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Bulldogs sports roundup: Fourth quarter costs Bulldogs a chance at redemption

The fourth quarter is where it’s at for winning football teams. Those teams perform well under pressure.

Unfortunately, the Stow-Munroe Falls football team has had its worst moments this season in the fourth quarter.

“The kids play hard enough to have us in the game,” head coach Martin Poder said, “but when we get to the fourth quarter we’re just not improving our execution when it matters the most, and it comes back to bite us every week.”

The Bulldogs’ latest fourth-quarter meltdown came Oct. 14 when they trailed at Suburban League National Conference rival Twinsburg just 12-6 after three quarters, but wound up getting outscored 20-8 in the final stanza and lost 32-14. They dropped to 1-8 overall and 0-5 in the conference.

SMF pulled to within six points in the third quarter when freshman quarterback Jake Harrington threw an 8-yard touchdown pass to junior wide receiver Jack Smith.

“We were feeling pretty good at 12-6,” said Poder.

Then, unfortunately, just like that, the Tigers upped their lead to 25-6 on a 30-yard touchdown pass and a short-yardage pick-six.

The Bulldogs showed some life by pulling to within 25-14 when Harrington hit junior wideout Joey Lehner on a 13-yard TD pass and then connected with Smith for the 2-point conversion.

“There were five minutes remaining, and we had all three of our timeouts left,” Poder said.

Twinsburg, however, proceeded to drive right down the field en route to a short touchdown run that put the game on ice.

The home team had taken a 12-0 lead in the first quarter by capitalizing on something the visitors have been struggling with all season – their defense’s inability to get off the field and allowing big plays in third- and fourth-down situations. The Tigers scored on 37- and 42-yard touchdown passes.

“The first one came on fourth-and-12, and the second one was on fourth-and-3,” said the frustrated coach.

Harrington ended up going 21-of-37 for 172 yards with the two TD passes and two interceptions.

“I’m proud of Jake and how he’s continuing to develop,” Poder said. “I can make a strong argument that both of those interceptions he had were not his fault or his issue. I think, for the most part, he’s continuing to show the type of quarterback he’s going to be for this program for the next three years. He executes, and that’s what we ask him to do.”

Senior running back Teddy Gregory, Jr., rushed the ball 19 times for 106 yards, including a 24-yard run. He also had five receptions for 27 yards.

“The yardage that Teddy is getting running the ball is almost a hundred percent on him,” said Poder. “He continues to break, and shed, tackles. I’m proud of how hard he’s running and what he’s doing for the team.”

Smith wound up with four receptions for 50 yards, and Lehner had four catches for 40 yards. Sophomore wide receiver Nick Hosey had three receptions for 22 yards, while senior halfback Nate Boozer caught three passes for 21 yards.

Defensively, junior cornerback Jake Gosselin and senior safety Sal Romito both recorded five tackles.

The Bulldogs will conclude the season at National Conference rival Hudson at 7 p.m. Oct. 21.

Boys golf: Skirpac heads to state with fifth-place finish, team just misses

The boys golf team barely missed qualifying for the Division I state tournament, but Stow-Munroe Falls will still be represented in Columbus.

Senior Ben Skirpac qualified for state by virtue of shooting a 2-over-par 73, tying for fifth overall out of 120 golfers, Oct. 10 at the district tournament at Pine Hills Golf Club in Hinckley. The top five individuals not on a state-qualifying team advanced to state.

The state tourney will be 36 holes Oct. 21-22, starting at 9 a.m. both days, on Ohio State University’s Scarlet Course. 

“Ben played outstanding,” head coach Chet Feldman said. “I think he only had one or two holes that he struggled on. He was grinding, he was doing really well, was focused the whole time. Obviously, our first goal was to get to state as a team, but our secondary goal was for Ben to go as an individual. I’m proud of him. And you know what? I think Ben has all the tools to go in and win state. It’s just about getting a couple good breaks. He made it to state his sophomore year when we went as a team. That trip to Columbus will help him big time.”

SMF finished sixth overall out of 20 teams with a score of 320. The top five teams qualified for state. Medina finished fifth with a score of 319 but, had the two teams tied, the Bulldogs would have lost the fifth-place tiebreaker. So in reality, SMF missed qualifying for state by two strokes.

Cleveland St. Ignatius won the competition with a score of 289. Archbishop Hoban finished second with a score of 297, Jackson finished third with a score of 308, and Green was fourth with a score of 318. 

