Norwalk football fans have been spoiled the last decade with some great football under coaches Chris MacFarland and now Todd Fox. Big numbers and big results. From the Junior Truckers practicing behind Maplehurst Elementary like the big boys used to do under Bob Hart to big crowds at Whitney Field, everything is great right now.
But it always wasn’t that way. That’s why I am so interested in where Hazelwood takes us this fall.
The first flashback was from 1988 — the last time the Truckers beat the Huron Tigers. There had been 22 straight Huron wins over Norwalk until the series was halted in 2010. It picked up Friday night and Norwalk finally got the Tiger off its tail with a dominating 42-20 victory.
I remember that win in 1988 very well. I was covering the Truckers back then and that was when wins were few and far between. I covered the Truckers for 20 years and never saw a winning season. The highlight was a 5-5 record in 1998 under coach Ron “Duke” DeLuca when the team missed a field goal by inches (against Huron), an onsides kick recovered by Bellevue and a missed opportunity against Tiffin Columbian from an 8-2 record.
The Truckers now are like the Cleveland Indians of the mid-1990s — dominant. But all of us who followed the Indians all our lives remember the old days at Municipal Stadium when 4,000 fans would “fill” the 80,000-seat ballpark. It was a terrible place to watch a baseball game and an even worse place to watch a football game. But it was “our” crappy stadium and we loved it.
I grew up in the Detroit area, but I would come to visit my grandparents every summer in Cleveland. My grandpa would take me to the old stadium to watch the Tribe. What a thrill. We would pay 50 cents or a buck to sit out in the bleachers and have a ball. The memories are great — but the teams were lousy.
I saw a lot of bad football from 1979 to 1999, but those days are long gone. The Truckers aren’t the whipping boys of the Northern Ohio League and the Hurons of the world anymore.
It was rough to be a football fan back then in Norwalk as the teams from both sides of Main Street struggled.
I remember one Friday night sitting in the office when Norwalk and St. Paul both won and I could hear the church bells ringing down the street.
My how times have changed. Between John Livengood at St. Paul and his longtime rival and friend Todd Fox at Norwalk, this is a football town.
I will be looking forward to the rest of Hazelwood’s series as he documents the team throughout the years.
Joe Centers is Reflector managing editor. He can be reached at [email protected]