MENTOR — Stow-Munroe Falls football headed north to Jerome T. Osborne Stadium Friday to take on Mentor for only the second time in program history.
Stow was looking for a better result than when the two teams met in the Division I playoffs in 2013. The Cardinals won that game 43-0 and went onto the state final.
Stow got off to a much better start this time, taking a 17-14 left with 6:33 left in the second quarter. After that, however, the Cardinals hit the accelerator.
Mentor scored 35 unanswered points to score a 49-17 win Friday in a Division I, Region 1 playoff opener.
Stow finished the season at 9-2. Mentor improve to 10-1 and advanced to play Lakewood St. Edward next Friday in a Division I regional semifinal game.
Mentor quarterback Tadas Tatarunas was the dominant force in the game, going 15-of-21 for 256 yards, four touchdowns and one interception. He also ran for a 1-yard touchdown.
Stow coach Mark Nori admitted the Cardinals were unstoppable once they got the momentum.
"They are incredibly talented team," Nori said. "Once they got the running game going, it opened up everything in their offense. They flipped the part on us tonight."
Indeed, Stow got hit with a does of its own medicine as the Cardinals ran for 272 yards, compared to 202 for the Bulldogs.
"They’re good," said Mentor coach Steve Trivisonno. "Their quarterback and running back both create a lot of problems."
"It was a great effort by our defense," he added.
Stow quarterback Coryon Rice was the focus of the Cardinals defense, but still had a solid day. Rice ran 22 times for 92 yards and also went 18-of-23 for 178 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
Rice had to blink back tears when reflecting on his season.
"They’re big and athletic," Rice said of Mentor. "They did a good job of keeping me in the box. They got their stops and their offense was able to take advantage of it."
After Stow’s initial drive stalled on fourth down in Mentor territory, Tatarunas opened the scoring with a 20-yard touchdown pass to to Logan Shea with 7:35 left in the first quarter.
It was the first of four touchdowns from Tatartunas to Shea, as Shea finished with six catches for 103 yars.
Stow, however, had an immediate response, as a 36-yard pass rom Rice to Tyler Shaver set the Bulldogs up in Mentor territory.
Running back Terrian Wray completed the drive with a 7-yard touchdown run, tying the game at 7-7. Wray finished with 67 yards rushing on 12 carries.
After forcing a three-and-out, Stow took a 10-7 lead with a 38-yard field goal from Gavin Costello with 4:04 left in the first quarter.
Despite throwing an interception, Mentor got the lead back early in the second quarter, as Tatarunas ran in a 1-yard quarterback sneak with 11:13 left in th half.
Once again, Stow was able to answer, as Rice threw perhaps his best pass of the season.
On fourth and 5, Rice threw a perfect 35-yard bomb to Tyler Shaver for a touchdown, giving Stow a 17-14 lead. Shaver caught six passes for 91 yards for Stow.
"Coryon put us in a position to be competitive tonight," Nori said.
It was at the point where Mentor took over the game.
Mentor needed less than two minutes to retake the lead, as Tatarunas hit Shea with a 19-yard touchdown with 4:31 left in the half.
The Cardinals then executed a two-minute drill to perfection. Tatarunas hit Shea with a 2-yard touchdown with 31 seconds left in the half. Mentor took a 28-17 lead at the half.
The knockout blow may have come on Mentor’s first drive of the second half. After taking the second half kickoff, Mentor needed just three plays to score.
Tatarunas hit Shea with a perfect 37-yard post rout for a touchdown to make it 35-17 with 11:06 left in the half.
Stow’s best chance to score in the second half fell short when a 39-yard field goal attempt from Costello was short.
From there, Mentor’s offense was nearly run-exclusive, allowing the Cardinals to grind down the Bulldogs defense.
"We had to play perfect football from all 11 guys on every play tonight," Nori said.
Mentor made it 42-17 with an 11-yard touchdown run from Chris Edmond with 1:49 left in the third quarter. Edmond led Mentor with 119 yards runshing.
Cardinal running back Ed McDougal capped the scoring with a 17-yard run with 9:18 left in the game.
Nori praised his senior class for continuing Stow’s recent run of success.
"We have a lot of talent in Stow," Nori said. "[The seniors] responded unbelievably well this year. I think the biggest thing was they didn’t listen to what was being said outside the program. The wanted to continue to that link to great football.
"We feel we have some really good young talent moving forward," Nori added.
Before he moves forward to basketball season, Rice admitted it would be a while before he got over the end of his high school football career.
"It’s a hard loss," Rice said. "We’re still a family though."