Norwalk led Rocky River by a slim 14-7 margin at halftime of Friday’s Division III second-round playoff game at Ranger Stadium in North Ridgeville. The Truckers had to turn away the Pirates twice in the red zone just to stay ahead.
That changed in a hurry.
Norwalk (9-3) blitzed the Pirates (7-5) to the tune of a 42-0 margin in a 17-plus minute span of the second half in a 56-7 win.
The Truckers — playing in Week 13 for the first time in program history — advance to rematch with Sandusky (8-4) in next Friday’s regional championship at a site to be determined this Sunday. Norwalk won the regular season meeting, 52-35, on Oct. 5 in Sandusky.
“Honestly, the message at halftime wasn’t from Coach (Todd) Fox,” Norwalk defensive end Tche Leroux said. “It was the whole team. We came together collectively and just talked about what we needed to work on and came together.”
Ethan Phillips took the opening kickoff of the second half 49 yards to the Rocky River 40-yard line. Star running back Trevon Raymore then ripped off a 39-yard run to the 1 on the first play from scrimmage.
Quarterback Garrett Chapin scored from there and just 32 seconds into the third, it was 21-7 after Garrison Smith boomed one of his eight extra points in the game.
Norwalk then forced a quick three-and-out on the Pirates’ next possession. A steady dose of Raymore was capped off when the 2,000-yard back broke four tackles on a 27-yard scoring run at the 8:28 mark of the third for a 28-7 lead.
The Truckers were just getting warmed up.
Another defensive stop set up the Truckers at the Rocky River 46. Another heavy dose of Raymore — who finished with 110 yards in the third quarter on nine attempts — set up a 1-yard TD run by Alec Maloney at the 4:55 mark for a 35-7 lead.
The snow then intensified as the lead swelled in freezing temperatures, and Raymore capped a 62-yard scoring drive with a 1-yard run with 10:42 left for a 42-7 lead.
Playing with the running clock from there, Evan Stumpf was able to score on TD runs of 31 and 16 yards as Brandon Haraway set up both fourth quarter scores with an interception and fumble recovery.
The last score came with 7:07 left to cap the outburst.
“At halftime we talked about the penalties we had, and we knew we needed to run the ball,” Fox said. “We felt it was close on the scoreboard, but we could feel them wearing down — so we wanted to continue to play physical football.
“We wanted to see if we could kind of impose our will a little bit, and our guys were able to do that,” he added. “The offensive line blocked well and Trevon had a great third quarter.”
Rocky River fumbled on the opening play from scrimmage to start the game, and the Truckers recovered at the Pirates’ 31.
Chapin connected with Ryan Sowders for a 21-yard gain to the 10 — and four plays later Raymore bulled in from a yard out on fourth-and-goal for a 7-0 lead at the 10:06 mark of the first quarter.
Following a Rocky River punt, Norwalk put together an impressive 15-play, 86-yard scoring drive that lasted 5:19 in the first quarter. It included two fourth down conversions, and Chapin connected with Raymore for an easy 8-yard TD pass at the 1:58 mark.
The Pirates got their lone score just 17 seconds later. Owen Bebie slipped past the Norwalk secondary and was wide open for an 82-yard pass-and-catch touchdown to pull within 14-7.
Rocky River got deep in Norwalk territory twice in the second quarter, but were turned away each time.
Raymore ran 23 times for 192 yards and 3 TDs, plus his TD catch. Chapin was 5-of-10 passing for a TD and an interception, while also rushing six times for 49 yards and a TD. Sowders caught three passes for 36 yards and ran five times for 48 yards — and Stumpf ran eight times for 61 yards and the two fourth quarter scores.
Norwalk won the Class AA state championship in 1974 — but there were only two rounds. That makes Friday’s win the first time the Truckers advance to a Week 13, and also assures the program’s second-ever postseason trophy along with the state title next week.
“We’re proud of this group and everything they do day-by-day as people on and off the field,” Fox said of his team. “They have gotten better and are just real mature kids who do things right way all the time. They are living that, and that’s why good things are happening.
“We’re excited about the regional finals and one of us gets to carry torch of SBC the following week,” he added. “Stopping (Terion) Stewart, that’s not a challenge anyone loves to do, but Coach (Pat) Herron and defense will prepare as much and best they can.”
Norwalk 14 0 28 14 — 56
R. River 7 0 0 0 — 7
N — Trevon Raymore 1 run (Garrison Smith kick)
N — Raymore 8 pass from Garrett Chapin (Smith kick)
RR — Owen Bebie 82 pass from Michael Finnegan (Bebie kick)
N — Chapin 1 run (Smith kick)
N — Raymore 27 run (Smith kick)
N — Alec Maloney 1 run (Smith kick)
N — Raymore 1 run (Smith kick)
N — Evan Stumpf 31 run (Smith kick)
N — Stumpf 16 run (Smith kick)