“Everybody always questions, ‘What’s one thing I could’ve done better? Where are the one or two shots I could’ve done better?’” said Feldman. “As a coach you say, ‘Hey man, is there something I could’ve told these kids to help them get one stroke better?’ I feel bad for my kids because they came out and played awesome. That course played so hard. The greens were so fast, so hard, and my kids really grinded.”

SMF came close to having two state qualifiers as sophomore Austin Wilhoit shot a 76, good for a tie for 15th. He came one stroke short of tying Kent Roosevelt’s Liam Curtis and forcing a sudden-death playoff for the fifth and final individual state berth.

“I’m so proud of Austin. It was awesome. The kid was dialed in. He showed great body language and had a good swing. He was really into it,” Feldman said. “In his practice round, he was struggling quite a bit with his irons, so I was worried about how he was going to come back, but he really hit the range hard and got those things ironed out. He missed a one-foot putt for par on the 16th hole.”

Senior Mitch Tyger tied for 50th with an 83, junior Matt Kurtz tied for 80th with an 88, and freshman Eddie Norman, Jr., tied for 107th with a 94.

“Mitch was only 9 over par heading into the 18th hole, so he would’ve shot an 80 had he parred out, but he got a triple-bogey. All he had to do was bogey 18, and we would’ve gone to state as a team,” said the coach. “Matt struggled on the back nine, which he played first, but he bounced back on the front nine and really held it together. Eddie just needs some experience. He really wants to be a good player. He’ll work at it all year.”

Girls golf: Tricky weather trips up Gabby and Olivia Berlingieri in state bid

The Berlingieri sisters gave it their all but fell short in their bid to advance to the Division I state golf tournament.

In the district tournament Oct. 13 at Brookledge Golf Club in Cuyahoga Falls, Gabby Berlingieri, a junior, tied for 22nd out of 96 golfers with a 13-over-par 84. Olivia Berlingieri, a freshman, tied for 35th with an 88.   

“The conditions were very, very challenging,” head coach Scotte Rorabaugh said. “They had about three-quarters of an inch of rain overnight, so the course was playing real wet, and there were strong winds throughout the entire round. Plus, the greens were very quick, and there were some pretty challenging hole locations. It made for a tough round.”

According to Rorabaugh, Gabby could never really get anything going.

“She just couldn’t string together a bunch of pars. She only made one birdie the whole round,” he said. “But she was right there. She actually was in contention for one of the final individual state-qualifying spots but went four over on her last three holes. Those holes were playing pretty challenging, a couple of them right into the wind. But overall, I thought she played well. She didn’t have what I consider her ‘A’ game, but she was able to keep it together and stay in it until the end. She was a little disappointed, but it doesn’t take away from the great season she had. She’s one of the top players around.”

Olivia was up and down all day.

“She had a couple really bad holes that got her behind the 8-ball, and she just couldn’t catch up from that,” said Rorabaugh. “There weren’t that many freshmen playing in that district tournament. There were only three freshmen who finished higher than her. It was a really, really strong season for Olivia. She learned a lot and grew a lot.”

Rorabaugh is looking forward to next season.

“We’ll obviously have our one-two punch with Gabby and Olivia. Gabby will be one of our leaders,” he said. “We’re also going to have Sophia Thompson back next year as a junior, so we’re going to have a strong top three. We just need to find some depth in the 4, 5 and 6 positions, which is what helps you advance throughout the sectionals and districts. Hopefully, the girls will put the time and effort in over the winter, come back strong next year and continue to build a strong foundation for our program as we’ve been for the last few years.”

Girls soccer: Yoder scores two second half goals to lift Bulldogs in season finale 

Senior Sophia Yoder has had a nice bounce-back season for the girls soccer team after missing all of last year due to an ACL knee injury.

“Sophia’s play has been very good all year,” head coach Jim Dudones said. “She’s been very solid for us up front and has finished well when opportunities have been there. She’s come to be definitely a player who we can count on and who the other team has to guard. You have to know where she’s at.”

Yoder’s latest exploits came when she scored two second-half goals Oct. 15 in leading Stow-Munroe Falls to a 4-2 regular-season-ending victory at Doylestown Chippewa. The Bulldogs, who never trailed, finished the regular portion of their schedule with a 7-5-4 overall record.

Junior forward Paityn Marino scored SMF’s other second-half goal. Senior defender Grace Beck had given the road team a 1-0 halftime lead.

“We bounced back nicely focus-wise from our loss at home to [Suburban League National Conference rival] Hudson three nights earlier [Oct. 12],” said Dudones. “I was very proud of our effort. I felt like we were in control of the game the whole time. Chippewa is very good. They were state runners-up last year in Division III.”

