TWINSBURG — Homecoming night in Twinsburg presented a clash between two teams seeming to head in opposite directions.
Twinsburg came into the contest on a three-game winning streak in the Suburban League National Conference, while Stow-Munroe Falls came in trying to avoid clinching its first losing season since 2012.
By the end of the night, however, it was clear the Bulldogs were the team with momentum heading into the home stretch of the season.
Stow’s offense clicked and the Bulldogs got a solid game from its defense and special teams, as they scored a 41-13 win at Tiger Stadium Friday.
Stow improved to 2-5, 2-2 in the National Conference, while Twinsburg dropped to 4-3, 3-1 in the National Conference.
Stow coach Tom Phillips credited his team for persevering after a rough start to the season.
"I’m just happy to get the ‘W,’" Phillips said. "Transitions are hard for the players and for the coaches. I give all the credit to our players and their parents for how they raised them. They have never given up."
Phillips said Stow changed its defense from 3-3-5 stack to a four-man front because "we had to do something." The move worked, as the Bulldogs held the Tigers’ rushing game to just 69 yards on the ground.
The already-depleted Tigers lost tackle Nick Baker and quarterback Adam Van de Motter to ankle injuries in the game.
"We have got to figure out what’s going on with these lower-leg injuries," said Tiger coach Mike Bell, noting he couldn’t recall a season when he had lost so many players to injury. However, he noted the adversity was not the cause for the Tigers’ woes.
"I think we made some bad mistakes on special teams tonight, which really hurt us," Bell said.
Twinsburg’s offense hummed on the opening and last drives of the first half, but stumbled a bit in between.
Twinsburg opened by driving the ball down the field and scoring first when Van de Motter hit James Besett on a 10-yard fade route for a touchdown with 7:08 left in the first quarter.
Van de Motter had an up-and-down night, as he finished 13-of-25 for 171 yards before leaving the game in the third quarter.
Meanwhile, it was feast or famine Stow quarterback Josh Andrassy, as he completed all nine of his first half passes — but two of them went to the Tigers.
Andrassy answered Twinsburg’s opening touchdown with a 10-yard touchdown pass to Bryce Sheppert with 2:44 left in the first quarter.
Sheppert saw time at quarterback for Stow, but not as much as in the previous week against Nordonia. Sheppert finished as Stow’s leading rusher with six rushes for 70 yards, along with four catches for 38 yards.
"He’s a great player," Bell said of Sheppert. "We did not do a good job tackling him tonight."
Andrassy hit Stow’s Dalen Stovall with a 36-yard go route down the sideline a touchdown with 10:44 left in the half. The extra point was no good, but Stow had the 13-7 lead.
After throwing two interceptions, Andrassy threw his third touchdown with 2:42 left in the first half, tossing a 12-yard swing pass to Brian Cartwright.
Andrassy finished 13-of-18 with 180 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions.
"He had some good reads and some bad reads tonight in our run pass option," Phillips said. "It it what it is. He’s still growing."
Twinsburg’s offense came back to life right before halftime, as Van de Motter threw his second touchdown to Besett on the night. This time, he hit Besett from 20 yards out with 38 seconds left in the half.
The extra point was missed, leaving Stow with a 19-13 halftime lead.
In the second half, however, Twinsburg was unable to generate any offense, while special teams jump-started Stow’s attack.
First, the Bulldogs downed a punt on the Twinsburg 1 yard line. On the next play, the Bulldogs tackled Van de Motter in the end zone for a safety, making it 21-13.
On the ensuing free kick, Sheppert broke a tackle at midfeld and returned it 70 yards for a touchdown to make it 27-13 after the extra point failed.
Another long punt return by Sheppert set Stow up for its next touchdown, as Andrassy ran in a 29-yard read option with 4:04 left in the third quarter.
With Van de Motter down, the Tigers’ offense seemed stuck in neutral.
Stow’s defense closed out the scoring, as senior Adrian Woliver picked off backup quarterback Max Brazie and returned it 59 yards for a touchdown with 3:27 left in the game.
Stow will travel to Hudson next Friday at 7 p.m., while the Tigers will play host to Wadsworth next Friday at 7 p.m.