Late in the third quarter Oct. 7 at Hudson Memorial Stadium, the Stow-Munroe Falls football team had archrival Hudson right where it wanted it.
Hudson trailed 24-7 late in the third quarter and 24-10 midway through the fourth quarter.
Then, the unthinkable happened.
Two touchdown passes from Colt Pallay to Greg Mailey, just 95 seconds apart, brought the Explorers back.
Then, Hudson coach Jeff Gough opted to go for the two-point conversion and the lead with 2:16 to play. Jackson Parker came on to take the snap and he found Mailey for a two-point conversion, giving the Explorers a 25-24 comeback win.
The loss was Stow's first regular season defeat after 17 wins in a row. They last lost in the regular season on Oct.24, 2014 at Elyria 22-21.
The Bulldogs are now 6-1 overall and 3-1 in the Suburban League National Conference. Hudson improved to 6-1, 4-0 keeping pace with Brecksville 7-0, 4-0 in the league race.
Stow coach Mark Nori also put the loss into perspective.
"This one hurts because it's the rival, cross-town and the way the game went," Nori said. "It was a great game -- it would have been a really great game if we would have come out on top. This game was a great microcosm of life. You want all the good stuff to happen but when it doesn't you have to adapt and overcome. There is a lot of season left. All of our goals and all of the senior's dreams are still attainable. So we have to go back to work."
"That's the second year in a row that their defense has taken away what we do best and it has taken us until the fourth quarter to adjust," Gough noted. "This obviously helps our (post-season situation) with computer points. This, in my mind was a playoff game and we treated it like one."
The Explorers got on the board first after forcing a Bulldog punt on the game's first possession.
Stow punter/quarterback Kyle Vantrease's first punt of the night bounced in front of return man Colin Paltani. He found blockers along the right side and scooted through the defense some 57 yards to a touchdown and a 7-0 lead 1:43 into the game.
Vantrease, who finished 9-21 for 203 yards and two touchdowns, had great protection on two straight pass attempts form his own end zone.
Vantrease then unleashed a bomb to Joe Andrassy down the right sideline. The senior, who caught six passes for 172 yards, did the rest racing the distance for an 86-yard touchdown. With Gavin Costello booting the extra-point the score was knotted at 7-7 with 4:38 left in the first period.
"We saw some things in coverage that we thought we could take advantage of," Nori said of the touchdown bomb. "We were able to hold up pass protection and Kyle went to a check down and caught him [Andrassy] wide open. From that point on it seemed like we had the momentum."
In the second quarter a 26-yard field goal by Austin Burnham gave the Bulldogs their first lead (10-7) with 5:40 on the clock.
Stow struck again on its next possession, as Andrassy got his second score of the nigh byt taking the snap in a wildcat formation. He weaved through traffic over right tackle from 22 yards out for a 17-7 advantage at the break.
Stow looked ready to pull away when it drove 87 yards on its first touch of the second half. A 32-yard strike form Vantrease to Andrassy was the big play in the nine-play trek.
On third and goal from the four, Vantrease scooped up a low snap, rolled right, and hit senior Logan Lindsay in the back of the end zone for a 24-7 lead with 4:52 left in the third.
The Explores answered, driving deep into Bulldog territory behind the running of junior tailback Dawson Wervey (18 carries for a game high 76 yards). The drive stalled and Grant Gonya tacked on a 30-yard field goal. The score was now 24-10 with 2:21 left in the third.
"We had our opportunities but stalled on offense in the second half. Not a lot was going our way -- momentum really shifted and we couldn't stop it," Nori related. "We just didn't finish this year."
Gaining possession after a Stow punt, with 8:01 to play, the hosts drove 65 yards in nine-plays. Pallay, 11-17 passing for the night was 3-4 in the drive and sophomore quarterback William Wallace added a big 13-yard run to the yardage total.
Pallay was back at the helm two plays later and led Mailey perfectly as he streaked past the defense for a 28-yard touchdown. Mailey caught the pass in the back right corner of the end-zone with 3:51 left in the game. Gonya's kick made the score 24-17.
After a quick three-and-out the offense was back on the field just 61 seconds later. Again Pallay, 148 yards passing while sharing duties with Parker and Wallace, went 3-4 on the possession. On the fourth play Pallay looked to Mailey on the same pattern. Again the pass was perfect and so was the catch this time from 23 yards out. With 2:16 left Hudson was down one but would eschew the tie.
Parker who had not taken a snap in the second half came in for the decisive points. Mailey lined-up in the slot on the right side and ran left along the back of the end-zone until Parker hit him near the left corner for the 25-24 lead.
Mailey ended with a career high nine catches for 120 yards.
The Hudson defense would have to show up one more time with Vantrease and company still with 2:12 and a pair of timeouts. Losses of 13 yards total on the first two plays, including a sack of Vantrease for a 10-yard loss by junior Danny Saxon started off the possession in favor of the hosts.
Vantrease scrambled for four yards on third down and on fourth and 19, Alex Beck and Saxon led a charge that forced a fourth down incompletion.
Stow was set to host Cuyahoga Falls Oct. 14, but results were not available at press time.
Up next, Stow faces a critical game with Brecksville-Broadview Heights Oct. 21 at 7 p.m.