The score of the loss to the Explorers was 2-1. SMF’s final National Conference mark is 2-2-2.

Marino scored on a header off a corner kick from Beck in the first half to put SMF up 1-0 at halftime.

“It was a very disappointing game,” Dudones said. “We’d just come off a game against Twinsburg where we played excellent, and that was a 0-0 tie, and they’re ranked fifth in the state, so that was a very good result for us. There was definitely an emotional letdown against Hudson. The second half was probably the worst half we’ve played all season. There was a lack of focus. We basically hosed away our lead. Hudson thoroughly outplayed us in that second half.”

The sixth-seeded Bulldogs received a first-round bye and will host 27th-seeded Willoughby South in a Division I sectional final at 6 p.m. Oct. 20. If they win, they will play the winner of top-seeded Twinsburg and 22nd-seeded Chardon in a district semifinal at 6 p.m. Oct. 24.

Boys soccer: Big win over Hoover caps 7-9-1 season

The boys soccer team finally put the ball in the net against a good team Oct. 13 in a 3-2 regular-season-ending victory at North Canton Hoover.

Stow-Munroe Falls finished the regular portion of its schedule with a 7-9-1 overall record.

“We’ve had a difficult time scoring multiple goals against some higher-quality teams, and it was nice to finally get three up on the board,” head coach Kyle Kosmala said.

Junior central midfielder Reece Raymond-Smith gave SMF a 1-0 halftime lead off a corner-kick deflection.

Hoover answered pretty quickly right out of halftime and scored the next two goals to forge ahead 2-1.

Raymond-Smith tied the score with less than 20 minutes to go.

Amari Darrow, a freshman outside midfielder/forward, stole the ball while Hoover’s goalie was trying to pass out, and he found Reece and Reece put it in the net,” said Kosmala.

Junior midfielder Logan Seaman scored the winning goal off an assist from central midfielder Carson Boyd, his classmate, with about 15 minutes left.

“That was our prettiest goal of the season,” Kosmala said. “We had a nice combination through the middle with a lot of people. Logan was cutting to the goal and then just cut it by the goalie and put it right back in the net.”

The Vikings pressured the Bulldogs’ defense big time as the game wound down. Senior central defender Keith McNary, injured most of the season, has been back the last couple games and had a huge night against Hoover, including a game-saving block right at the end of the game.

“It looked like it was about to be a goal,” said the coach, “but Keith came out of nowhere and blocked the shot.”

SMF began the week with a 5-0 loss at National Conference rival Hudson Oct. 11 to finish with a 2-4 conference mark.

“Hudson is ranked second or third in the state,” Kosmala said. “We played OK, but we just continued to have too many breakdowns. We did some good things, we just need to be more consistent.”

The 15th-seeded Bulldogs will host 20th-seeded Mayfield in a Division I sectional semifinal at 6 p.m. tonight. If they win, they will travel to 10th-seeded Willoughby South in a sectional final at 7 p.m. Oct. 22.

Boys cross country: Big first place win in Norton clinches National Conference title

The Bulldogs are National Conference champions for the first time since joining the Suburban League in 2015.

Stow-Munroe Falls finished first with 52 points at the conference championship meet, held Oct. 15 at Silver Creek Metro Park in Norton. Hudson finished second out of seven teams with 56 points, and Nordonia was third with 63 points.

“It’s historic for us and it feels pretty good. It’s pretty exciting,” head coach J.K. LeSeure said. “We ran quite well from top to bottom. All of our guys did what they had to do, and the results turned out the way we hoped.”

Senior Micah Bentley won the 67-runner competition in a time of 16 minutes, 31.4 seconds. Zach Shawala, his classmate, finished third with a time of 16:48.  

“Micah ran an incredibly smart race, knowing what his strengths were compared to Nordonia’s Chris Turner, who also ran well,” said LeSeure. “Micah knew he had an advantage over Chris in the hills, and he took advantage of that and beat Chris, who finished second.

“Zach finishing third was huge for us. Hudson’s Colin LeVan was just in front of him at our invitational last week, so that was an area we felt like we could make up some ground. We felt like Zach could get that done, and right from the start he put himself in position to do it, and he was able to pull it out and finish one spot ahead of Colin.”

Senior Connor Scarberry finished eighth with a time of 17:19, senior Trent Macura placed 17th with a time of 17:39 and sophomore Nathan Hartenburg was 21st with a clocking of 17:43.

“Connor ran a really solid race,” LeSeure said. “He did what he needed to do and was right there, right where he needed to be. He’s coming on strong right when we need him to, towards the end of the season.

