CUYAHOGA FALLS: Stow took all the fun out of its traditional rivalry Friday night, as least as far as Cuyahoga Falls was concerned.
Using a quick-striking passing attack, the Bulldogs had the Black Tigers on their heels almost from the opening kickoff and built a big first-half advantage, coasting to a 39-6 victory over their backyard rivals in a Northeast Ohio Conference game at Clifford Stadium.
Junior quarterback Andrew Wargo picked apart the Falls defense with four touchdown passes and a hard-hitting Stow defense clamped down after allowing a touchdown on the first play of the second quarter.
After that, the Black Tigers managed only two first downs and never really mounted a challenge.
Stow (4-0) has already exceeded its win total from last year, when the Bulldogs finished 3-7. Stow has won five in a row over Falls (1-3).
“It’s been like this all year with these guys,” Stow coach Mark Nori said. “When there’s a breakdown by somebody, somebody else picks them up. It’s kind of been the motto these guys have hung their hat on. They just do a good job of it.”
Nori, now in his fourth year at Stow, has yet to lose a game to Falls. And Falls coach Sean Flaherty, in his first year as a head coach, knows all about the importance of this game. He is a 1998 graduate of Stow.
“Coach Nori’s done a great job over there,” Flaherty said. “He’s really got that program going. They’ve really turned the corner. They jumped on us quickly. We had a few chances to make some plays we didn’t take advantage of.”
To be fair, Flaherty also lost his starting quarterback — senior Mike Kaser — to an injury in last week’s loss to Kent Roosevelt. Sophomore Mason Shook started his first varsity game Friday.
Wargo efficiently moved the Bulldogs to touchdowns on four of Stow’s five first-half possessions for a 29-6 lead. The 6-foot-1, 190 pounder completed 13-of-22 passes for 179 yards. He added 28 yards rushing on five carries. The Bulldogs had 175 yards rushing.
Senior Jake Flinn and junior Andrew Groves each caught two touchdown passes. Stow did not have a turnover.
“We’ve got to give the defense credit putting us in good field position,” Wargo said. “They do it every week. This week, we actually got a chance to go out and show we have an offense. The receivers did a good job all the way around. Obviously it’s my job to get the ball to them, but it starts up front with the line giving me protection.”
Wargo found Groves with a bubble screen pass to the right, and Groves took it down the sideline for a 33-yard touchdown on the game’s initial possession. That was one play after an identical pass to Groves to the left side went for a 28-yard touchdown that was nullified by a holding penalty.
Three Wargo completions set up Jayson Gobble’s 5-yard touchdown run for a 15-0 lead with 2:42 left in the first quarter.
Falls’ biggest play of the night, a 45-yard fleaflicker pass from Shook to Tyler Green, helped set up Shook’s 8-yard touchdown run that made it 15-6.
A muffed punt by Falls set up the next score, an inside screen pass on third-and-25 to Flinn that resulted in a 30-yard scoring play midway through the second quarter. A 16-yard strike from Wargo to Groves made it 29-6 with 30 seconds left in the half.
“Andy [Wargo] put himself in good situations,” Nori said. “He audibled out of some things he didn’t like. We give him the freedom to do that so he took advantage of a couple things the defense gave him and that’s what we told him to do.”
A 22-yard touchdown pass to Flinn late in the third quarter and Garret Rigby’s 32-yard field goal in the fourth completed the scoring.