'Inside the Huddle' - Union playmakers prove to be too much for Solon
By Cheyne Reiter
The Knights may be in the process of being regarded as a powerhouse football program.
Beating Solon, five-time consecutive finalists and four consecutive championships (2A 2007, 2008, 2009; 3A 2010) is a good start.
On high schools version of "Monday Night Football," the Knights played as if they were on national television.
From the get-go, the Union defense set the tone.
Solon opted to receive, and on their second play from scrimmage, an ill-advised J.J. Hanus pass was intercepted by Knight cornerback Brenden Kuhn, setting up the Knights deep in Spartan territory.
The Knights capitalized on the short field position, giving the ball to none other than Wes Burnside who finished off the short-scoring drive with a 13-yard score. After the successful PAT, the Knights were out to an early 7-0 lead.
On the following Spartan possession, the Knights defense stepped up once again, this time forcing a fumble, one of five Spartan fumbles (three recovered) on the night. The opportune Knight defense set up Union in Solon territory once again. The Knights finished this drive with another 13-yard score, this time from fullback Kyle Ansley. The missed PAT made the score 13-0, just minutes into the first quarter.
Finally, Solon was able to hang on to the football. A quick 4-play drive resulted in a Spartan touchdown by Cody Fritz, making the score 13-7 at the end of the first.
In the second, Union's playmakers stepped up.
After a Solon punt trickled down to the Union 5-yard line, the Knights chose to air it out. Jay Scheel connected with Trev Hadachek on a deep post route and 95 yards later, the Knights found themselves up 19-7 after the failed two-point conversion.
Solon's following possession would eat up a majority of the clock as the Spartans drove the length of the field. They got as close as the 3-yard line, but a penalty backed them up and the Knights defense held. A 32-yard field goal by Josh Proehl was good, making the score 19-10 in favor of Union as both teams headed to the locker rooms.
The second half would show who made the necessary adjustments. Time and time again, it seems to be the Knights who put up big numbers in the third quarter.
The Knights adjustment was to not adjust at all.
Feed Burnside the rock, keep Solon honest with deep passes, and let the defense close it out; a winning formula.
Union started with the ball and pounded it down the field. Burnside got his number called and made the most of it, scoring from 12 yards out to make the score 25-10 after the missed PAT. Later in the third, Scheel found Hadachek once again, this time from 28 yards out to make the score 31-10 after Brady Petersen's third missed PAT of the night.
With a 21-point lead heading into the fourth quarter, one would think that is comfortable. But against an experienced Solon squad, nothing is certain.
Cody Fritz scored his second touchdown of the night from four yards out to bring the score to 31-17. Quarterback J.J. Hanus used his feet to add another touchdown, making the score 31-24 with just a few minutes remaining.
Solon attempted an onside kick but the Knights recovered. With short time remaining, the Spartans needed a stop. With Union's playmaking ability, that was too much to ask for.
Scheel's great fake toss to Burnside sucked the Spartan defense one way while Scheel went the other. With blazing speed, Scheel scored 54 yards later, ultimately sealing the victory.
At 39-24, it would take a miracle by the Spartans to come back; the Knight defense would have nothing of it. Stuffing Solon at the Union 1-yard line to end the game punctuated the Knight victory.
The Knights pulled off the improbable, the unthinkable.
Offensively, Burnside beat up the Spartan defense for 205 yards on 33 carries and two touchdowns. His lead blocker, Kyle Ansley, saw his fair share of carries, carrying four times for 31 yards and a touchdown.
As Solon keyed on the Knights running game, quarterback Jay Scheel was effective passing the ball. Scheel was 5 of 7 for 138 yards and two touchdowns, once again taking care of the football. He added five carries for 50 yards and a score as well. All five completions went to the 'big-play-waiting-to-happen' Trev Hadachek.
With the Knights high-powered offense gaining most of the attention, it was the defense who made a statement.
The Knights forced four total Spartan turnovers (three in the first quarter), one interception by Kuhn and three fumbles recovered. Ansley (10 T, 1 TFL) and Cole Hinders (10 T) led the Union charge.
Next Monday night at 7 p.m., the Knights will host the 3A D5 No. 1 seed Maquoketa Cardinals (10-1) who defeated the Grinnell Tigers (8-3) last night by a 42-14 final. Earlier this season, the Cardinals defeated Union 35-15 on homecoming night.
With Union being 100 percent healthy and a trip to the UNI-Dome on the line, expect to see a much closer contest this time around.