HAZELWOOD: A big night in the Maple City showed what's ahead for Norwalk, St. Paul

Mark Hazelwood • Updated Oct 9, 2018 at 11:05 PM

NORWALK — As the final minute ticked away in a huge win on Friday, St. Paul head football coach John Livengood pulled down his headset and asked me for a Norwalk scoring update.

The Flyers were about to go final on a 49-27 win over visiting Mapleton in a Firelands Conference matchup featuring two 5-1 (3-0) teams ranked in the Associated Press state poll.

And 16 miles north of Whitney Field, visiting Norwalk was also in a 5-1 vs. 5-1 matchup of state-ranked teams at Strobel Field in Sandusky. More than 10 minutes later, Livengood again asked for an update after the postgame interview from the proceedings at Sandusky.

The Truckers used several, well, more like six touchdowns, from running back Trevon Raymore in a 52-35 win. He ran for 407 yards as well.

Back in Norwalk, Cam Caizzo totaled 209 yards and a pair of TDs in AP No. 11 St. Paul’s win over the Mounties, giving the two feature backs 616 yards and 8 TDs in huge victories.

Later that night, I received a text from Norwalk coach Todd Fox, asking how St. Paul looked in the win.

Both head coaches are invested in each other’s success — and let’s be honest, it hasn’t always been that way here.

“I love the fact that both of our programs are in this position,” Fox said. “A group of us have used the slogan, ‘One city, two teams, same goals.’ That’s the way we want to be.”

It’s also worth noting that both programs haven’t been in this same position very often. Each is in first place in the SBC Lake and FC with three weeks remaining.

Norwalk won Northern Ohio League titles in 1974 (11-1), 1976 (8-2) and 2014 (11-1). St. Paul also won FC titles in 1974 (8-1-1) and 2014 (13-2), and were 5-4-1 in 1976.

Aside from that, there are only three other seasons where the two programs mirrored winning records since the Flyers first won the FC in 1968.

It’s not a real secret to say there has been some sense of resentment from both sides at various times over that 50-year time period. As someone who attended both schools, believe me, I’ve heard it all.

This is not an indictment of any past head coach, but I can honestly say this is the most ‘together’ I’ve seen the two programs ever be — a refreshing sign in 2018.

“It’s awesome, and we’re so happy for Coach Fox and the Norwalk team,” said Livengood, himself a Norwalk (1984) graduate. “They are doing a great job, and it’s great having them down at Whitney Field all the time. The two staffs and the kids get along real well.”

In that 2014 season when both teams hosted playoff victories in the same weekend, there wasn’t a single night with the stakes like this past Friday. The closest situation I can find or recall was Week 9 of 1974.

That was the now famous — or infamous — Norwalk loss at Shelby. The next night, St. Paul hosted and edged Monroeville. Both were critical games in league championship seasons — but were played a day apart.

It happened last week concurrently — and both teams came out of it with victories. Both teams are also ranked in the state poll still, and firmly entrenched in playoff contention.

“It’s great seeing them having success, and great that both teams are doing that,” Livengood said. “It speaks well for the city of Norwalk.”

In the end, isn’t that what this is all about? It’s great to see any team from the area do well — especially two in the same town.

There are plenty of questions to consider for both teams entering the final three weeks of the season. Both still have challenges before the idea of a league title or Week 11 can come to fruition.

But at the same time, everything is still possible for both football programs in the Maple City.

And that’s quite fine with them.

“We want to work together with St. Paul,” Fox said. “And nothing could be better than for the people in Norwalk to be happy that both football programs are doing very well.”

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