After the first month of the regular season, it was hard not to look at the Norwalk football schedule and acknowledge the daunting stretch that lied ahead.
The Truckers had trouble with Shelby quarterback Brennan Armstrong, a Minnesota recruit, in a 55-14 loss on Sept. 22.
On Friday, Norwalk (2-4, 0-1) will host state-ranked Sandusky (6-0, 1-0), which is led by QB Ja’Vez Alexander, a Michigan State recruit.
Though he will play receiver for the Spartans, Alexander will come to Whitney Field with 870 passing yards and 11 touchdowns on 59-of-102 attempts (58 percent) and 358 yards and 6 TDs rushing.
“He’s a very talented, gifted athlete,” Norwalk coach Chris MacFarland said of Alexander. “We’re going to have to play very sound defense, because he has weapons around him. Several quick, fast kids around him, they have physical receivers — and up front their line does a nice job of protecting him.
“That puts a lot of pressure on our young defense, which is obviously an area we’re trying to improve,” he added. “We have sophomores on the line, at linebacker and in the secondary — and those kids are getting a real education in high quality football.”
On top of the star power on Shelby and Sandusky, the Truckers have also seen the likes of Edison’s Sam Stoll and a balanced Bellevue team that scored at will in the second half of last week’s 40-28 loss to the Redmen.
“I’m not sure we’ve ever had it this high with the schedule,” MacFarland said of the opposing talent. “You got Minnesota and Michigan State recruits, Bellevue has athletes, Edison has Stoll — it just goes right down the line. These are opponents and talent we may not see again the next few years.
“So the younger kids are getting exposed to a lot of great talent, but for right now we have to demand and have them step up,” he added. “Hopefully our seniors who also got thrown into it as sophomores can keep it steady and plug along.”
MacFarland did note that it was just a year ago in the regular season finale that Norwalk took a 6-3 record to an 8-1 Sandusky. The Truckers had the ball at the Sandusky 14-yard line trailing 16-8, but came away empty and the Streaks iced the game on a long TD pass with 7:05 left in a 23-8 win.
“The kids will continue to play for us,” MacFarland said. “They work hard, have great attitudes and I expect will find a way to play at a high level.”
Playing at a high level will require stopping more than Alexander, however. Sandusky’s Terion Stewart leads the SBC Lake division in rushing and scoring with 713 yards and 13 TDs on just 76 attempts (9.4 average). Malachi Campbell has 34 catches for 489 yards and 6 TDs, while Keith Williams adds 13 catches for 241 yards and 4 TDs.
Norwalk is led by running back Trevon Raymore, who has 704 yards and 12 TDs on 98 attempts (7.2 average), while Kaden Livingston has 31 catches for 282 yards and 2 TDs.
“We’re going to worry about ourselves,” MacFarland said. “We don’t talk about the other team names and numbers, just the position and what we have to do both sides. We’re trying to work on our fundamentals and our preparation.
“It doesn’t matter who we’re playing, if we break down in areas like last week, they will take advantage of it,” he added. “We’re not going to talk about Sandusky, the NOL and SBC stuff or rankings — and we won’t sit and talk about Alexander and his accolades. We’re going to take care of getting ourselves ready.”