ANAMOSA - The news hit like a bomb dropping in Anamosa Friday, May 1, and the ripple effects could be felt all the way into Johnson County.
Anamosa football coach Lucas Stanton announced Friday he had accepted the head coaching position at Iowa high school football powerhouse Solon, and would be leaving the Raider program he had been working so hard to build back up.
“This was an unexpected opportunity,” said Stanton, who leaves Anamosa with an 8-19 overall record in three years of walking the Raider sideline, including going 2-7 last fall with the team playing some of their best football down the stretch.
“This was something at this point of my career that I just couldn’t pass up. I talked with my wife and wrapped my head around whether or not I should even apply for the job. In the end I decided to put my name in there and everything just kind of came together.”
Former Solon head coach Kevin Miller, who had been with the Spartans since 2001, resigned the position back in March leaving behind an incredible legacy of success that included four straight state championships (2007-10) and an overall record of 190-32 in those 18 years.
“I’ve known Kevin for a long time, and he’s an incredible coach,” said Stanton, who becomes just Solon’s third coach in the last 46 years.
“There’s a level of success that is just expected at Solon, and I’m going to do my best to keep the Spartans among the best teams in the state of Iowa.”
Stanton’s connection with Miller goes all the way back to Miller’s first game with the Solon program back in 2001, when he took over for legendary coach Ed Hansen, who was 206-70 in his 28 years (from 1972-2000) with the Spartan program.
“I was on the field when coach Miller made his debut with Solon back in 2001,” said Stanton, then a member of the Mount Vernon football team. “And we won that game, too. He didn’t have too many losses in his career after that though.”
According to Stanton, the toughest part about making the move to Solon was saying goodbye to his players here in Anamosa, and the fans.
“The support at Anamosa, right off the bat, was amazing,” he said. “There’s such a large network of support here and this community does a great job of rallying around the kids.
“When it came time to saying goodbye to the players though, I would have liked to have been able to talk with each of my players face-to-face and in person, but because of everything going on right now with the COVID-19 pandemic, that just wasn’t possible. So, we had to do it over a zoom meeting. That wasn’t how I wanted to do this, and the kids took the news hard. It was hard for me, too.”
It was tough for sophomore quarterback Grahm Humpal, too.
“I was upset when he told us the news on Friday,” Humpal said. “I like coach Stanton as a person and as a coach. He’s someone we all wanted to play for and would do anything for, but, as tough as this news is, we as players have to get over it and get back to work. Hopefully, we still have games to play this fall.”
Solon Athletic Director Casey Hack however, was thrilled with his new hire.
“We brought in our candidates for the job and had three different steps to get to the final guys, and in the end decided to offer Lucas the job,” he said. “We wanted someone here who we felt could sustain the great football culture we have here at Solon, and we felt Lucas was the coach to do that.
“This hire doesn’t just impact our football program, but our entire student body. Lucas is the kind of guy who can bring students and athletes together, and will motivate them to be the best they can be.”
Anamosa Athletic Director Bret Jones now has to get to work hiring a replacement.
“I’m happy for Lucas, he’s a good guy and he deserves an opportunity like this,” Jones said. “We’ll go through the process and our due diligence and make the right hire for our kids and our school. But we did lose a good one. Lucas inspired a lot of kids here at Anamosa in the three years we had him, on and off the field, and I’m sure he’ll do the same at Solon.”