Another wild night: Stow football rallies to win thriller with Nordonia
MACEDONIA — Over the last few years, the game between Nordonia and Stow-Munroe Falls football has provided some white-knuckle finishes.
Two years ago, a late field goal gave Nordonia a close win. Last year, the Knights used a reverse play on a kickoff in the last minute to steal a win from the Bulldogs.
What happened Oct. 2 at Boliantz Stadium might have eclipsed them all.
The Bulldogs and Knights combined for 100 total points, 1,132 yards of total offense, seven turnovers, two blocked kicks and a roughing the kicker penalty to seal the game at the end.
In short, it was another instant classic between Nordonia and Stow.
After trailing by as many as 13 points, Stow outscored Nordonia 14-0 in the fourth quarter to claim a 53-47 win over the Knights.
Stow will enter the playoffs with a record of 4-1, while Nordonia heads to the postseason at 3-3.
Stow coach Tom Phillips could only smile when reflecting on this rivalry's tendency to produce wild finishes.
"It's been down to the wire the last three years," Phillips said. "It's two great teams going at it. They're blessed with some great skill players who did a lot of damage tonight. I think their offense was averaging something like 40 points a game. Our offense only producing two touchdowns a game until tonight."
Nordonia coach Jeff Fox agreed the game has produced a lot of drama.
"It's two good teams going at it," Fox said. "It's disappointing to come out on the losing end. They just made a few more plays on third and fourth down than us."
The star of the game was Stow quarterback Owen Bainbridge, who accounted for six touchdowns.
Bainbridge went 23-of-36 for 237 yards, two touchdowns and one interception, but he did most of the damage with his legs. He led all rushers with 135 yards rushing and four touchdowns.
After being criticized by Phillips for his play the previous week, Bainbridge came out with something to prove.
"It means a lot to me," Bainbridge said. "As the quarterback, I expect a lot from myself, and I know my coach expects a lot from me. With [Phillips] getting after me, I needed to pick up my game."
Despite being without its top two running backs, Stow pounded out 252 rushing yards on 48 carries. DeAthony Becton carried the load early for the Bulldogs, as he capped the game's first drive with a 13-yard touchdown run.
Becton finished with a 11 carries for 70 yards.
Nordonia's offense was in high gear for the first three quarters. After Stow had not given up more than 15 points in a game this season, the Knights eclipsed that total in the first quarter.
A 46-yard field goal by Andrew Lastovka, an 8-yard touchdown run by Sal Perrine and a screen pass from Billy Levak to Matt Hayes that turned into a 57-yard touchdown gave Nordonia a 17-6 lead after one quarter.
Lastovka was one of Nordonia's best weapons. The junior kicker hit field goals from 46, 20, 30 and 33 yards, as well as going 5-of-5 on extra points.
Fox noted Lastovka's busy night was both a good and bad thing.
"It's great to have a kid like Andrew be able to kick for us," Fox said. "However, we can't be settling for field goals. We've got to able to finish drives."
Bainbridge stopped the Knights' run of points with his first rushing touchdown, which came on a 37-yard read option play on the first play of the second quarter.
Nordonia answered with a 12-yard touchdown pass from Levak to Cooper Rusk.
Levak had another big night, going 21-of-49 for 425 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. However, Levak went just 1-of-9 in the fourth quarter.
Rusk had five catches for 105 yards and a touchdown.
Bainbridge helped cut the lead to 24-21 with 1-yard touchdown run, but Lastovka hit a 20-yard field goal as time expired in the first half, sending the Knights to half with a 27-21.
Nordonia had the edge in special teams most of the night, with one glaring exception.
When the Knights' first drive of the second half stalled, Levak had his punt blocked and Stow linebacker Sekou Kamara pounced on the ball in the end zone, tying the game at 27-27.
However, Stow came up empty on its first four extra point tries of the second half.
"We still need to find a kicker," Phillips said.
After Lastovka's third field goal of the night made it 30-27, Bainbridge ran in a 3-yard touchdown run to make it 33-30 Stow.
Perrine then ran in a 2-yard touchdown run, followed by Lastovka's fourth field goal to make it 40-33. Perrine ran 24 times for 135 yards and two touchdowns.
The two teams ended the third quarter by trading bombs.
After Bainbridge hit Dalen Stovall with an 80-yard touchdown pass with 1:30 left in the third, Levak answered with a 72-yard touchdown pass down the sideline to Joel Jones.
Down 47-39 after three quarters, Stow kept on coming.
Bainbridge ran in yet another read-option play for a touchdown from 48 yards out with 7:53 left. However, his 2-point conversion pass to tie the game fell incomplete.
"He became a runner tonight," Phillips said. "Owen did some great things for us with his arms and his legs."
Bainbridge finally got the lead back for Stow with 4:04 left in the game, as he hit Jack Costa in the flat for a 5-yard touchdown. Bainbridge then hit Stovall on a slant for the 2-point conversion pass.
The Bulldogs defense then got the stop it needed, as it forced a Levak pass to fall incomplete on fourth-and-5 from the Stow 33.
Nordonia seemed to cause a three-and-out to give its offense one last chance. On fourth down, however, Nordonia was called for roughing Bainbridge as he punted the ball. giving the Bulldogs a first down and allowing them to run out the clock.
"Everyone is going to focus on a mistake at the end of the game, but there were plenty of mistakes throughout the game that caused us to lose."
Both teams will host games next week to open the playoffs.
In Division I, Region 1, Stow will play host to Cleveland Heights Oct. 9 at 7 p.m. Meanwhile, in Division II, Region 5, the Knights will host Ashtabula Lakeside Oct. 9 at 7 p.m.