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Hudson -- This time, the Explorers completed their comeback.
The Hudson football team handed reigning Suburban League National Conference champion Stow-Munroe Falls football team its first loss of the season Oct. 7.
The Explorers earned a dramatic come-from-behind 25-24 victory over the Bulldogs at Hudson Memorial Stadium.
For the second straight year, Hudson faced at least a two-touchdown deficit late in the contest against Stow.
A year ago, down 17-3 late in the fourth quarter, the Explorers rallied to within seven points and then had a chance for a tie.
A pass into the end zone as time expired was knocked down by the Bulldogs' secondary and Stow earned a 17-10 win.
It was more of the same as the Bulldogs led 24-7 at one point and 24-10 at the end of three quarters.
This time, Hudson came all the way back to stun Stow, which had a 17-game regular-season winning streak.
The Explorers (6-1) are now tied with Brecksville-Broadview Heights on top of the National Conference standings. The Bees (7-0) defeated North Royalton 50-34 Oct. 7. Both Hudson and Brecksville are 4-0 in the conference. The Bulldogs dropped to 6-1 overall and 3-1 in the conference.
"That's the second year in a row that their defense has taken away what we do best and it has taken us until the fourth quarter to adjust," Explorers' first-year head coach Jeff Gough said. "This obviously helps our us with computer points. This, in my mind, was a playoff game and we treated it like one.
"You don't come back like that without a tremendous amount of heart and trust in one another and the coaches. We got better [Oct. 7] and that trumps playoff implications, records and league titles."
There was no defensive heroics by the Bulldogs in the 2016 classic between the two longtime rivals.
Two touchdown passes from Colt Pallay to Greg Mailey (28 and 23 yards, respectively), just 95 seconds apart, brought Hudson back.
After the latter score, Gough opted to go for the 2-point conversion and the lead with 2 minutes, 16 seconds to play.
Jackson Parker came on to take the snap and he found Mailey in the back of the end zone for the decisive two points.
"This one hurts because it's the rival and because of the way the game went," Stow head coach Mark Nori said. "It was a great game."
While the momentum shifted the Explorers' way late in the third quarter, the momentum shifted back and forth in the early going.
Hudson got on the board first after forcing a Bulldog punt on the game's first possession.
Stow punter/quarterback Kyle Vantrease's first punt of the night bounced in front of return man Colin Paltani. The junior scooped up the ball near the left hash mark and cut to his right. He found blockers along the right side and scooted through the defense some 57 yards to a touchdown. Kicker Grant Gonya's first of two point after tries gave the Explorers a 7-0 lead 1:43 into the game.
Momentum stayed with Hudson when punter Jonah Wieland smashed a school record with an 86-yard punt that was downed on the Bulldogs' 1-yard line.
Undaunted, Stow went to the air.
Vantrease (9-of-21 for 203 yards and two scores) had great protection on two straight pass attempts form his own end zone.
He completed the second to get some room and after a holding call, Vantrease unleashed a bomb to Joe Andrassy down the right sideline.
The senior, who caught six passes for 172 yards, did the rest, racing the distance for an 86-yard touchdown. With Gavin Costello booting the extra-point the score was knotted at 7-7 with 4:38 left in the first quarter.
The momentum had shifted the Bulldogs' way and they would keep it for quite some time.
In the second quarter, a 26-yard field goal by Austin Burnham, who also converted an extra point, gave Stow its first lead (10-7) with 5:40 left in the half.
Stow struck again on its next possession.
The Bulldogs marched 82 yards in eight plays. Andrassy got his second score of the night after taking the snap in a wildcat formation. He weaved through traffic from 22 yards away for a 17-7 advantage at the break.
Stow looked ready to pull away when it drove 87 yards on its first touch of the second half.
A 32-yard strike form Vantrease to Andrassy was the big play in the nine-play trek. On third and goal from the 4, Vantrease scooped up a low snap, rolled right and connected with senior Logan Lindsay in the back of the end zone for a 24-7 lead with 4:52 left in the third.
The Bulldogs' four first downs during that possession turned out to be the last of 16 on the night and they mustered just one yard of offense in its final 13 plays from scrimmage.
At that point, the momentum shifted yet again.
The Explorers answered, driving deep into Stow territory behind the running of junior tailback Dawson Wervey (18 carries for a game-high 76 yards). The drive stalled and Gonya booted a 30-yard field goal to make it 24-10 with 2:21 left in the third.
Just like they did a year ago, Hudson flipped the switch when time was running out. Gaining possession after a Bulldog punt with 8:01 to play, the Explorers drove 65 yards in nine plays.
Pallay, 11-of-17 passing for the night was 3-of-4 during the drive and sophomore quarterback William Wallace added a big 13-yard run to the yardage total.
Pallay was back at the helm two plays later and led Mailey perfectly as he ran past the defense. Mailey, who finished with nine receptions for 120 yards, caught the pass in the back right corner of the end zone with 3:51 left in the game. Gonya's kick made the score 24-17.
Despite being down a touchdown late in the game, Hudson decided to kick the ball deep rather than going for an onside kick.
"Let's pin them deep and trust our defense and man," Gough said. "Our defense showed up. I haven't seen them rush like that all season."
After Stow went three and out, the Explorers' offense was back on the field just 61 seconds later.
Pallay, who had 148 yards passing while sharing duties with Parker and Wallace, went 3-of-4 during the possession. On the fourth play, Pallay looked to Mailey on the same pattern. Again, the pass was perfect and so was the catch and Hudson trailed 24-23.
Parker, who did not take a single snap in the second half, came in for the decisive points. Mailey lined up in the slot on the right side and ran left along the back of the end zone.
Parker found Mailey near the left corner for the decisive two points.
"It's awesome," Mailey said. "We just kept believing that we could pull it out. We had a few things going our way and the defense did a great job shutting them down.
"We've got a few of them [2-point conversion plays] that we practice all of the time. We got to use one and it worked like a dream. I have had this one circled on my calendar since last year."
"You got to give it up to Greg," Gough said. "He started last year and didn't really have an impact in that game [the loss at Stow]. This year, his experience paid off. Hats off to Jackson Parker as well. I think that was his first play of the second half."
The Bulldogs still had hope.
They had the ball with 2:12 left and two time-outs. But junior Danny Saxon sacked Vantrease for a 10-yard loss and a charge led by Saxon and Alex Beck forced an incompletion on fourth down.
It was Hudson's eight straight home win against the Bulldogs. The last Explorers' home loss to Stow took place in 2000 when they lost 13-6 at Dante Lavelli Stadium. Hudson is 14-2 against the Bulldogs since 2001.
The Explorers are scheduled to entertain National Conference foe Twinsburg Oct. 14 at 7 p.m.