The West Liberty High School football team opens their season this Friday night, traveling to Solon to take on a team that won seven straight games after losing their first two of the season including ending their season bowing to the Class 2A state champion, Waukon.
The Spartans of second year coach Lucas Stranton will be a major test for the Comets of Coach Jason Iske which finished 6-3 last season including a playoff run of their own before losing to Camanche. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.
One thing about that playoff run Iske hopes his players and coaches remember the most is the cliché “it ain’t over ‘til the final whistle,” the Comets pulling off a couple of final play victories as well as another game where the Comets dug a huge hole for themselves and “almost climbed out of it.”
“No matter what happens, we need to play each play to the whistle and each game until the clock shows 00:00 at the end of the fourth quarter,” Iske said, pointing out the cliché is “a fantastically true statement.”
The Comets got a taste of football on Friday in a scrimmage with Mid-Prairie High School in Wellman. Iske said the team is ready to compete now. “The scrimmage was good for us because it let us see what we are doing well and what we need to clean up. Now it is up to us to go to practice this week and get better,” the coach said.
He said it wasn’t important to win the scrimmage. “As much as we want to be physical when we play football, we approach the scrimmage as a practice with different teammates. We're not looking to take shots on defenseless players or do anything that might put one of their player's health in jeopardy. We want both teams to come out healthy after a scrimmage and use it as a learning tool. We accomplished both of those things Friday night.”
Iske said it will be important to execute the “little things” against Solon. “We have to limit the mental mistakes that lead to penalties and missed assignments which can help Solon make big plays. In short, we need to not beat ourselves.”
The coach said he’s expecting a strong opponent Friday night in the Spartans, noting although Solon lost their first two games last season, the team had a new head coach and were adjusting to some new schemes. “It’s not surprising they had a slow start and picked it up as the season progressed,” he said.
Solon lost to Williamsburg 17-14 in their opener a year ago before also losing to Washington, 33-18, followed by winning seven straight including playoff wins over Oelwein, 41-12, and Independence, 37-21.
Hayden Taylor, a running back for the Spartans, had six touchdowns and 537 yards a year ago while Carson Miller caught 17 passes for 194 yards while rushing for 291 yards. Defensively, four big tacklers return for the Spartans including cornerback John Quillin, linebacker Cayden Knipper, linebacker Hayden Taylor and defensive end Lucas Kampman. Parker Pentico, a safety who had three interceptions a year ago, also returns for Solon.