Norwalk defense keeps Glenville out of end zone in win
By Mark Hazelwood
Reflector Sports Editor
NORWALK — Things were a bit different this week for the Norwalk football team.
On the defensive side of the ball, it was a lot different.
“We went back to the drawing board, changed up a few spots … and kind of changed our defense totally,” senior outside linebacker Ethan Hernandez said.
After giving up 69 points in the final two games of the regular season, the Truckers kept Cleveland Glenville out of the end zone for four quarters in Friday’s 22-2 win in a Division III first-round playoff game at Whitney Field.
With the win, the Truckers (9-2) advanced to a rematch with Sandusky (8-3) for a second straight year in the playoffs next Friday at a site to be determined.
Glenville entered the game averaging 32.7 points per game, but the Tarblooders (7-4) did not score other than a defensive safety with 9:16 left in the game.
That sequence came after the Tarblooders had connected on a 68-yard trick play pass from running back Jordan Young to Lamarco Clark to the Norwalk 7-yard line early in the fourth quarter.
But from first-and-goal at the 7 and trailing 16-0, Glenville went backward 2 yards. Then on fourth-and-goal from the 9, a trick pass from Young to standout quarterback William Anglen resulted in just 5 yards and a turnover on downs.
“This week was different for the seniors, playing with more heart and not wanting this to end,” Hernandez said. “Even though they got that big play, we were still determined to not let them score. To hold them there was big for us.”
Though quarterback Garrett Chapin was thrown for a 4-yard loss in the end zone on the very next play, it was the defense again coming through late for the Truckers.
Andrew Mozina ended the ensuing Glenville drive at the Norwalk 38 with a diving interception with 8:03 left. With 3:19 left, it was Daniel Traczek intercepting Anglen and returning it to the Glenville 47.
Jake Sommers ran 35 yards on the Truckers’ ensuing drive, and punched it in from a yard out on fourth-and-goal as time expired to seal the win.
Aside from the 68-yard pass, the Tarblooders had just 173 yards of total offense.
“Our defensive staff drew up a great game plan this week, and it was an outstanding effort by the kids,” Norwalk coach Todd Fox said. “We felt like we had let ourselves down the past two weeks, and I just can’t say enough about what they did tonight — because that’s a great team they kept out of the end zone.
“It was the slugfest like we expected, and I’m proud of our guys for how they responded and how they played for four quarters,” he added. “This was a great first step.”
Norwalk opened the scoring on its second drive of the game. After picking up two first downs, Chapin was pressured, but stepped up in the pocket and found Ryan Sowders in stride for a 35-yard TD pass at the 5:26 mark of the opening quarter.
Garrison Smith added the extra point for a 7-0 lead.
The two teams continued to trade possessions throughout the half, but with the Tarblooders punting from inside their own 10, the kick traveled just 6 yards to the Glenville 26.
But the Truckers couldn’t fully capitalize.
Unable to pick up a first down, Fox elected to have Smith kick a 41-yard field goal — which he drilled with ease for a 10-0 lead with 4:04 left in the first half.
The biggest sequence of the game then took place just two plays later.
Glenville’s Clark took a pass from Anglen, but was hit and fumble the ball. Norwalk’s Sam Battles was there for the recovery at the Glenville 15 with 3:09 left in the half.
It took six plays to cover the 15 yards, but finally, Alec Maloney bulled in from a yard out with just 16 seconds left in the first half. The extra point attempt never got off the ground, as holder Jesse Cole threw an incomplete conversion pass.
However, the Truckers went into halftime with a huge 16-0 lead that it maintained throughout the second half.
Norwalk had a field goal blocked and also fumbled at the Glenville 15 with 11:10 left. With the mishandled extra point, the Truckers had three chances to go up three scores — but never did until the final snap of the game.
“They came after us,” Fox said. “We’re so fortunate to have a great kicker, but we have to do better up front there to help him out and put games away for us.”
For Norwalk, running back Evan Stumpf carried 24 times for 87 yards and caught three passes for 26 yards. He became the third player in the programs’ 125-year history to surpass 2,000 yards rushing in a single season, joining Breck Turner (2,795, 2014) and Trevon Raymore (2,518, 2018).
Chapin was 9 of 17 passing for 89 yards and the TD pass. Oliver Maloney added three catches for 17 yards and Ethan Phillips had two for 11 for the Truckers, who were sporadic on offense against a stout Glenville defense.
“We knew with their defensive speed and athletes it would cause some havoc for us,” Fox said. “We put some different things in to do that, but bottom line is it’s the playoffs, it was a tough win and our guys answered the bell.”
Fox talked about facing Sandusky once again. Last season, the Truckers beat the Blue Streaks in the regular season (52-35) and in the Region 10 championship game (20-17) at Bellevue. This season, Norwalk won a 37-20 game on Oct. 11 at home.
“I told our guys it’s another week and another very familiar opponent,” he said. “They are a great team, and it says a lot about our Lake Division once again.”