Being a longtime member of the Columbus high school football scene, Stow-Munroe Falls coach Tom Phillips said he felt his team was facing one of the state’s best teams when it took on Hilliard Bradley High School Aug. 31.
What’s more, the game marked another long road trip for the Bulldogs, as Stow faced the Jaguars at Ashland University’s Jack Miller Stadium.
It was a much tighter affair than week one, but Stow is still looking for the first win of the Phillips Era.
Stow took a 13-0 lead, saw Bradley rally to take at 14-13 lead at halftime, retook the advantage in the third quarter but lost 20-19 to the Jaguars.
Stow fell to 0-2 on the season, but Phillips said there were many more positives coming out of this game than Stow’s week one loss to Lake Catholic.
"Our No. 1 thing is, we did get better from week 1 to week 2. That’s all I can ask," Phillips said. "They’re very identical to us in their spread offense. They’re ranked in their region.
"I think this was their 16th consecutive regular season win," Phillips added. "I was familiar with them. I played them in the playoffs two years ago. They’re the team to beat right now in Hilliard."
After missing and losing several starters to injury in week one, Stow had a cleaner bill of health for the Bradley game. One key returnee was senior captain Bryce Sheppert.
On his first offensive touch of the season, Sheppert ran an end around for a 31-yard touchdown late in the first quarter. The Bulldogs missed the extra point, however, which would prove critical.
Sheppert had a solid evening, rushing five times for 42 yards, while snagging two receptions for 48 yards.
Stow also got junior quarterback Josh Andrassy back after he suffered an ankle sprain against Lake Catholic. Andrassy gave Stow a 13-0 lead early in the second quarter when hit Dalen Stovall with an 11-yard touchdown pass early in the second quarter.
Andrassy went 15-of-22 for 122 yards passing and also rushed for 12 yards on four carries.
"He’s in his first year starting at quarterback," Phillips said. "He’s a great leader for us. I think his foot is going to be fine. He looked better in practice this week.
"We’ve got a lot of new guys on the field for us," Phillips said. "We’re hoping to get better at not committing penalties. We had an opportunity twice where we got into the red zone and had to back out because of penalties. You could see the inexperience on the field."
Bradley scored twice late in the second quarter to make it 14-13 at the half, but Stow would retake the lead late in the third quarter when running back JR Atkinson plunged in for a 3-yard touchdown run. Stow attempted a two-point conversion, but did not convert, making it a 19-14 game.
Atkinson led Stow with 13 rushed for 61 yards, but Phillips said he wanted to see his senior captain play a full game.
Bradley scored the go-ahead touchdown with eight minutes remaining, but missed a two-point conversion of its own.
After some nice work by its defense and special teams, Stow had a chance to win the contest with a late 32-yard field goal attempt from Chris Miller with 1:14 left in the game. According to Phillips, the kick had the distance, but because of the wider hashmarks on the college field, Miller’s straight kick just missed.
"We had a game-winning field goal attempt and if we’re on a high school field, it’s good," Phillips said. "That ball skimmed the upright.
"We’ve just got to move on," Phillips said. "It is what it is."
Stow’s travels were set to continue Friday when the Bulldogs visit Solon at 7 p.m.
"Our top of the schedule is brutal," Phillips said. "We know the task in front of us. Bradley was a very good team. I’ve got to put Solon above Bradley based on personnel."
Stow will open play in the Suburban League National Conference Sept. 14 at 7 p.m.
Reporter Michael Leonard can be reached at 330-541-9442, firstname.lastname@example.org or @MLeonard_RPC