SOLOMON, Kan. (KWCH) -- A Steve Tiernan team is headed back to Newton. For the first time in school history, Solomon will play for an 8-man state championship. The Gorillas defeated Canton-Galva 28-12 Friday night in Solomon, and the fourth-year coach will try for a third state championship with a third school (Baileyville B&B and Osborne).
"It all came together when it needed to," Tiernan said. "Those guys just play and play. They don't give up."
The Eagles found the end zone first just a few plays into the game when junior quarterback Landon Everett found freshman Tyson Struber in double coverage down the sideline. Struber broke free to complete the 66-yard play less than a minute into the game.
"They got a long one in the first quarter but it happens," said Solomon senior Braden Neilson. "We just bounced back and did what we had to do."
The Gorillas needed nearly two quarters to find an answer. Late in the second, senior Logan Krause capped a long drive with a 10-yard touchdown run. The quarterback Neilson ran in for the two points and Solomon never trailed again.
Neilson picked off an Everett pass on the next play from scrimmage. Four plays later, Neilson's big punt pinned the Eagles inside the 5-yard line. Two plays later, Neilson picked off his second pass of the half to set up a big finish to the half.
With time winding down in the second quarter, Neilson slipped through traffic and out of bounds at the 18-yard line with just two seconds on the clock. That set up a last-second play from Neilson to senior Tyler Marfise in the corner of the end zone. The Gorillas led 14-6 at the break.
Solomon went on to lead by as many as 22 points in the second half. Senior Jobe Fowles punched an early score in from two yards out on fourth down, then Neilson found space for a score.
Canton-Galva returned to the end zone on another Everett to Struber connection, this time for seven yards with 2:58 remaining. Needing two scores, the Eagles got the ball back with a short field and two minutes to play. Gorilla sophomore Alex Herbel ended the drama on the first play by intercepting an Everett pass.
The Gorillas were able to run out the clock much to the delight of the large home contention. "It makes it even better having a lot of fans out here to support us," Neilson said. "It means a lot to everyone here in this community."
After three-straight losing seasons, Canton-Galva ends its year at 10-2. With no seniors on the roster, the Eagles end the year with high expectations for 2019.
Solomon improves to 11-1 on the year, avenging an earlier loss to the Eagles. The Gorillas will face either unbeaten Central Plains or St. Francis in next Saturday's Div. I championship in Newton.
"It's the last game," Tiernan said. "The pressure is off. Win, lose or draw - and of course we want to win - you're done. You couldn't have gone any further so they've done great."