But for someone who only saw limited practice time two days this week, it was hard to tell watching Norwalk senior running back Evan Stumpf on Friday.
On the first play of the game, Stumpf raced 88 yards for a touchdown in the state-ranked Truckers’ SBC Lake Division game at Perkins. His seventh rush attempt of the game was an 82-yard TD, and the tone was set early in a 45-6 win over the Pirates at Firelands Regional Medical Center Stadium.
With the win, Norwalk — ranked No. 11 in the latest Division III Associated Press poll — improved to 7-1 (3-0 Lake). The Truckers are alone in first place in the league and also unofficially sit atop the Region 10 computer ratings.
After rushing for 364 yards and 3 TDs in a 37-20 win vs. Sandusky last week, Stumpf added 274 yards and 3 TDs on 17 attempts in the win over the Pirates (3-5, 0-3).
The senior did not carry the ball in the fourth quarter of Friday’s win, giving him 638 yards and 6 TDs over his last seven quarters. Unofficially, he has 1,750 yards and 21 TDs on 178 attempts (9.3 yards per carry).
“Hats off to Evan and the offensive line, because he had a rough week health-wise and was under the weather,” Norwalk coach Todd Fox said. “He was able to practice a little bit on Wednesday and Thursday, but we didn’t know if he was going to be 100 percent. But obviously he delivered.”
After Stumpf put Norwalk up just 21 seconds into the game, the first of six Garrison Smith extra points made it a 7-0 lead.
On Norwalk’s third possession, the Truckers needed just three plays to cover 96 yards, as Stumpf took a pitch from Garrett Chapin, broke two tackles and got up the left sideline for an 82-yard score for a 14-0 lead with 3:15 left in the first quarter.
The score was set up by an Ethan Hernandez interception at the Norwalk 4-yard line — after the Truckers had turned it over on downs at the Perkins 23 on the previous possession.
The Truckers then fumbled the ball away at their own 37 on their ensuing drive, and the Pirates got a 35-yard pass play from Chris Campbell to Maurice Armstrong on the next play.
That set up Tai Carter up the middle for a 2-yard TD run with 11:08 left in the second quarter for the lone Perkins score of the game. The kick was blocked by Alec Maloney, leaving the score 14-6.
Hernandez blocked a punt on the next Norwalk possession, and Maloney returned it 20 yards to the Perkins 21. The very next play, Stumpf easily covered that distance for a 21-6 lead with 6:58 left in the half.
A quick three-and-out by the Norwalk defense gave it the ball back from its own 24. But four plays into the drive, Maloney was off to the races on a 58-yard TD run and a 28-6 lead the Truckers took into halftime.
“For us, it was pivotal to respond (to the turnover and score), flush it and move forward,” Fox said. “That is something we’re doing well right now, so we just have to eliminate those mistakes.”
On Norwalk’s first possession of the second half, Fox called for a fake punt on a fourth-and-3 from midfield. Maloney ran the fake for 27 yards. After a 16-yard run by Stumpf, It was Maloney scoring from five yards out for a 35-6 lead at the 7:03 mark of the third.
When Norwalk quickly got the ball back on its next possession, Maloney ran for 18 yards on third-and-2, then covered 15 yards for a third straight touchdown to make it 42-6 with 5:02 left in the third quarter.
The Truckers then closed out the scoring on their third possession of the half when Smith drilled a 42-yard field goal with 11:42 left. The junior is 8-of-8 on field goal attempts this season — with five of those coming from 42-to-53 yards.
Smith is also a perfect 41-of-41 on extra points and has 23 touchbacks on kickoffs through eight games. He has made 12 straight field goals and 60 straight PATs.
Norwalk is at Clyde (5-3, 1-2) next Friday with a chance to clinch at least a share of the Lake Division championship. The Truckers were in the exact same position last year, but ended the season with losses to the Fliers and Tiffin Columbian.
“We’re at championship week now,” Fox said. “That’s kind of how we’re approaching it. We challenged each guy to get better this week, and we found a lot of places we got better — but there are still places to get better.
“Our guys know how last year ended,” he added. “It’s not something that’s been hidden. They felt like they plateaued and dipped a little those last two weeks last year, and we’ll refocus next week and be excited to keep playing and get better.”
After Stumpf’s big night, Maloney added 122 yards and 3 TDs on just eight attempts. He ran eight times for 121 yards and a TD in the win over Sandusky the week prior.
Garrett Chapin was 4-of-6 passing for 37 yards, with Oliver Maloney catching three of those for 30 yards.
Perkins was led by Carter with 23 carries for 58 yards and the lone score. Campbell ran 13 times for 61 yards, but was thrown for -33 yards in sacks and tackles in the backfield.
“That’s the best team we’ve seen,” Perkins coach Jason Ziegler said. “They are very good and well-coached. From top to bottom Norwalk is a fantastic team. But we also have to execute. When we look back at this film, there will be times we execute and do a good job.
“But when we don’t, a team like that is going to score in one or two plays, and hit you in the mouth and knock you back five yards,” he added. “And that’s what happened. We have to do a better job with that, and we still have two more games and our goal is to get better each week.”
Norwalk 14 14 14 3 — 45
Perkins 0 6 0 0 — 6
NOR — Evan Stumpf 88 run (Garrison Smith kick)
NOR — Stumpf 82 run (Smith kick)
PER — Tai Carter 2 run (kick failed)
NOR — Stumpf 21 run (Smith kick)
NOR — Maloney 58 run (Smith kick)
NOR — Maloney 5 run (Smith kick)
NOR — Maloney 15 run (Smith kick)
NOR — Smith 42 field goal