“Trent did what we needed him to do, too. There were a lot of Hudson guys right around him last week at our invitational, so we knew that was going to be a key spot for us. His performing well Saturday was a big key to us winning.

“Nathan had the race of the week for us. He really came through and had a huge race. If he doesn’t have that huge race, then Hudson wins the title. Nathan coming through on the big stage is a huge thing for us. About three weeks ago, he set his personal-best time by a minute and a half, and he’s run in that range ever since. He just keeps getting better.”

The Bulldogs will compete in the Division I district meet at GlenOak High School in Canton at 9 a.m. Oct. 22.

Girls cross country: Atkinson wins conference meet by 43 seconds over second-place runner

Junior Jayla Atkinson will finally have some competition when postseason tournament action starts Oct. 22.

Like she has done all season long, however, Atkinson was dominant en route to winning the 58-runner National Conference championship Oct. 15 at Silver Creek Metro Park in Norton. Her time was 19:25.8, almost 43 seconds faster than the second-place runner. 

“I think even Jayla wasn’t thrilled with her time, but at the same time she ran what she needed to and then some,” head coach Aaron Morris said. “She just really hasn’t had anybody to race for a while. It wasn’t about time because Silver Creek is not a fast course. It was more about position.”

Overall, Stow-Munroe Falls finished second out of seven teams with 56 points. Hudson won the competition with 49 points, and Brecksville-Broadview Heights was third with 74 points.

“We came up a little short from our goal, which was to be conference champions again this year,” said Morris. “We didn’t run poorly, we just didn’t run well enough. I felt like we were capable of winning it, we just didn’t, but that’s not to take away from the performances we had. We still had a lot of course personal bests. We just didn’t put ourselves in a good place early on.”

Junior Deena Ingrassia finished third with a time of 20:19.7, while senior Sydney Pitcovich finished ninth with a time of 20:41.7, a course personal best by more than 22 seconds.

“The only girl Deena had to run with was the Hudson girl [Katelyn Will],” Morris said. “She did run with her for the first two miles. They were shoulder-to-shoulder. Then, over the last mile, the Hudson girl did end up pulling a little away from her and finished second.

“It was really good to have Sydney back. We missed her the two previous weeks due to some preventative stuff for potential injury. She didn’t look like she missed much of a beat.”

Junior Ellie Brosch placed 17th with a time of 21:20.9, a course personal best by almost a minute, and senior Lily Baker was 26th with a clocking of 22:02.1, a course personal best by 30 seconds.

“I was hoping for a little bit more out of Ellie. It’s not like she ran bad, though. I’m not disappointed in her time,” said Morris. “We needed Lily to be on the tail of the fifth Hudson girl, but that girl finished well ahead of her.”

The Bulldogs will compete in the Division I district meet at GlenOak High School in Canton at 9 a.m. Oct. 22.

Girls volleyball: Regular season ends with losing streak unbroken

Eleven defeats in a row is not exactly how the girls volleyball team wants to enter postseason play, but that is the situation Stow-Munroe Falls finds itself in.

SMF closed out the regular season with straight-set home losses to National Conference rivals Twinsburg 25-16, 25-16, 25-19 Oct. 11 and Hudson 25-17, 25-19, 25-19 Oct. 13. The Bulldogs finished the regular season with a 6-16 overall record and a 2-10 conference mark.

“We started out really strong against Twinsburg, but we just had a hard time finishing out all three sets,” head coach Sara Snyder said. “Twinsburg found the holes hitting-wise, and that’s what beat us. We were right with them with serving, passing and blocking, but they were able to get more kills off of us.”

Recording five kills apiece were junior middle hitter Gianna Cella and outside hitter Leara Gilbert, her classmate.

“Hudson is a top team,” said Snyder. “They have two juniors who are looking to go Division I, and their setter is going to Mount Union. It’s a tough team, but we hung with them, we were right with them. Once again, it was that inexperience with closing and finishing out the sets.”

Senior libero Maggie Ruggles had 14 digs against the Explorers.

“Maggie actually had a really great match,” Snyder said. “She had probably her best serve-receive match of the season.”

The 20th-seeded Bulldogs will oppose 23rd-seeded Kent Roosevelt at Walsh Jesuit in a Division I sectional semifinal at 6 p.m. Oct. 19. If they win, they will play at fifth-seeded Twinsburg in a sectional final at 3 p.m. Oct. 22.

Field hockey

Calls and text messages left by The Spotlight for head coach McDaniel Palma were not returned.