The Pirates had just took the lead five minutes into the third quarter, and had forced host Norwalk into a third-and-19 situation at its own 33-yard line in Friday’s Division III Region 8 quarterfinal at Whitney Field.
But just when it looked like the unbeaten Truckers were in trouble, the most decorated running back in area history delivered the highlight of his star-studded career.
Breck Turner took a pitch from Marcus McClain, and began to cut to his right, but appeared out of running room.
Then, the Div. I recruit hurdled a Perkins defender, stayed on his feet, and followed three blocks and turned it into a stunning 67-yard touchdown run to give the Truckers the lead for good in a 42-34 win.
It marks the first playoff win for Norwalk (11-0) since winning the 1974 Class AA state championship. The Truckers — No. 5 in the final Associated Press poll — will face Clyde (9-2) at a site to be determined at 7:30 p.m. Friday in a second round game.
“That was a huge play … we had them third and forever, and Breck made a great play, it’s what he does,” Perkins coach Jason Ziegler said. “The line had some good blocking for him down there, but we just didn’t make a play. Breck isn’t one of the best running backs in the state of Ohio for no reason.
“He’s just a great player, and the QB (McClain) played well for them tonight, give him credit too,” he added.
Turner — who unofficially has 2,682 yards and 31 touchdowns in 11 games — said the goal was to just get to the outside, and hope for the best.
“We weren’t really sure what we were going to run, but we wanted to get to the outside a little bit,” he said. “We put three big guys out there and had an advantage, we just needed to get to the edge. There was three guys, Jared Cook, Nick Horner and Trevor Wright. Huge block, and I just sealed the deal after that.”
After the touchdown, McClain ran in a conversion attempt for a 35-28 lead with 6:19 left in the third quarter. The defense then forced Perkins off the field quickly. This time, it was McClain’s legs and Turner’s blocking that took over.
McClain rattled off three straight runs of 10, 12 and 28 yards — the last a touchdown run with a key block from Turner that allowed the junior quarterback to get to the outside. Sampson Slack’s fifth PAT extended the Norwalk lead to 42-28 with one minute left in the third quarter.
However, as they did much of the night, the Pirates had an answer. Getting the ball at midfield, the Pirates moved 51 yards in just six plays, with Tyrique Sharpe scoring on a 15-yard run with 11:05 left in the game. But the extra point was short, leaving the Pirates behind, 42-34.
A wild finish then ensued, as Perkins got a key defensive stop, and put together an 11-play drive that started at its 46. However, with 4:23 left, the Pirates faced a fourth-and-goal at the Norwalk 8. Quarterback Matt Schweinfurth was immediately under siege, and though he managed to get the pass off, it was well incomplete, giving the ball to Norwalk with 4:14 left.
But once again, the Truckers couldn’t put the game away, and were forced to punt it back to the Pirates with 2:13 left. This time, Perkins got great field position at the Norwalk 40. But forced to throw with time against them, the Pirates saw their hopes dashed when Seth Staley came up with a diving interception three plays into the drive to give the Truckers the ball back with 1:28 left.
Norwalk was forced to run a play on fourth down and just eight seconds remaining, and Slack, also the team’s punter, sealed the game in grand fashion with a 58-yard run up the middle as time expired.
The first half was just as wild, with Norwalk jumping out to a 27-21 lead.
Perkins opened the scoring with an 8-play, 76-yard scoring drive capped off by Sharpe’s 4-yard scoring run with 7:21 left in the first quarter. The first of four PATs from Garrett Baumgardner made it 7-0.
Norwalk answered with a lengthy drive of its own. With Turner bottled up, McClain was able to find Alex Harness in the left corner of the end zone on a diving 22-yard TD catch on a third-and-9. Slack’s PAT tied it at 7-7.
But the Pirates also scored on a third-and-19, as Schweinfurth found a seam and turned it into a 64-yard scoring run with 11:47 left in the half to make it 14-7.
McClain got the Truckers right back into it, however, ripping off a 41-yard run on the first play of the ensuing drive. Three plays later, he found Seth Staley wide open on a crossing pattern for a 19-yard TD pass to tie things up with 10:28 left in the half.
But again, Perkins took just three plays to go back ahead, as Sharpe got loose on a 43-yard TD run with 9:20 left in the half. The Truckers then put together one of their best drives of the season, going 80 yards in 15 plays, using up 6:10 of the second quarter in the process.
Turner capped the lengthy drive with a 17-yard run right through the heart of the Perkins defense, breaking four tacklers on the way to tying the game at 21 with 3:10 left in the half.
After a rare defensive stop by either team in the first half, Norwalk got the ball back at the 41. The Truckers moved 59 yards in just three plays, with McClain again finding Staley wide open in the back of the end zone on a 30-yard scoring pass.
The kick was partially blocked and no good with 1:47 left in the half, but Norwalk was ahead 27-21 and took that lead into halftime.
“Our defense really got tested tonight, but you know, that’s what high school football playoff games are supposed to be like," Norwalk coach Chris MacFarland said. "The touchdown by Breck might have been the best run of his career, especially for the timing of it. He showed patience … he knows he is the target, that’s why Marcus is getting some real good looks. It’s a great offensive scheme right now for us, we just have to keep shoring things up and we know No. 33 is going to get the ball.”
Sharpe finished with 153 yards and 4 TDs for the Pirates, while Schweinfurth added 138 yards.
For Norwalk, Turner finished with 171 yards and 2 TDs on 27 attempts, while McClain ran for 100 yards on 14 attempts and threw for 119 yards and 3 TDs on 8-of-12 passing.