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Norwalk focuses in on penalties — and the Redskins

Mark Hazelwood • Sep 11, 2019 at 9:00 AM

NORWALK — Todd Fox has his investigative skills working this week.

And plenty of officiating experience on his staff in an attempt to crack the case.

The Truckers (1-1) have committed 25 penalties — not including a handful that have been declined — in just two games against Mansfield Senior and Huron. Norwalk had 13 penalties for 144 yards in a 21-10 loss at Mansfield on Aug. 30; then committed 12 more for 115 yards in last Friday’s 42-20 win over the Tigers.

Perhaps more telling is the majority of the 269 yards worth of self-inflicted damage has come in the form of holding calls against the Norwalk offense.

So in preparation for Friday’s 7 p.m. non-league home game against visiting Port Clinton (0-2) at Whitney Field, Fox is having his team officiated during practice by assistant coach Steve Gfell, who has officiated NCAA college football games at the Division I level.

“That’s our continued focus this week,” Fox said. “Again, I’m OK with aggressive penalties … as in, you don’t want a bunch of holding penalties where we’re being lazy and just grabbing defenders as a result. But it’s to the point of being excessive right now with our holding calls. We need to work on that and we’ve approached that a little bit differently this week.

“Coach Gfell and his officiating experience, we’re officiating our line during practice as much as we can just to see what’s happening there,” he added. “Obviously our hands are inside and it’s something we have to look at. The bottom line is it’s just something we have to shore up. I don’t know if it’s a lack of discipline as much as it’s a lack of fine-tuning their technique and making sure they are keeping their hands inside the box ... and don’t hold on.”

Penalties aside, there were plenty of positive strides made from Week 1 to last week for Norwalk.

For starters, junior quarterback Garrett Chapin (13-of-24, 147 yards) was able to spread the ball around to four different receivers while having plenty of time to throw. He was not sacked for a loss under a passing situation.

That group included Ryan Sowders (five catches, 61 yards), Kade Staley (four catches, 40 yards), Ethan Phillips (three catches, 37 yards) and Evan Stumpf (one catch, nine yards).

Meanwhile, the Truckers ran 47 times for 323 yards (6.8 yards per attempt) and five touchdowns. That was spearheaded by the trio of Stump (206 yards, 4 TDs), Jake Sommers (59 yards, TD) and Alec Maloney (36 yards).

“We made some adjustments to our pass protection and how we’re doing it,” Fox said. “It was more of a schematic problem, which was on us as coaches. But we think we’ve fixed that. But overall, the guys along the offensive line made it more of a focus point to be better up front.

“Of course our coaches wanted that, too. But they really took it upon themselves and got the job done.”

Defensively, Norwalk allowed two second quarter touchdowns — but outscored the Tigers 28-0 until the backups scored with 22 seconds left in the game to pull away.

The first unit allowed just 24 yards rushing to the Tigers, though Huron quarterback Joey Brown was 17-of-29 for 191 yards with a TD and an interception — which was returned 37 yards for a score by Maloney in the fourth quarter.

“Our defense made a big jump in the pass rush, and we want to continue that this week,” Fox said. “And our secondary wants to shore it up a little bit ... we need to get a little bit tighter there. We feel like we gave up too much passing yardage last week and need that to get better.”

The Redskins come to town coming off a rough 35-0 loss vs. Bellevue on Aug. 30, then a close 27-20 loss to Rossford.

The Redskins trailed 27-9 with 5:50 left in the game, but got a 23-yard TD pass from Colton Klima to Connor Gillum and a 28-yard field goal from Hunter Mominee to pull within a possession, but just 25 seconds remained.

Klima also threw a 77-yard TD pass to Jonah Sidney and finished the game 22-of-42 passing for 286 yards.

Klima is 39-of-73 passing for 472 yards with a pair of TDs and interceptions over the two games. Gillum has 10 catches for 96 yards and Sidney has seven catches for 140 yards.

Running back Cooper Stine has 31 yards on 19 rushes and has caught six passes for 92 yards. At linebacker, Stine adds 13 tackles to lead the team.

“I don’t think their record stands for who they are,” Fox said of the Redskins. “Coach (Beau) Carmon does a nice job with them, and Klima and Stine as combination s very good — and they have some good pieces around them.

“I’m sure he’s scratching his head, but it’s one of those things where it just wasn’t their two nights — and we don’t want Week 3 to be their night to put it all together,” he added. “Because they have that ability with their skilled positions to do some damage to our defense. They are a lot of an image of us on offense. They like to be more in the shotgun and try to be more pass-focused than they have in the past. They are trying to be a bit more balanced to use all their weapons.”

As for other areas of improvement, Fox said the coaching staff has their eyes on the return game in special teams with regards to field position. And with an improved pass protection, Fox wants his team to put Chapin in a better position to be more successful.

“We feel like we got a lot better in the special teams, and we want to continue to improve on our return game, things like that,” he said. “We also want to go back to our short passing game a little more. There are times where we feel like we’ve forced Garrett to throw down the field a little too much.

“We just want to get better in all of those facets and continue to expand using all of our weapons on offense,” he added.

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