But the Truckers were a play or two short.
Sandusky — ranked No. 5 in the Division III Associated Press state poll — remained unbeaten as Max Corso’s 28-yard field goal with seven seconds left allowed the Blue Streaks (7-0, 2-0) to escape Norwalk (2-5, 0-2) with a 17-14 win.
“The kids played outstanding,” Norwalk coach Chris MacFarland said. “I just love those kids — they played so hard tonight, but we came up a play here or there short.”
Tied with nine minutes left, Corso had just missed a 31-yard field goal wide to the right to give the Truckers the ball with 8:52 left. Norwalk then marched nearly that entire distance in eight plays, moving to the Sandusky 9-yard line.
But on the next play, Rashod Raymore appeared to get tackled at the 3, but the ball popped out and it was ruled a fumble — and the Blue Streaks recovered in the end zone with 5:35 left to dodge a huge bullet.
The Blue Streaks then marched 11 plays for the game-winning drive, with a Ja’Vez Alexander pass of 14 yards to Tarrence Reed on a third-and-6 to move the ball to the Norwalk 10.
Terion Stewart was tackled for a yard loss, but he went to the far left hash to set up Corso for the game-winning kick.
“They played very physical up front against a very athletic, physical team,” MacFarland said. “We controlled the game offensively running the ball, were able to shorten it a bit for us and didn’t let them have series after series at us.
“We can’t pin it on one thing There were several key plays here and there, not getting a first down here or there … it’s never one person or one play,” he added. “You can see one at the end, but he ran hard and played so well on defense, so we’re never going to hang one on anybody.”
It was clear from the beginning the Norwalk plan was to control the clock and tempo with a steady dose of Trevon Raymore. The Truckers ran 32 plays in the first half, and 23 of those were rush attempts for the junior — who delivered in a big way.
He scored on a 42-yard touchdown run on the first play of the second quarter to give Norwalk an early 7-0 lead after Garrison Smith’s extra point.
Sandusky answered with 3:45 left in the first half. Needing just a yard on third-and-1, Alexander, a Michigan State recruit, burst through the line for an 18-yard TD run. Corso’s PAT tied the game at 7-7, but the Truckers weren’t done.
Another heavy dose of Trevon Raymore — to the tune of nine straight carries, but Norwalk at the Sandusky 22. Andrew Ehrenberg then attempted one of his six pass attempts and threw a perfect strike to Kaden Livingston. It went for a 22-yard TD pass in the right corner of the end zone with 21 seconds left in the first half for a 14-7 lead.
Both teams traded possessions to begin the third quarter, but the Blue Streaks converted two third downs and a fourth down on a 9-play, 53-yard scoring drive.
Alexander found Keith Williams for a 14-yard TD pass on a third-and-9, and Corso’s PAT tied the game with 4:15 left in the third quarter — which is where it remained until the dramatic final nine minutes.
“I thought we came out soft, but give Norwalk credit,” Sandusky coach Mike Franklin said. “They pounded the ball, they moved it well on us. But once again, we got stops when we needed to, we got turnovers when we needed to, and we got big plays when we needed to.
“We kept them scoreless in the second half, so tremendous credit to our defense,” he added. “But again, I have to give so much credit to Norwalk. They were a 2-4 team, but Coach MacFarland had those guys playing great football.”
Alexander finished with 2 yards on 12 rush attempts and completed 19-of-29 pass attempts for 215 yards and a TD. Malachi Campbell caught nine passes for 108 yards and Williams had five catches for 50 yards.
Trevon Raymore ran 35 times for 221 yards and a TD, while Rashod Raymore added 53 yards on nine attempts to pace the Truckers.