SOLON - In recent years, one thing has become quite clear when it comes to a pair of proud football teams that were once conference rivals.
Stow-Munroe Falls owns Solon.
The Bulldogs racked up three straight wins against the Comets, including a 24-15 victory in the 2015 Division I, Region 1 playoffs.
On Friday, it looked like the same old story as Stow took advantage of two costly Solon mistakes to jump out to a 14-0 lead.
The Comets didn’t flinch and then promptly ended their hex in dominating fashion.
The Bulldogs dropped to 0-3 after falling to host Solon 28-14 at Stewart Field. The Comets, a perennial playoff powerhouse that reached the Division I state title game in 2000, improved to 3-0.
Solon earned its first win against Stow, which has become a playoff regular in recent years, since 2006. Prior to 2015, the two teams regularly hooked up during their days in the Northeast Ohio Conference and the Western Reserve Conference.
"They’ve gotten us in a couple of close games," 16th-year Comets head coach Jim McQuaide said. "They’ve had some great teams. In their first game against [Mentor] Lake Catholic, they played well until things went against them late. I’m proud of our guys for being 3-0."
The Bulldogs took advantage of a 31-yard interception return by sophomore cornerback Cale Marconi and a bobbled snap on a Solon punt attempt for two quick first-quarter scores.
But then Stow became vulnerable to some costly errors just when it had all of the momentum.
The Bulldogs lost the ball on a sack, gave up a 30-yard play on fourth and 14 and threw an interception. All three of those mistakes led to touchdowns by the Comets.
"They made some mistakes and then we made our mistakes," first-year Stow head coach Tom Phillips said. "We can’t do that against good teams. Those things continue to haunt us."
Junior quarterback Josh Andrassy completed a 6-yard TD pass to senior wide receiver Bryce Sheppert four plays after Marconi’s interception. Junior kicker booted the first of his two point after tries to make it 7-0 less than four minutes into the game.
The Bulldogs were in business in again after the bobbled snap by Solon on fourth down.
A 15-yard penalty also took place on the play, which gave Stow the ball at the Comets’ 10-yard line.
Andrassy found the end zone on a sneak from a yard away on third down to make it 14-0 with 6:38 left in the first.
The defense got a stop on the next possession, but then it all came apart for the Bulldogs, who finished with just 58 total yards.
A sack and a fumble put the Comets at the Stow 32 and after a pass-interference penalty on fourth down moved Solon to the 10, sophomore running back Khalil Eichelberger scored the first of his two 1-yard TD runs two plays later. Junior kicker Harrison Rich added the first of his four extra points to cut the Bulldogs’ lead to 14-7 with 1:26 remaining in the opening quarter.
The Comets’ defense got a stop and the offense went back to work at Stow’s 32, thanks to a 19-yard punt return by senior wide receiver Sam Bubonics.
Once again, Solon delivered when its back was against the wall.
Facing a 4th and 14 from its 31, sophomore quarterback Pat McQuaide connected with Eichelberger on a screen pass. It went for 30 yards until Eichelberger was dragged down at the 1. Eichelberger ran it in on the next play to tie the game.
The Comets took the lead for good with 52 ticks left in the half.
After a 43-yard punt return by Bubonics put Solon inside the red zone, McQuaide completed a 13-yard TD pass to senior tight end Nick Close on a rollout to his left.
The Comets got their last score on a 1-yard fade pass by Pat McQuaide to Bubonics deep in the end zone. That play took place moments after a pick by Solon sophomore Najee Story.
Although the Comets have been a powerhouse for what seems like forever, they are looking to get back on track after a 5-5 season in 2017,
"Our experience is our front seven," Coach McQuaide said. "We had some tough losses last year where it felt like we didn’t finish games against opponents that wouldn’t allow us to finish them."
As for the Bulldogs, a trip to the playoffs most likely requires a major sense of urgency moments after their game ended.
However, that wasn’t the top priority for Phillips, whose young team has shown quite a competitive will against three very strong squads thus far.
"We’ve come a long way since the first game," he said. "I’m proud of them. We’ve gone up against some great teams. Our schedule is very challenging. We have a lot of first-year guys and they have to do better and the coaches have to do better. It all starts with conference play next week."
Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, firstname.lastname@example.org or @FrankAceto_RPC.