When he took over the Stow-Munroe Falls football program last fall, coach Tom Phillips saw his team routed in its opening contest at Lake Catholic.
On Aug. 30, the Bulldogs welcomed Lake Catholic to Ron Marhofrer Field looking to flip that script.
While Phillips indicated it wasn’t a perfect game, the Bulldogs were able to avenge last year’s loss, scoring a 21-13 win over the Cougars to move to 1-0 on the season.
"We had our moments of good and we had some self-destruction," Phillips said. "There were a lot of things for us to work on, but the kids played hard."
After giving up 31 points in last year’s game to Lake Catholic, the Bulldogs’ defense laid down the law early. Stow forced a three-and-out on the Cougars’ first series and would go on to force two interceptions and allow only three points in the first half.
Following the defense’s stands, Stow’s offense was able to produce an 11-play, 70-yard drive, which was highlighted by a 29-yard pass from quarterback Owen Bainbridge to Dalen Stovall, who caught the ball at the Cougar 1.
On the next play, Stow running back Jack Bryden bulled into the into end zone on a 1-yard sweep play.
Bainbridge had a big night, going 18-of-27 for 223 yards and a touchdown.
"His greatest part was his 66 percent completion rate," Phillips said. "That tells me he’s maturing as a quarterback. As a sophomore, he’s very impressive."
After allowing a Lake Catholic field goal and missing a field goal of its own, Stow’s defense provided the impetus for the next score when safety Clayton Mosher picked off Cougar quarterback Joe Malchesky.
Stow took over at its own 32 and marched down the field, finishing with a 4-yard touchdown runs from Mykala Azar to make it 14-3.
Azar led the Bulldogs with 60 yards rushing on 17 carries.
The biggest play of the game for Stow took place in the third quarter.
Bainbridge was forced to scramble but heaved a long ball to Justin Weightman, who was five yards behind the Lake Catholic secondary. Weightman ran in a 69-yard touchdown pass, giving Stow a 21-6 lead with 6:03 left in the third.
Midway though the fourth quarter, Lake Catholic found its way into the end zone when Malechesky notched a 3-yard touchdown run to cap a 10-play drive.
"We just made some errors ourselves," Phillips said. "I think there was a third-and-14 and we had a penalty to give them a first down.
"I’m proud of our defense," he added. "[Lake Catholic] only got that one touchdown. They had a good series where they produced off of one of our errors, but were able to come out on top."
Lake Catholic had one final drive, but after a missed field goal with 3:32 left in the game, the Bulldogs were able to run out the clock.
Stow was set to hit the road Friday to take on Barberton. Phillips said the Magics will present another test for his team.
"We’re facing a team with a lot of speed," Phillips said. "Just looking at them on film, they’re a faster team. They’ve got some things rolling down there in the last two years. We’ve got a great challenge this week for our kids to play to their full potential."
Stow will return home to take on Solon Sept. 13 at 7 p.m.
Reporter Michael Leonard can be reached at 330-541-9442, firstname.lastname@example.org or @MLeonard_GHO