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Norwalk looks to avoid letdown with new opponent

Mark Hazelwood • Aug 29, 2018 at 7:45 PM

NORWALK — It can go one of two ways.

The Norwalk football team can continue to ride the momentum of last week’s dismantling of Mansfield Senior that shocked many. Or, there can be a let down of sorts as the Truckers (1-0) make the long trip to Wayne County for a first-time opponent on Friday.

Norwalk will make the 48-mile, hour-plus drive to Creston and face Norwayne (0-1), a mid-sized playoff power in recent years at 7 p.m. Friday night. Creston is located off Ohio 3 — about halfway between Medina and Wooster. The game is a one-year contract, as Norwalk needed to replace Margaretta, which now has an additional SBC River league game in Week 4.

Norwalk’s matchup with Edison shifted to Week 4, and beginning next year the Truckers will play Huron at home. The Truckers and Tigers played yearly from 1958-2010.

“It was obviously a very big win,” Norwalk coach Todd Fox said of last week’s 42-21 win over the Tygers. “One thing you always hear is making a huge improvement from the first game to the second game, and the kids showed up this week preparing themselves to make sure they don’t have a let down.

“But quite honestly, last week gave them confidence in ourselves and what they’re doing,” he added. “We’re seeing them pick it up with a little more attitude and hop to their steps. If anything, last week ends up being kind of a kickstart to get going.”

Norwayne has made seven appearances in the state playoffs — all in a 10-year span since 2008. The Bobcats are remembered in Ohio circles for one of the bigger upsets in state championship game history when they stunned Kenton and QB Maty Mauk, 48-42, for the 2011 Div. IV title.

Last season, the Bobcats went 10-2, losing only to Dalton (27-21) in the regular season before falling to Rootstown in the second round in Div. VI.

“Just a great program, and the playoff success isn’t a one-year thing there,” Fox said of the Bobcats. “They’ve won a state championship and had several deep playoff runs, and from what we can see, I’d expect nothing different this year.”

Norwayne opened the season last week by unveiling its brand new artificial field turf in a wild 35-34 loss to Mogadore — another small-school power that needs little introduction.

The Bobcats trailed 35-20 with 7:20 left, but scored twice in a 16-second span to pull within a point. Norwayne got the ball back with just eight seconds left at its own 46-yard line.

A hook-and-ladder in the middle of the field was somewhat open and could’ve made the final 30-plus yards interesting, but a shoestring tackle at the Mogadore 37 ended the game.

Overall, Norwayne held a 400-327 edge in total yards, though 143 of those yards were on three plays. Bobcats QB Clay Harvey threw for 152 yards and ran for 101 yards and three second-half touchdowns for Norwayne. However, an interception with 13 seconds to go before halftime in the Mogadore end zone proved to be costly in the one-point loss.

“I think he is the leader,” Fox said of Harvey. “I know coming back he was starter last year and hey have some linemen in front of him who are really good. But Harvey is the field general, and expect him to be a threat to pass and run. He’s a guy you have to slow down.”

Fox said when watching Norwayne’s loss to Mogadore, the basic schemes and formations looked quite familiar.

“We’re mirror images of each other,” he said. “They mix it up with the spread on offense, but also go to an I-formation. They are all over the charts — but so are we.

“So the offensive schemes are similar, and so is the defense,” he added. “They run a 4-2-5 and are just fundamentally sound. There is nothing flashy. They are just very good at what they do.”

Meanwhile, Norwalk is coming off a win that saw it total 513 yards of offense with no turnovers. Those figures came against a Tygers defense that returned nine starters from their 2017 Ohio Cardinal Conference championship team that reached the Div. III playoffs.

Following the win, Fox has been impressed with the way his players have handled themselves both within the locker room walls and in media interviews.

“I keep reading in the interviews with kids, and it felt like they were buying into the mindset of what we wanted to establish,” he said. “Just get better each day. To hear them and how they responded in different events and questions, they’re doing it.

“For a group of guys who haven’t had much success, to do that the first Friday after the Friday before (Aug. 17 scrimmage at Huron) was something they weren’t expecting — that’s huge,” Fox added. “We were hoping for it, but I wasn’t expecting as much transparency as has showed up already.”

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