MACEDONIA — Rivalries don’t come much more heated than Stow-Munroe Falls vs. Hudson boys soccer.
What happened Saturday in the Solon Division I district final at Nordonia’s Boliantz Stadium will only pour gasoline on that fire — but the Bulldogs won’t mind at all.
Stow scored three goals in the final 10 minutes of the game to score a 3-2 win over Hudson.
The victory moved Stow to 15-2-2 and earned the Bulldogs their first district title since 2006. It also avenged a 2-1 loss to Hudson in last year’s district final.
Hudson ended the season at 11-7-2, as the Explores were denied their third straight district title.
Stow coach Kyle Komala lauded his team for its perseverance, while acknowledging the finish to the contest was the craziest he had ever coached.
"You just have to keep fighting. It was the same way last year when we played, right down to the wire," Kosmala said. "Hudson is a good team.
"I can’t remember a contest like this before," Kosmala added. "We were looking at some of the history and Hudson has been here a lot. We’re glad that we’re 3-3 in these (district final) games."
Hudson coach Steve Knapp said he hadn’t experienced a game like the district final, either. He lauded his seniors, who had played in four district finals.
"We expect to play for district finals," Knapp said. "This is a disappointment for us. This group has been with me all four years. This is a special group."
The first half of the contest was a carbon copy of the the first game between Stow and Hudson Sept. 25: An entertaining stalemate which ended at 0-0.
Hudson had an advantage in possession, but Stow looked to bit more dangerous in front of goal. The first half ended with each team having four shots on goal.
The scoreless draw lasted until the 57th minute, when Hudson scored a bombshell of a goal.
Hudson sophomore Ben Hallis was able to find some space about 25 yards out from goal. Hallis turned a smashed a shot that flew into the upper right corner of the net.
After the goal, the Explorers had the advantage, as they had several near messes in front of goal.
"We had a bunch of chances to go up two or three goals," Knapp said.
Hudson was made to rue those miss chances in the 70th minute.
Stow forward Corey Hunt took the ball down the left side of the field and fired a shot on net from just outside the box. Hudson goaltender Tyler Venti looked to have the shot covered, but the ball skipped on the wet turf under Venti and into the net.
"We were down 1-0 and we needed a goal or it was going to be deja vu all over against," Hunt said. "We got a lucky goal and were able to keep coming after that."
"We talked about how there was probably going to be wet turf or cold condition and it could lead to something," Kosmala said. "When you put the ball on net, good things can happen."
The madness was only starting.
With just under five minutes left, Hunt was chopped down in the penalty box by the Hudson defense, though Knapp disputed the call. Hunt took the penalty kick and fired it low into the net to make it 2-1.
The referee may have hurt Hudson with one penalty kick call, but the Explorers earned their own penalty call a minute later off a scrum in the box.
Senior captain Trey Kaminski stepped up and found the low right corner of the net, tying it at 2-2.
There was one more twist in the tale. In the 78th minute, senior Miles Thomas ran unto a through ball and got to the end line. Thomas slid a crossing ball to the back post, which found defensive midfielder Jared Hudak, who put it into the open net.
"He does such a great in the middle for us," Kosmala said of Hudak. "He was coming up full speed from the middle."
Stow will take on North Canton Hoover in a Division I regional semifinal Wednesday at Boliantz Stadium. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.