outcome of the game.”
All those athletes give Siddell plenty of weapons.
“Oh, yeah,” Siddell said. “Lots.”
Holub, Hawkins and Colton Dall all average about 20 yards a catch.
The Spartans are deep in the backfield. Solon’s four primary backs — Aaron Shulista, Nate Kennedy, Tim Lance and Jordan Wymer — have combined for 677 yards and 11 touchdowns.
That doesn’t account for Siddell, who leads the team with 364 rushing yards.
Solon is focused on finding consistency. The offense sputtered the first two games against Mount Vernon and Iowa City Regina, similar to the first half against DeWitt.
“The difference is now we’ve grown as a football team,” Miller said. “I feel like we’re better equipped to handle some of the adversity that we’re facing. That’s what I was most proud of, how our kids responded in spite of the turnovers and adversity that they were faced with.”