Another SBC Lake showdown up next for Truckers

Mark Hazelwood • Updated Oct 9, 2019 at 5:27 PM

NORWALK — It’s been circled on the calendar since the schedule was posted.

For both teams.

But the wait is finally over at 7 p.m. Friday at Whitney Field when Sandusky (5-1, 1-0) visits Norwalk (5-1, 1-0) in a huge SBC Lake Division and Div. III Region 10 matchup.

The Truckers — ranked No. 12 in the latest Associated Press state poll — enter the game as the No. 2 team in the region, while the Blue Streaks are right behind in third. The only loss for both teams is a pair of competitive losses at Mansfield Senior. Norwalk lost, 21-10, at Mansfield on Aug. 30 and Sandusky fell, 21-14, on Sept. 27.

And if all that isn’t enough: It’s the first matchup since last season’s two memorable meetings. Norwalk won, 52-35, on Oct. 5, 2018 at Sandusky in a game where running back Trevon Raymore had a top 50 rushing performance (406 yards, 6 TDs) in the history of Ohio high school football.

The Truckers and Blue Streaks then met six weeks later in the Region 10 championship game — where Norwalk won a hard-hitting classic, 20-17, to reach the state semifinals.

“It's an exciting time as we go into the second week of this SBC Lake grinder — and it's exciting to take them on at Whitney Field,” Norwalk coach Todd Fox said. “It will be a great game, and for whoever comes out on top at the end, we all saw last year it may not matter. Hopefully we do get to meet down the road again.”

The Blue Streaks are coming off a 33-26 win over previously unbeaten Tiffin Columbian. They held off several late charges from the Tornadoes, and got 185 yards and three touchdowns from standout running back Terion Stewart.

Stewart, a Bowling Green State University commit, enters Friday with 871 yards and 13 TDs on 86 attempts. He missed the season opener because of an ankle sprain suffered in a scrimmage. With his big-play abilities, Fox knows Stewart will get his yards — but they need to be in smaller stretches.

"Our defense is preaching this week to eliminate as many big plays as we can,” Fox said. “That's a hard task with Sandusky, so we're going to try to eliminate the bigger, multiple big plays. I like our defense as our strength against their strength, which is their run game.”

Meanwhile, the Blue Streaks are on their third quarterback through the first six weeks of the season because of injuries to starter Shonsai Aaron and backup JJ Henry.

Filling in now is Michael Franklin, who is 16-of-24 passing for 170 yards with a touchdown and an interception. His top targets include Noah Caston (19 catches, 259 yards, 2 TDs) and JT Lewis (12 catches, 146 yards, 2 TDs).

“I think their offensive and defensive line is a little undersold,” Fox said of the Streaks interior unit. “They are very talented there. That's why they can still be successful, even with some of their injuries. And the QB they have in there is a dynamic passing threat. Coach (Mike) Franklin does a nice job getting those guys ready. It's going to have to be a solid game by us.”

Defensively, the Blue Streaks are allowing 21.7 points per game. They have forced 10 turnovers, and are allowing 99.6 yards and one TD per game on the ground, and 207.5 yards and 2 TDs per game through the air.

Linebacker Vinny D’Amico leads Sandusky with 49 tackles, while another LB, Rashon Redding, adds 34 tackles. Lineman Daizeon Wright adds 27 tackles and three sacks, while Caston has 27 tackles and three interceptions.

“The No. 1 thing about their defense is how fast they are,” Fox said. “They have speed everywhere on defense and are pretty fundamentally sound. They have a basic defense just like us, and it's similar to last week's matchup (at Bellevue) where they just let their kids play.

“It's something we saw as a big adjustment between the first and second games last year against them, and something we're continuing to see on their game films this year,” he added. “They are playing a real simplified defense just using their athletes, and we have to be able to take advantage of any area we can find.”

Meanwhile, the Truckers come into the game putting up impressive numbers over a five-game win streak.

Quarterback Garrett Chapin, running back Evan Stumpf and receiver Ryan Sowders lead the SBC Lake in passing, rushing and receiving yards — while Stumpf tops all in scoring (17 TDs/102 points).

Chapin is 70-of-103 passing (68 percent) for 1,051 yards with 7 TDs and three interceptions. Since the Week 1 loss at Mansfield, the junior signal caller is 58-of-82 passing (71 percent) for 890 yards, all 7 TDs and just one INT.

Stumpf is averaging nine yards per carry, as he’s ran the ball 123 times for 1,112 yards and 15 TDs. He’s also caught seven passes for 85 yards and 2 TDs.

In receiving, Sowders has 27 catches for 500 yards and 4 TDs, followed by Ethan Phillips (15 catches, 210 yards, TD) and Kade Staley (11 catches, 124 yards).

The Truckers are averaging 404.6 yards and 38.2 points per game on offense.

Defensively, the Truckers are allowing 13.8 points per game. They have 14 takeaways, and allow 99.6 yards and 1 TD per game rushing and 129.3 points and a TD per game through the air.

Senior linebackers Alec Maloney (69) and Josh Neuberger (55) lead the Lake in tackles. Maloney adds three sacks and three interceptions, while Neuberger has two interceptions and a sack.

Up front, Jakob Stebel and Gabe Phillips both have 29 tackles and 8 sacks, while Stebel has two fumble recoveries. Sowders adds 29 tackles and 3 INTs.

Garrison Smith leads the Lake in punting average (42.1) and is a perfect 31-of-31 on extra points and 4-of-4 on field goals.

Last week, Fox saw his team’s mental toughness tested right away at Bellevue.

The Redmen capitalized on two short fields and raced out to a 14-0 lead in the first eight minutes. However, the Truckers responded by outscoring Bellevue by a 45-7 margin over the next 28-plus minutes in the 45-21 win.

“Each week as a team we identify a certain area or an objective where we want to improve,” Fox said. “But overall, the mental process has improved greatly — just from the end of camp to now. That was really on display last week. We dropped behind 14 right away, and just how they were able to keep their composure.

“That's not something we saw in Week 1 that we saw in Week 6,” he added. “It's a total difference. They didn't blink an eye and kept going. The mental side of this team has gotten much stronger."

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