On a cold and rainy night when the Stow Bulldogs couldn’t really get their offense going, they needed someone to step up and provide a spark. That person was senior Brian Groves.
Groves led the Bulldogs in rushing, returned a punt for a touchdown and returned an interception for a touchdown in the Bulldogs’ 21-7 home victory over Firestone on Friday night.
“He’s tremendous,” Stow coach Mark Nori said. “Every time there’s a big play, he seems to be the guy with the ball in his hands.”
The Falcons (0-3) had plenty of late opportunities to cut into the Bulldogs’ lead and make the game competitive.
On Firestone’s final five drives, however, the Stow defense came up with an interception returned for a touchdown, two turnovers on downs and two third-down sacks to preserve the victory.
“They were pretty much ‘bend don’t break’ again tonight,” Nori said. “A lot of our success this year has been because of our defensive play.”
The Bulldogs (3-0) were outgained 225-193 by the Falcons but came up with the stops when they needed them.
On offense, the Bulldogs came out with a pass-heavy approach, opting to throw on seven of their first 11 plays from scrimmage.
The game plan had to be altered when rain started to come down early in the first half and was off and on for the rest of the night. Stow threw only four more times in the first half and six more times in the game.
“The rain changed the game plan a little bit,” Nori said. “Based on what we studied on them, we thought that we had some things out of the passing game, but the weather changed some things and we went back under center and ran the ball a little bit.”
Groves led the Bulldogs in rushing with 15 carries for 61 yards, but it was really a three-headed approach with sophomore Jayson Gobble (six carries for 37 yards) and senior Matt Beech (six carries for 36 yards) spelling Groves and chipping away the Firestone defense.
“That’s how these guys have been all year,” Nori said. “It’s a team effort. They’re three very selfless guys, so if they think in our opinion that we can win the game with whoever, they’re good with it.”
The Falcons’ rushing attack was led by senior Dontel Stone who racked up 122 yards on 26 carries.
After the Bulldogs turned the ball over on their first drive, they forced a three-and-out and Groves took a low punt 52 yards for a touchdown and the first score of the game.
Late in the second quarter, they extended their lead to 14-0 when Zaire Lewis caught a 6-yard touchdown pass from Andrew Wargo.
The Falcons quickly answered when quarterback Deon Brooks, who had attempted only four passes thus far, connected with Kamar Majid for a 47-yard touchdown with 42 seconds remaining in the first half to cut the deficit to 14-7.
Groves’ second touchdown came on a 65-yard interception return with 3:41 remaining in the third quarter to give the Bulldogs a 21-7 lead.
“So far, so good,” Nori said. “Like everybody, we’ll enjoy this one for tonight but we have a very tough Cuyahoga Falls team next week on the road, so it’s back to work on Monday.”