The first thing where the Gorillas maintained their perfection was when they defeated Hodgeman County 22-18 in the second round the KSHSAA Eight-Man I playoffs.
For the game Saturday night Solomon and Hodgeman County tied 3-3 in touchdowns scored. But Solomon was able to score 2-point conversions twice while keeping the Longhorns out of the end zone following all three of Hodgeman County’s touchdowns.
In Solomon’s opening round victory, a 54-42 win over Kiowa County, the Gorillas allowed Kiowa County to score seven touchdowns, but on all seven kept them from converting the 2-point conversions. For their two playoff games the Gorillas are now perfect in 10 attempts at stopping the opponent’s 2-point conversion attempts.
"Defensively we played well tonight," Solomon head coach Tim Cross said. "They got a couple of big plays but defensively we played well. Offensively, we struggled a little bit moving the ball. But we finally got to the point where we were able to move the ball and that opened up things for us I think offensively. We got some big pass plays and Colton Shirack did a good job passing the ball and Burdine did a great job catching the ball and running for touchdowns."
Both defenses dominated the first half of the game as the teams went to the locker room at intermission dead locked at 0-0. Solomon had 66 yards rushing in the first half but none passing while Hodgeman County had 86 rushing and 21 passing. But the Longhorns also threw three interceptions which Solomon used to thwart Hodgemon County drives.
Solomon, which won the opening coin toss but deferred to the second half, got the game’s first points after both teams traded punts before the Gorillas put together a 11-play, 50-yard drive which was punctuated with a 6-yard run by quarterback Colton Shirack. Shirack also ran in the 2-point conversion giving the Gorillas an 8-0 lead with 6:07 remaining in the third quarter.
"We didn’t change a whole lot," Cross said of his halftime adjustments. "We changed a little bit offensively on some blocking schemes and that. Defensively, we knew we had to just keep working hard."
Solomon intercepted a Longhorn pass on the ensuing possession but the Gorillas turned the ball over on downs following a nine-play drive and the Longhorns needed just two plays on their next possession as quarterback Jared Borger connected with Kolt Washburn for a 45-yard touchdown pass with 2:21 remaining in the third quarter.
But the Longhorns went back to the air on their 2-point conversion attempt and the pass fell to the gournd, leaving Solomon clinging to an 8-6 lead.
The Gorillas again turned the ball over on downs on their next possession but they forced a three-and-punt by the Longhorns setting up a 3-play, 53-yard drive which was finished with a 54-yard touchdown pass from Shirack to Josh Burdine, who hauled in four receptions in the game for 155 yards and two touchdowns.
On Solomon’s second touchdown, however, it failed on the 2-point conversion leaving the Gorillas with a 14-5 lead.
Hodgeman County found the end zone again with 8:53 remaining when Washburn and Borger connected again, this time on a 34-yard touchdown pass. But, once again, the Longhorns were held out of the end zone on the PAT and Solomon still led 14-12.
The Gorillas all but sealed the game with their final touchdown when Burdine hauled in his fourth reception of the game, this time a 66-yard touchown catch and run.
Following the final touchdown for Solomon Shirack ran in the 2-point conversion giving Solomon a 22-12 lead with 5:34 remaining in the game.
Hodgeman County was able to find the end zone one last time when Blade Torline found pay dirt with a 25-yard touchdown reception from Austin Pfannenstiel with 4:58 remaining. But the Longhorns, once again, failed on the 2-point conversion leaving the final score of 22-18.
Solomon turned the ball over on downs with 1:44 remaining but the Longhorns also turned the ball over on downs with their final possession and the Gorillas kneeled on the ball twice to finish off the Gorilla victory.
Hodgeman County ends its season with an 8-3 record while Solomon advances to Friday’s sub-state championship game at Ness City.
"I feel good we have played like three games almost in a week," Cross said. "It drained us, it drained the coaches and drained the players. But we came out and played hard tonight but now we have a day of rest and we will come out be ready. … It will be a tough game but we will be ready for it."