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Missed scoring chances haunt Norwalk

Mark Hazelwood • Updated Nov 24, 2018 at 1:36 AM

WAPAKONETA — Plenty of chances.

But not nearly enough points.

The Norwalk football team had every opportunity in Friday’s Division III state semifinal vs. Associated Press poll champion Kettering Alter.

But it was too big of a game for the Truckers to move the ball inside the 10-yard line four times and only come away with six points. Norwalk (10-4) turned it over on downs at the Alter 34, 25, 7 and 8-yard lines — then settled for two field goals in two other trips in a 34-13 loss at Wapakoneta’s Harmon Field.

The Truckers end the season with the most playoff wins in a single-season in program history, reaching the state semifinals for just the second time ever and first time in 44 years.

Trailing 14-6 with under a minute left in the third quarter, Norwalk was faced with a fourth-and-1 at the Alter 7. Running back Trevon Raymore was unable to corral the snap completely, and the Knights (13-1) fell on the loose ball at the 8.

The very next play, Alter quarterback Connor Bazelak went deep to Derek Willits, who slipped past the Norwalk secondary and was able to take it the distance for a 92-yard touchdown catch in a crushing turn of events.

The extra point gave the Knights a 21-6 lead with 31 seconds left in the third.

Bazelak added a 12-yard TD run after a Norwalk three-and-out with 8:31 left to extend the lead to 28-6. The Truckers quickly responded with a 79-yard drive, capped off by a Garrett Chapin 24-yard touchdown pass to Kaden Livingston.

That trimmed the deficit to 28-13 with 6:49 left in the game.

Norwalk forced a turnover on downs with 2:01 left, but a fumbled snap allowed the Knights to recover at the Norwalk 1. That allowed Peter Riazzi to cap the scoring with 1:47 left on the next play for a 34-13 margin.

“In a state semifinal game you can’t leave that many points off the board,” Norwalk coach Todd Fox said. “You can’t get in the red zone that many times and not score.

“Our kids competed and deserved to be here, and that they are of this caliber,” he added. “As a program, we will grow from that. Our seniors did tremendous things for us, and we’re proud of them. As much as this stings right now, we’ll celebrate what they did this year and then get back to work.”

The Knights scored on their first two possessions of the game, then not again until the long TD pass to end the third quarter.

Alter had an 8-play, 56-yard drive taking 3:40 off the first quarter clock to start things out. Lamar Landers scored from two yards out and Jack Ruffolo made the first of his four PATs for a 7-0 lead at the 6:42 mark of the opening quarter.

The first of numerous Norwalk turnover on downs in Alter territory was next. The Truckers moved the ball from their own 20 to the Alter 34 in 10 plays, but back-to-back incomplete passes ended the scoring threat.

Alter then drove 66 yards in 10 plays and 3:05 to go up 14-0. Landers scored again, this time on third-and-3 from the Norwalk with 10:37 left in the half.

Norwalk again drove deep into Alter territory, but Raymore was stopped just short of the marker on fourth-and-1 at the Knights’ 7. The Truckers got the ball back at the Alter 47 after a defensive stand — and got on the board with a 28-yard field goal from Garrison Smith with 3:49 left in the half.

A second straight three-and-out by the Norwalk defense gave the Truckers the ball at their own 39 and 2:45 left in the half. They again drove deep into Alter territory, but settled for a second 28-yard field goal by Smith on the final play of the half to make it a 14-6 deficit.

The Truckers were again driving on their first possession of the third quarter. But a 6-yard run by Raymore ended up in a skirmish. Alter was whistled for a 15-yard face mask, but Norwalk receiver Brandon Haraway was ejected on the play for shoving an Alter defender in the skirmish.

Norwalk got just three yards in the next four plays to again turn it over on downs at the Alter 25 with 8:29 left in the third.

“That changed the momentum, but we had guys step up all year and push forward,” Fox said. “I haven’t seen it (the play), but I’m disappointed. Not in the young man, but that something like that happened. We have to see it and move forward from there.”

Norwalk’s next drive resulted in the fourth-and-1 from the 7 that the Knights stopped, setting up the long TD pass.

In his final game, Raymore finished with 166 yards on 32 attempts for Norwalk. That unofficially gave him 2,518 yards and 26 TDs this season — the second-most in program history in both categories.

Chapin was 17-of-33 passing for 172 yards and a TD pass, putting him over 2,000 yards for the year. Ryan Sowders caught five passes for 76 yards, while Livingston added four for 39 yards and the score.

Ethan Phillips caught three passes for 25 yards and Raymore added a 24-yard catch.

Bazelak was 5-of-8 passing for 149 yards and a TD, while rushing seven times for 35 yards and a score. Landers added 52 yards on 11 attempts.

 

Norwalk 0 6 0 7 — 13

K. Alter 7 7 7 13 — 34

Scoring

ALT — Lamar Landers 2 run (Jack Ruffolo kick)

ALT — Landers 7 run (Ruffolo kick)

NOR — Garrison Smith 28 field goal

NOR — Smith 28 field goal

ALT — Derek Willits 92 pass from Connor Bazelak (Ruffolo kick)

ALT — Bazelak 12 run (Ruffolo kick)

NOR — Kaden Livingston 24 pass from Garrett Chapin (Smith kick)

ALT — Peter Riazzi 1 run (kick blocked)

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