After best performance, Norwalk eyes 4-1 start

Mark Hazelwood • Sep 25, 2019 at 6:00 PM

NORWALK — Everything worked.

In a season that began with huge expectations, the first three weeks were a bit inconsistent for the Norwalk football team.

But in last week's 38-6 win at Edison, it all came together.

The state-ranked Truckers (3-1) will look to seize that momentum and carry it into Friday's final non-league game of the season when they host Ontario (2-2) at 7 p.m. at Whitney Field.

“I think overall, that was our most complete game in all three phases," Norwalk coach Todd Fox said. "We felt like we got better in our run and pass game, and our defense and special teams has been consistently good — and that was no exception last week."

Junior quarterback Garrett Chapin was 9-of-11 passing for 222 yards, including a 70-yard touchdown pass to Ryan Sowders on Norwalk's second play from scrimmage. Evan Stumpf added to his impressive early season totals with 20 rush attempts for 233 yards and three more TDs on the ground.

On special teams, Garrison Smith pinned Edison at its own 20-yard line with five touchbacks, made all five extra points — kicked a school record 50-yard field goal and added a 51-yard punt.

“It was really awesome to see," Fox said. "Garrett and the receivers have been putting the work in, and we knew it was there and they were capable of that, but things had just not opened up to give them that opportunity.

"But it worked out perfectly on Friday," he added. "It was nice to go into halftime with the passing numbers we had, knowing we can have that threat … it’s hard to stop our run game when the passing is viewed as an equal threat."

The Truckers are hosting an Ontario team that is coming off a blowout 42-7 loss vs. Shelby last week. The Warriors opened with a 47-21 loss at Lexington, then handled Marengo Highland (28-7) and Black River (55-29) for their two wins.

“Overall they are a team building each week to get better with a very good quarterback in Ethan Snyder," Fox said of the Division IV Warriors. "A nice running back No. 12 gives them a good running threat, but they are a pass-first team. They are explosive and capable of big plays.

"They took a tough one last week, but the week before that scored 55 against Black River," he added. Defensively they have primarily been a 3-4 with Tytus Nameni standing out at linebacker."

Nameni had a 54-yard interception return in the fourth quarter for Ontario's lone TD last week. Snyder was 9-of-14 passing for 89 yards in the loss.

"They play a little more of man coverage on our receivers, so they will bring some stunts and come at us and challenge our offensive line," Fox said. "But I think our line is getting better each week, and I think this Friday will be no different. We have to get better and cannot rest on anything. It’s our last week before the SBC Lake schedule and we can’t dip down."

For the season, Chapin is 41-of-66 passing (62 percent) for 690 yards with 2 TDs and three interceptions. Sowders has 15 catches for 318 yards with both TDs, while Ethan Phillips (117 yards) and Kade Staley (109 yards) each have seven catches.

Stumpf is averaging 9.4 yards per carry, as he has 85 rush attempts for 801 yards and 10 TDs in four games. Smith is 18-of-18 on extra points, 2-of-2 on field goals and holds a 42.0 punting yardage average.

On defense, Alec Maloney leads the SBC Lake with 49 tackles to with two sacks and an interception returned for a TD. Fellow linebacker Josh Neuberger is third with 38, and Jakob Stebel adds 21 tackles and five sacks.

Norwalk enters Friday's game in sixth in the Div. III Region 10 computer ratings. The top eight teams will advance to the state playoffs on Nov. 8. The Truckers are also ranked 17th in this week's Associated Press state poll.

Norwalk and Ontario have played just four times — from 2013-16 as Northern Ohio League members. The Warriors joined the Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference in 2017, as did longtime Norwalk opponent and rival Shelby this season. 

The Warriors replaced the Whippets on the Norwalk schedule. The Truckers won by 20-plus points over Ontario in 2013, 2014 and 2016; and lost at Ontario by a point (20-19) in 2015.

Friday's game also serves as homecoming weekend for the program and school. Fox knows that alone makes it a big week for any team.

“Our program focuses a lot on making our community and school proud, and homecoming is a special week for everyone," he said. "Most coaches don’t like all the extra activities, including myself. But when it falls into our blueprint of developing school and community pride, we use that to play even better and do our best to give them a product to be proud of."

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