by Frank Aceto
Associate Sports Editor
Stow -- Back in the early 2000s, there was no doubt who was boss in the rivalry between the Hudson and Stow-Munroe Falls boys soccer teams.
That would be the Explorers, who won a Division I state title in 2002.
A little later into the 21st century, the Bulldogs figured out their nemesis and found their way to their own state championship in 2006.
While the two teams no longer play in the same division and are no longer state powerhouses, it's safe to say the Hudson-Stow rivalry is just as fresh as it was several years ago.
But there is one problem for the Bulldogs.
The Explorers now have the final say against their Northeast Ohio Conference rival.
Hudson won its second consecutive game after posting a 2-0 victory over Stow Sept. 14 on the road.
The Explorers (5-3-1) got second-half goals from Jack Sullivan and Cody VanDoninck, while surviving a couple of close calls en route to the win.
"I thought we played with a little more urgency in the second half," said first-year Hudson head coach Kelsey Resnick, a member of the 2002 state championship team. "All of us thought we came out flat in the first half. We came out with a different mindset in the second half and we were able to get a couple in the back of the net."
Although the Explorers had the ball in the Bulldogs' end most of the way, Stow had two golden opportunities to score in the second half.
With a little less than 23 minutes remaining, Bulldogs' senior forward Robby Anderson used a couple of nifty moves to beat a defender and drilled a left-footed shot just wide right of the goal.
A little more than 10 minutes later, sophomore midfielder Logan Morris blasted a shot that hit the post.
"I thought we had three really good chances," said 14th-year Stow head coach Kyle Kosmala. "We moved one guy up on the right side, which allowed us to get more chances, but I think the guys also had an energy spurt."
In the first half, Hudson, using a number of short, one-touch passes, played keep away with the Bulldogs.
The Explorers certainly earned style points for their precision passing, but they rarely got good shooting attempts at the goal.
The Bulldogs defense answered the challenge.
Whenever one of the Hudson players had the ball inside the penalty box, a bevy of Stow players surrounded him.
"Our back four is why we implemented our defensive system," Kosmala said. "We try to use a lot of quick counterattacks."
Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, the defense finally cracked with 31:44 remaining in the game.
Junior Trevor Colazzo somehow managed to dribble through a couple of defenders and wound up getting tripped on the play near Stow's goal.
As a result, the Explorers were awarded a penalty kick. Junior Jack Sullivan converted the PK to give Hudson a 1-0 lead. Sullivan made amends after missing a PK against Cleveland St. Ignatius earlier in the season.
"PKs are a very emotional aspect of the game," Resnick said. "It was great for Jack to get one under his belt."
The Bulldogs had another lapse a little more than 18 minutes later.
Stow committed an unforced error in its territory and the ball landed right at the feet of Colazzo.
When Colazzo got the ball, he had no one in front of him except Bulldogs' junior goalkeeper Jackson Dame.
Stow's defense recovered quickly and got in front of Colazzo as he got near the goal. But Colazzo delivered a nifty backward pass with his right foot to VanDoninck, who rifled a shot in the right corner of the net.
"Trevor is a huge target for us," Resnick said. "He has the build to play on the next level."
The Explorers had a 5-1 advantage in shots on goal. The Bulldogs (3-4-1) had a 4-2 edge in corner kicks.
Hudson sophomore goalkeeper Brendan O'Neil, who made his first varsity start, had one save.
O'Neil got the nod because starting keeper Charlie Sockol suffered a concussion during the Explorers' 2-1 win over Twinsburg Sept. 10.
"Brendan has the confidence that goes well beyond his years in school," Resnick said. "He had one little bobble. Aside from that, he did a great job of directing the back four.
"Charlie is supposed to see a specialist this week. When he comes back, we'll have a true keeper competition. We believe that everyone who makes varsity belongs on varsity. Brendan stepped up as a starter. He wasn't in there as a backup."
Hudson was scheduled to host NOC Valley Division foe Mentor Sept. 17 at Hudson Memorial Stadium.
The Explorers are set to visit Canton GlenOak Sept. 21 at 7 p.m.