Truckers can't look past host Pirates on Friday

Mark Hazelwood • Updated Oct 16, 2019 at 9:07 PM

NORWALK — Records don't mean anything.

There has been no better example of that old football adage then the recent meetings between the Norwalk and Perkins football teams.

And given the way the schedule plays out in the rugged Lake Division of the Sandusky Bay Conference, Norwalk coach Todd Fox certainly won't be fooled this Friday.

"The SBC Lake, you have to look at it as just another week," Fox said of the matchup at Firelands Regional Medical Center Stadium in Perkins. "Records don't mean anything. Week in and week out, everything changes."

In 2014, Norwalk was 10-0 and hosted a 7-3 Perkins team in the first round of the Division III playoffs. The Truckers won the game in a 42-34 shootout. In 2017, the Truckers were 2-5 visiting a winless Perkins team. The game was never close as the Pirates jumped out to a 20-0 lead in a 20-7 victory.

Just last season in Norwalk, Perkins arrived at Whitney Field at 2-4, facing a Truckers team that was off to a 6-1 start. But in the late stages of the first half, the Pirates trailed 17-13 and had the ball before Norwalk pulled away in a 38-13 victory.

This season, Perkins got off to a 3-1 start, but have fallen to traditionally-solid area programs Huron (5-2), Clyde (5-2) and Bellevue (5-2) in convincing fashion to enter Friday's game at 3-4 (0-2 Lake).

Norwalk enters the matchup at 6-1 overall and 2-0 in the Lake. The Truckers are alone in first place in the league, sit atop the Div. III Region 10 computer ratings and are ranked No. 11 in the latest Associated Press state poll.

"They've fallen two weeks in a row and we've been fortunate to win two games in a row in our league," Fox said. "But it can change for everybody. We just need to keep our eyes forward and keep working hard to get better."

The Pirates trailed just 14-10 at halftime of last week's game vs. the Redmen, but Bellevue outscored Perkins by a 21-0 margin in the second half of a 35-10 win.

Quarterback Chris Campbell is 61-of-134 passing for 764 yards with nine touchdowns, and has ran the ball 106 times for 467 yards and 4 TDs on the ground to pace the Pirates on offense.

Running back Tai Carter leads the team in rushing with 744 yards and 9 TDs on 120 attempts (6.2 average). Cameron Smith has 14 catches for 213 yards and a TD to lead Perkins in receiving, while Carter adds 13 catches for 164 yards and 2 TDs.

Fox said the Pirates aren't the run-dominant Wing-T of old. They average 312.6 yards and 27.9 points per game through seven weeks.

"They are more of a spread offense that tries to do some different things, but there is some remnants of their Wing-T still," he said. "Carter runs the ball really hard, but they do their best to try and spread it around."

Linebacker Jordan Jackson has 50 tackles with an interception and a fumble recovery. Carter adds 38 tackles, four sacks and an interception, while Kaiden Weyer has 37 tackles, two sacks and two fumble recoveries.

Perkins is allowing 327.6 yards and 32 points per game this season.

"Defensively they are an even front, an aggressive defense that does a lot of different things to keep your offense off balance," Fox said. "They've had some success on that side of the ball and they have good size up front we'll have to be able to compete with."

In last week's 37-20 home win over Sandusky, there was plenty for Fox and the coaching staff to like. From Evan Stumpf's impressive 364-yard, 3-TD performance, or kicker Garrison Smith's four extra points, three field goals of 31, 43 and a school record 53 yards to go with five touchbacks.

There was also the defense bottling up standout running back Terion Stewart to just 80 yards — including 40 yards on his final 20 carries, as well as linebacker Alec Maloney adding 121 yards and a TD rushing on offense.

"There was a lot to like that was just fantastic," Fox said. "The kids played well and did things the right way. They kept their focus for four quarters and we played more disciplined last week than we have all year. We're happy to say we played well and got better. Now we have a new goal to get even better this week. "But Evan took the challenge and had a phenomenal game, and even Alec, we haven't used him a lot running, but he had a big game and showed he's capable of big things," he added. "We're just excited to continue to improve and add to our arsenal."

Quarterback Garrett Chapin is 78-of-118 passing for 1,098 yards and 7 TDs, while Stumpf has 1,476 yards and 18 TDs on 161 attempts (9.2 average). Ryan Sowders leads the team in receiving with 30 catches for 525 yards and 4 TDs.

Maloney (84 tackles, 3 sacks, 3 INTs) and Josh Neuberger (60 tackles, 3 sacks, 2 INTs) anchor the defense, while Gabe Phillips and Jakob Stebel each have eight sacks. Smith is 35-of-35 on extra points, 7-of-7 on field goals and has 23 touchbacks.

But what Fox liked the most last week was the way his team played composed in a big game. The Truckers were flagged for just two penalties on offense, which included a holding penalty on the second-to-last play of the game when things were in control.

"The team has grown together to be a stronger knit and become more disciplined," he said. "They hold themselves accountable while doing things the right way. And it's not a Friday night thing, it's a 24/7 thing.

"They do the little things the right way, and we can't stop doing that," Fox added. "We have to continue to get better and whether it's at the school or at practice or a game."

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