Stow boys soccer hangs on to gets past Falls in final conference game

Michael Leonard
Kent Weeklies
Stow-Munroe Falls defender Nick Kuhlke boots the ball ahead during a match against Hudson earlier this season. Kulhke had an assist in Stow's 2-1 home win over Cuyaohaga Falls Oct. 13

STOW — No matter what happened in its final game in the Suburban League National Conference, this year was Cuyahoga Falls boys soccer's best year in the conference.

The Black Tigers scored their first conference wins since joining the Suburban League earlier this season, beating Brecksville 2-1 Sept. 15 and Wadsworth 1-0 Sept. 22.

Before it heads to the Suburban League's American Conference next season, the Black Tigers wanted to clear one last hurdle: Victory over archrival Stow-Munroe Falls.

Cuyahoga Falls' Mo Abdulhameed (11) and Maddux Smith (4) control the ball during a game earlier this season against Nordonia. Falls lost 2-1 at Stow-Munroe Falls Oct. 13.

The Black Tigers gave it everything when the two teams met Oct. 13 at Bulldog Stadium, but in the end, Stow continued its mastery over its rival.

A quick two-goal burst just before halftime proved to be the difference, as Stow hung on for a 2-1 win over the Black Tigers.

Stow improved to 7-5-3 overall and finished 4-2-1 in the National Conference, claiming second place behind undefeated Hudson.

Falls dropped to 4-8-3 overall and finished 2-4-1 in the conference.

"I thought it was a very competitive game," said Stow coach Kyle Kosmala. "We had some good looks early in the game. Thankfully, we were able to settle in and get those goals."

While Falls coach David Ortopan wished for a better result, he had nothing but positives to say about his team's effort.

"I'm proud of the boys," Ortopan said. "I think we had lot of good balls and we had opportunities. We hit the post a couple times and it just didn't go in for us."

Ortopan noted his team took a step forward in its last year in the National Conference.

"We had some high goals this year. I had some high goals," Ortopan said. "I know all the boys thought we could have won a couple more games. There were two games we were in and there was a tie [0-0 with Nordonia], but we did improve."

One thing that may have thrown Stow off early was the fact that the defensive-minded Bulldogs played on the attack for the much of the first half.

Stow's Nyiles Spann was a particular menace early, but Falls senior goaltender made a couple of brilliant early saves.

Gilroy finished with seven saves on the night, as Stow finished with a 9-4 edge in shots on goal.

Against the run of play, Falls took the lead in the 14th minute, thanks to a brilliant effort for Joe Moening.

After some sparring in the midfield, Moening collected the ball about 25 yards out from goal. He launched a laser beam of a shot into the roof of the net, giving Stow goaltender Alex Tosko no chance.

"That was a brilliant shot by Joey," Ortopan said.

After that point, however, Stow dominated the rest of the first half.

Following about 20 minutes of the sustained pressure, the Bulldogs took the lead with a two classic Stow goals, with one coming on a set piece and the other on a run to the end line.

In 38th minute, defender Nick Kuhlke teed up a corner kick and sent the ball right to six-yard box. Freshman Reece Raymond-Smith used every inch of 6-foot-4 frame to head the ball to himself and then put it home at point-blank range.

"That's his third goal like that this season," Kosmala said. "He's only going to get better over the next three years."

Less than a minute later, Stow took the lead when Spann was able to make his run to the end line. He slit a square ball into the box and senior Aaron Gluth one-timed a low shot into net.

Falls nearly equalized just before halftime, but a header bounced off the post in the last 30 seconds of the half.

Down 2-1 at the half, Falls spent most of the second half in Stow's end.

"We attacked the flanks well tonight," Ortopan said. "We wanted to get try to get the ball out and then back it. We had a lot of dangerous balls tonight."

Falls had had a huge possession edge in the second half, but a general lack of clear-cut chances. The Black Tigers and Bulldogs each had two shots on goal in the second half.

"That's a tribute to the Nick [Kulke] and Tyler [Whited] clogging everything up in the middle and Alex [Tosko] collecting all those balls in," Kosmala said.

Tosko finished with two saves for the Bulldogs.

Both team's best chances in the second half came off free kicks. In the 63th minute, Moening had his low shot smothered, while Kuhlke was denied in the 76th minute by a brilliant diving stop from Gilroy.

Both teams will open their Division I playoff runs Oct. 21 at home. Falls will play host to Warren G. Harding, while Stow will play another backyard rival in Kent Roosevelt.