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High school football: Norwalk eager for rematch with Tiffin Columbian
MORNING JOURNAL/JIM BOBEL Norwalk’s Breck Turner, left, tries to pull in a pass during a practice earlier this season. Covering on the play is teammate Keaton Wineman.
The year was 1974, and Norwalk won the Class AA state championship with wins over Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary and Louisville St. Thomas Aquinas.
Now, 39 years later, the Truckers are back.
After a 9-1 regular season, Norwalk’s postseason draught will end tonight when it travels to Tiffin Columbian in a Division III, Region 8 game. Opening kick is slated for 7:30 p.m.
“It’s exciting,” MacFarland said. “The kids are very excited to have an opportunity to be a part of Week 11. It’s been a goal of ours since we got here, and the kids are really excited about getting the chance to be in the playoffs and represent Norwalk.”
That includes running back Breck Turner, who leads the Northern Ohio League in rushing with 1,816 and 31 touchdowns.
“We’re so excited to be in the playoffs,” Turner said. “It’s been a while since Norwalk’s even been close to being in the playoffs. We’re just happy to be in this opportunity. We’re going for it. We’re in it to win and we’re just so happy that we’re in it.”
Norwalk’s game against Tiffin Columbian is a rematch of Week 4, when the Truckers were looking to end a 33-year skid at home against the Tornadoes. That losing streak at Whitney Field went to 34 years after Tiffin Columbian escaped with a 24-20 win.
“Our kids played outstanding for the first three quarters and we made some mistakes in the fourth quarter that hurt us,” MacFarland said of the first meeting against the Tornadoes. “I know the kids that were part of that are glad to have another chance to show how they’ve gotten better.”
It was the Tornadoes’ third straight win, which has since gone to nine. For the Truckers, it was their only loss of the season. MacFarland described the rematch as a “unique” situation.
“You don’t very often get that chance to play a team twice in a year,” MacFarland said. “It was a close game in Week 4, and both teams I think have really improved over the last six weeks. It’s going to be fun how the coaches and the kids respond after the first time.”
Since that loss, the Truckers have won six straight. It hasn’t been close either.
Norwalk has scored 40 points or more in each game during the streak, outscoring its opponents, 316-121. In fact, their loss to the Tornadoes marked the only time this season the Truckers failed to score at least 40 points in a game.
The Truckers have scored 51 points or more in each of their last five games, including back-to-back games of 62- and 64-point outbursts in Weeks 8 and 9. Quarterback Jordan Johnson leads the league in passing with 1,805 yards and 25 touchdowns.
Their defense has been solid, too, holding opponents to 20 points a game all season.
Linebacker Jared Cook leads Norwalk with 133 tackles, while defensive linemen Austin Scott, Tyson Pryor and Larry Case have a combined 161 tackles.
“Our defensive line has really improved,” MacFarland said. “It’s a group that early in the year we didn’t know much but, and now they do a great job of getting in there and really controlling the line of scrimmage.”
Turner has been pleased with the team’s offense and defensive efforts, especially during the winning streak.
“The six-game winning streak … we couldn’t ask for anything better,” Turner said. “Our offense, they click. Our defense, they can stop people. Our team is just clicking right now and we’re having very good success at what we do and hopefully that continues Friday.”
Speaking of clicking, Tiffin Columbian has been since Week 2.
After dropping the opener to Clyde, 13-7, the Tornadoes have won nine straight and have scored at least 27 points in each of those games. Ryan Lynch has been a big reason why. The running back is second in the NOL in rushing with 1,376 yards and 17 touchdowns,
Tiffin Columbian clinched the NOL title for the second consecutive year.
Playing in the postseason is nothing new for the Tornadoes.
Since 1987, the Tornadoes have advanced to the postseason 13 times. This is the fourth straight year they have advanced and 11th time since 2000. They are 10-13 all-time in postseason games.
For the Truckers, it has been 39 years too long.
“We really wanted to prove to people that we’re not the same Norwalk we used to be,” Turner said. “We can actually do big things here. We’re just all happy to be here.”
Last Updated: 11/7/2013 8:15:03 PM EST