Tornadoes trample Truckers, share league title

PHOTO BY KATHY ROOT/NORWALK REFLECTOR Columbian's LJ Reaves fights for yardage as Norwalk's Alec Maloney makes the tackle during Friday's game at Whitney Field in Norwalk.

By Mark Hazelwood

Special to The Advertiser-


NORWALK — Chase Frankhauser lost Nick Jackson briefly.

But when the Columbian quarterback found him again late in the first quarter, it set the tone for the Tornadoes in a must-win game at Norwalk.

With the ball at the Norwalk 42-yard line, Frankhauser rolled to his left, and was nearly sacked. But the QB shook off the defender, and was able to deliver a pass to Jackson in stride for a touchdown pass at the 3:30 mark of the first quarter.

From there, the Columbian defense did the rest. The Tornadoes never trailed in a solid 29-14 win over the Truckers at Whitney Field. The win forced a co-title atop the SBC Lake Division between the two programs.

The win also vaulted Columbian (9-1, 4-1) into the top four of Division III Region 10, as a home playoff game awaits next Friday — likely as the No. 3 seed against Parma Heights Holy Name at Frost-Kalnow Stadium.

“I knew Nick was going to be there,” said Frankhauser, who finished 11-of-23 passing for 186 yards and 2 TDs. He added 106 yards and a score on 15 rush attempts. “I lost him for a second when I stepped up in the pocket, but I threw it as far as I could basically, hoping he would be there, because we’ve practiced it so many times. It’s like clockwork right now.”

The first of three Xavier Coppus extra points after the opening TD put the Tornadoes up 7-0 at the 3:30 mark of the first quarter.

After a three-and-out by the defense, the Tornadoes went back to work on offense with a 5-play, 66-yard scoring drive. Frankhauser again found a wide open player, this time it was back to his left to Nick Koerper, who hauled the pass in for a 46-yard TD catch and a 14-0 lead with 11:10 left in the first half.

Columbian twice had the ball again in the second quarter inside Norwalk territory with a chance to blow it open early. The second was a turnover on downs at the Norwalk 29 with 2:05 left in the half.

The Truckers then found a spark, moving the 71 yards in eight plays. Chapin was 4-of-4 passing for 53 yards on the drive, as the last throw found a wide open Ethan Phillips in the end zone for a 19-yard TD pass with just 34 seconds left in the half.

Garrison Smith converted the PAT, and the Truckers trailed just 14-7 at the half.

Columbian punted to begin the third quarter, but pinned Norwalk deep at its own 10.

The Truckers worked to get near midfield, as Ryan Sowders caught a 12-yard pass on third-and-10 to give them the ball at their own 44. But on the very next play, Koerper stepped in front of a Chapin pass and easily returned it 46 yards for a back-breaking touchdown.

The PAT put Tiffin up 21-7 at the 7:08 mark of the third. After two more defensive stops, the Tornadoes put the game away as Frankhauser capped an 8-play, 84-yard drive with a 15-yard TD run with 10:18 left. Koerper ran in the conversion from the holder position to make it 29-7.

Chapin scored on 1-yard TD with just 1:03 left to cap a short drive and close out the scoring.

Columbian’s defense held Norwalk standout running back Evan Stumpf to 21 yards on 13 attempts. The Truckers finished with negative net yardage rushing as a team as quarterback Garrett Chapin was sacked six times.

Stumpf entered the game with 1,939 yards and 23 TDs rushing.

“A kid like that you don’t stop, you just try and contain and limit the explosive plays,” Columbian coach Judd Lutz said. “That was the goal. I kind of figured he’d get loose a couple times, with the hope we’d be able to stop him before the end zone.

“But our defense did a great job and executed at a high level — and took advantage of what we felt like were some good matchups,” he added. “Kudos to the coaches on a great defensive game plan.”

Lutz noted that while Friday was a must-win game for the league title share and a home playoff game, his team has played with that mentality all season.

“We respect everybody, and that is a great team,” Lutz said. “Norwalk is a great team. We had some things go our way early, but I thought our kids battled really well.”

Also for Columbian, Koerper caught four passes for 76 yards. Nick Jackson added 37 yards on 16 attempts and caught two passes for 36 yards. Chapin was 25-of-40 passing for 226 yards for the Truckers, with Ryan Sowders catching 10 passes for 107 yards.

“The elements on the grass was tough sledding for both teams,” Lutz said. “I thought both teams played outstanding defense. Hopefully we can make a great playoff run and who knows, maybe we will see them again. But for now, we’re going to celebrate this one tonight.:

The Tornadoes are 19-1 in the regular season with back-to-back Lake championship shares. It’s a huge jump from an 0-10 season in 2017.

“It’s just a lot of hard work … a lot of hard work,” Lutz said. “These kids love each other and play for each other, and it shows.”