SOLOMON — This is the 50th year of high school football playoffs in Kansas, but before Friday night these words were never spoken before.
Solomon is going to play in a state championship game.
The Gorillas put together an outstanding defensive effort and the Solomon offense scored four unanswered touchdowns in a 28-12 victory over Canton-Galva in the semifinals of the Eight-Man Division I playoffs Friday night.
With that victory, Solomon (11-1) advances to a state football title game for the first time in the program's history. The Gorillas will play in the Eight-Man I championship game on Saturday, November 24 at Newton's Fischer Field and face the winner of today's semifinal between unbeatens Central Plains and St. Francis.
"This means everything," Solomon senior Braden Neilson said. "Both of my brothers were on sub-state teams before and to be the first one in my family to go to state is amazing."
"It means so much," Solomon senior Eli Basvic said. "I'm so pumped. It's awesome.
"Making Solomon history like that. Being doubted at the same time and getting beat by this team earlier this season and coming back to win for state. It's awesome."
Canton-Galva was responsible for Solomon's only loss this season, a 38-20 Eagles victory when the teams met last month in district play. Canton-Galva (10-2) did not have a senior on its roster and was denied it's first state title game appearance since 1991.
"We knew we had to get a good week of preparation in, focus on their key players and shut them down," Neilson said. "Defense was the key. They've got a good offense and they are all young, so they are going to be good next year."
The Eagles, who scored 54 points or more in their first three playoff games this season, took a quick lead when junior quarterback Landon Everett connected with freshman Tyson Struber for a 71-yard touchdown pass on the second play of the game.
Solomon didn't have a first down in the first quarter, but took the lead for good when Logan Krause scored on a 10-yard run and Neilson added the two-point conversion carry to make it 8-6 with 3:37 to play in the second quarter.
On the final play before halftime, the Gorillas ran a reverse flea flicker. After two handoffs and the pitch back to Neilson, he found teammate Tyler Marfise open in the end zone for an 18-yard touchdown pass and a 14-6 Solomon lead.
"That was exactly what they did to us in the game earlier this year," Solomon coach Steve Tiernan said. "They scored on the final play of the half and kind of took the wind out of our sails.
"Canton-Galva is a very good team and the bad thing is they are only going to get better."
"It's a reverse pitch pass," Neilson said. "We've been practicing it for a couple weeks but we weren't going to pull it out unless we absolutely needed it.
"We figured we would give it a try before halftime and get momentum on our side."
The Gorillas got additional momentum when the Eagles fumbled the ball on their first offensive play of the second half deep in their own territory. It took Solomon four plays to cover the 7 yards, with Jobe Fowles 1-yard carry making it 22-6 midway through the third.
Fowles, a 206-pound fullback, had 21 carries for 94 yards in the game.
"At the start of the playoffs I finally figured out how to get lower and run the ball," Fowles said. "This is my first year running the ball after playing offensive lineman for three years."
Solomon added to its lead on Neilson's 25-yard touchdown run with 4:13 remaining in the game, putting the Gorillas up 28-6. Canton-Galva got another Everett to Struber touchdown pass with nearly three minutes to play, then got the ball back again with a chance to cut into that lead.
An interception for Solomon's Alex Herbel, the third of the game and fifth Canton-Galva turnover, ended the Eagles' final threat.
"In games like this, whoever messes up the fewest is going to win the game," said Neilson, who had two Solomon interceptions. "Turnovers are the key in big games like this."