Wichita Force

Solomon sparks Wild's opening win

PARK CITY — Due to more intriguing news — quarterback Dixie Wooten's new Slim Fast waistline, the arrival of playmaker Hurtiss Chinn, and the presence of pin-up boy Colin Bryant — Clinton Solomon spent training camp as a relatively anonymous member of the Wichita Wild.

On Friday night in front of a sell-out crowd of 4,755, Solomon showed why he is perhaps the biggest star on the Indoor Football League team.

A speedy and lanky receiver, Solomon caught two touchdown passes — including a game-changing bomb — in the Wild's 57-20 victory over the La Crosse (Wis.) Spartans in the season opener for both teams in Hartman Arena.

Solomon, an all-league player last season, finished with nine receptions for 117 yards — numbers that came in the game's first three quarters.

After the game was decided, he also found time to high five a couple fans in the end zone after flying into the stands on an attempted catch, and sign the arm of a young boy at the end of the third quarter.

"I always try to have fun and entertain, but I also try to take care of my business," said Solomon, who played at Iowa. "If you're not having fun, you're spoiling the game.

"Tonight, I had a lot of fun, it was all smiles, and we won. It was a good night."

Expansion La Crosse, coached by former Kansas Jayhawk and Green Bay Packer Gilbert Brown, never seemed a serious threat, but the Spartans did pull to within 30-20 late in the first half when a breakdown by the defensive backs allowed a 33-yard scoring pass.

The Wild responded on its next possession when Wooten connected with Solomon on a 40-yard touchdown pass — a huge hook-up on a 50-yard field — to put Wichita up 36-20.

On the play, called "Go Switch," Solomon crossed fellow receiver Donald Payne in the open field and found himself wide open — so open that he caught the lofted pass while backpedaling toward the end zone.

"Personally, I think I can play a lot better technique-wise, but that will come as the season goes on," Solomon said. "A big thing was the O-line blocked tremendously for Dixie when we needed them to."

On La Crosse's next possession, defensive back Ene Akpan turned in a big play of his own, intercepting a pass and returning it 39 yards for a touchdown.

Akpan, who played at McPherson College, said he jammed a receiver at the line and then slid underneath in the Wild's zone coverage.

"The quarterback didn't see me, and I just picked it," Akpan said. "I had to look around; I didn't think I would be that lonely. Then I just turned it upfield."

The play was significant because it put La Crosse in a 43-20 hole and because quarterback Jimmy Sangster, who had been solid, was knocked out of the game with an apparent left ankle injury.

"He was throwing the ball extremely well; take him out of it and they really didn't have a chance," Wild coach Ken Matous said. "You never want to see a kid get hurt like that. It kind of took the wind out of their sails."

Notes — The crowd was the biggest in the four-year history of the Wild.... The Wild defensive line of Bryant, Brandon Russell and Greg Nicks bottled up La Crosse's run game.... Despite the big win, the Wild does have some issues to work out during the upcoming off week. The secondary was soft at times; running back Darius Fudge scored three touchdowns, but was limited to 46 rushing yards; and Dylan Pohlman missed two extra points and booted two kickoffs out of bounds.

La Crosse (0-1) 13 7 0 0 — 20 Wichita (1-0) 14 29 7 7 — 57

L—MacArthur 6 pass from Wooten (kick failed)

W—Solomon 27 pass from Wooten (Pohlman kick)

W—Fudge 1 run (Pohlman kick)

L—Abdullah 1 run (Dierkhising kick)

W—Wooten 3 run (Pohlman kick)

W—Pohlman 22 kick

W—Fudge 1 run (kick failed)

L—Overstreet 33 pass from Sangster (Dierkhising kick)

W—Solomon 40 pass from Wooten (kick failed)

W—Akpan 39 interception return (Pohlman kick)

W_ Payne 24 pass from Wooten (Pohlman kick)

W—Fudge 1 run (Pohlman kick)

Individual Statistics

Rushing—La Crosse, Abdullah 5-7, Bonds 2-3, Ditto 8-(-23), Sangster 2-(-26). Wichita, Fudge 21-46, Cavanaugh 2-16, Wooten 4-10.

Passing—La Crosse, Sangster 11-17-1-136; Ditto 1-7-1-7. Wichita, Wooten 15-24-0-3, Cavanaugh 0-2-0-0.

Receiving—LaCrosse, Overstreet 4-74, Shackelford 4-51, White 2-10, Abdullah 2-8. Wichita, Solomon 9-117, Chinn 4-36, Payne 1-24, Cavanaugh 1-15.