Heading into halftime Sept. 8, Stow-Munroe Falls football seemed to have Solon right where it wanted it, as it headed to the locker room up 10-0.
"Maybe we were a bit too relaxed," said Bulldogs coach Mark Nori.
Indeed, Solon erupted for two big plays to take a 14-10 lead. Nori, however, saw no panic in his team.
"That’s Solon. That’s what they’re capable of doing," Nori said. "We’ve played them three years in a row now and we never feel it’s over until the game is over. We use the slogan, ‘Keep sawing wood,’ We knew we had to keep taking what they’re giving us."
Stow might want to change its nickname to "Lumberjacks" because it sawed its way to another win.
A 2-yard touchdown run from quarterback Coryon Rice early in the fourth quarter proved to be the difference, as Stow pulled out a 17-14 win over the Comets. Stow improved to 3-0 on the season.
"We knew their front four was very good and we knew there would be a lot of runs where we would get very little," Nori said. "I thought Coryon really grew up this week. He was frustrated because he couldn’t really get anything big going."
Although Stow snagged the game’s lone turnover on a strip fumble in the first quarter, penalties, errors and a missed field goal kept the game scoreless after 12 minutes.
Early in the second quarter, however, Rice hit running back Terrian Wray on a deep post pattern and a shoestring tackle was all that kept Wray out of the end zone. On the next play, Wray plunged up the middle for a 1-yard touchdown run with 11:02 left in the second.
Wray led the Bulldogs in both rushing (18 carries for 85 yards) and receiving (two catches for 55 yards) on the night.
After stopping the Comets, Stow put together a 10-play, 55-yard drive which culminated in a 35-yard field goal from Gavin Costello with 4:42 left in the first half.
"It was good to see Gavin get back out there after he missed," Nori said. "When you have the lead, you relax a bit more."
However, it took Solon just two plays to erase that lead.
Solon’s first play of the second half was an 86-yard touchdown run from Thomas Wilks.
"He cut it back and we didn’t cover our lanes," Nori said. "If you give him a crease, he could go. They came out with a lot of momentum. Their attitude was they were going to win the second quarter and win the game."
Besides the big run, Stow kept Wilks in check, as he finished with 122 yards rushing on 13 carries.
Solon took the lead with another big play, this time through the air. Comet quarterback Joe Cartlelone tossed a 73-yard touchdown pass to Trevor Raphael with 9:30 left in the third quarter.
Cartelone finished 11-of-20 for 134 yards.
Those two plays accounted for 165 of Solon’s 268 total yards.
"I thought the defensive game plan was very good," Nori said. "When we go down, they use this as motivation to win the game. Our kids don’t hang their heads."
Stow went back to its power running game, including moving defensive tackle Adrian Wolover to fullback.
"We just went and kind of chipped away until we chipped our way into the end zone," Nori said.
Rice’s 2-yard touchdown ended a 6-play, 39-yard drive with 11:25 left in the game. Rice finished with 81 rushing yards on 27 carries and also went 4-of-7 passing for 104 yards.
Nori put the game in the hands of his defense in the fourth quarter and the Bulldogs responded with a pair of fourth-down stops.
"They were stellar," Nori said. "We made a lot of mistakes in that game, but when we absolutely needed to make plays, we made them."
Stow will open play in the Suburban League National Conference when it hosts North Royalton Sept. 15 at 7 p.m.
The Bulldogs will travel to Art Wright Stadium in Wadsworth to take on the Grizzlies Sept. 22 at 7 p.m.