When the Stow-
Munroe Falls and Cuyahoga Falls boys soccer teams meet up, a high level of intensity and physicality is expected.
The two rivals tore into each other again Sept. 27 at Bulldog Stadium, but Stow had just enough to get past the Black Tigers.
A goal from Stow captain Cam Casenhiser was the difference in the game, as Stow weathered a second-half push by Falls to win 1-0.
Stow improved to 4-8, 2-3 in the Suburban League National Conference as of press time.
Stow coach Kyle Kosmala said he knew his team had to be ready for a battle with Falls.
"They were always contesting our shots and trying to shut us down," Kosmala said. "We play a lot of physical teams and we know Falls will always be up for us."
Falls has been boosted in mid-season by the arrival of two foreign exchange students: Diego Mendoza from Spain and Loic Scandian from Brazil. Black Tigers coach Eric Ortopan also said his team has found its identity: Pressure soccer with a pushed-up defensive line.
Ortopan noted the intensity of the game crossed over into rough play at times, but that such play is typical in a Stow-Falls contest.
"The game means a lot to the kids," Ortopan said. "Sometimes, it can get very physical. That's what rivalry games are all about."
Falls' pressure allowed the Black Tigers to get some early shots off, but it was the Bulldogs who struck off a corner kick in the 12th minute.
Stow's Corey Hunt made a nice service into the box. Falls cleared the ball, but only as far as Stow defender Logan Spath, who sent a through ball into the box.
Fending off a Falls defender, Casenhiser turned and fired a low shot into the corner of the net, giving Falls goalie Tanner Treptow no chance.
According to Kosmala, it was the first varsity goal of the Bulldogs captain's career.
"We knew he was going to get one at some point this season," Kosmala said. "It was a perfect ball. We're hoping, now that he's got his first, we'll be seeing a lot more from him."
After the goal, the two sides cancelled each other for the rest of the first half. While Stow was able to maintain possession for long periods, much of that possession was in its own half of the field.
Falls did a good job trying to counterattack, even though it didn't yield a lot of scoring chances.
"We're figuring things out," Ortopan said. "We know that Kyle's teams are always up for it and we had to match their intensity. We knew we had to be up in their face."
The Black Tigers pushed even higher in the second and created some opportunities, many of which came from set pieces as fouls mounted on both sides.
Falls' best chance came in the 68th minute off of a free kick.
Falls senior captain Zach Lias hit a perfect strike from about 25 yards out, only to be robbed on a one-handed save by Stow goaltender Spencer Raymond-Smith.
Raymond-Smith had four saves on the night to preserve the shutout, while Treptow also had four saves. Stow finished with a 5-4 edge in shots on goal.
Stow had a couple chances to ice the game in the final 10 minutes. Sophomore Sam Zito made a brilliant run down the near sideline in the 75th minute, but Casenhiser pushed his shot just wide of the goal.
Kosmala lauded Zito for his versatility and drive, noting he had been an integral part of helping Stow deal with its many injuries this season.
"Sam did a great job tonight," Kosmala said. "He can play any position on the field, but I think outside back is his best spot."
The Black Tigers defense also blocked at least 10 Stow shots in the contest.
Stow was set to travel to North Canton Hoover Sept. 29, but results were not available at press time. The Bulldogs will return to action vs. Brecksville-Broadview Heights Oct. 4 at Bulldog Stadium.