Norwalk head coach Todd Fox knows on the outside what it looks like. Shelby entered its Sept. 14 game at Bellevue in a 3-0 vs. 0-3 matchup — but went back home with a 45-28 loss to the Redmen.
“If you know the history of football around here, a loss to a Bellevue team that had played a tough schedule doesn’t throw up a red flag,” Fox said. “It’s not like that’s not good — because we know the teams Coach (Ed) Nasonti has at Bellevue every year.
“Shelby is a very good team, regardless of a loss last week,” he added. “There are still a handful of guys who played on a 13-1 team that made the state semifinals a year ago. They had four extra weeks of practice and have an understanding that a lot of kids don’t get.”
One aspect in Friday’s game against the Whippets — the last scheduled meeting after 92 straight years — that Fox will have his eye on the most is the Shelby offense.
Shelby runs the spread offense with quarterback McGwire Albert, who is doing a solid job replacing Brennan Armstrong (University of Virginia).
“It’s the first time this year we’ve seen that offense,” Fox said. “For us, we have some pretty aggressive secondary players. We have to be more patient and follow through our reads and keys, and do our job first before coming up to make a tackle in their run game.”
Albert is 55-of-90 passing for 880 yards with 11 touchdowns and five interceptions through four games. He has also ran 34 times for 155 yards and seven TDs on the ground.
But one name familiar from last year’s historic Shelby team is receiver/linebacker Uriah Schwemley.
Through the first month, Schwemley has caught 16 passes for 280 yards — but nearly half of those have gone for touchdowns (7). On defense, he’s made 45 tackles with an interception.
“McGwire has great passing abilities, and their game plan is to let him air it out,” Fox said. “And he’s there with other tools, but the main weapon is Schwemley.”
Also of note for the Shelby offense, Owen Fisher has ran 60 times for 435 yards and five TDs, and Grant Gossom adds 12 catches for 241 yards.
Defensively, the Whippets are a blend of a 4-3 front or a 4-2-5 — depending on where they position their outside linebackers.
“But it’s a fundamentally sound defense led by Schwemley again,” Fox said. “He is their middle field commander, and it’s a great matchup and challenge for our offense.”
Brinson Deluder adds 24 tackles and Austin Gray has 23 for the Whippets. Gossom has 10 tackles, but has broken up five passes and intercepted two. Shelby’s pass rush has just five sacks in four weeks so far.
Norwalk is coming off a 35-0 win over previously unbeaten Edison, where just about everything went right.
Garrett Chapin was 18-of-23 passing for 229 yards with two TD passes, both to Kaden Livingston. Trevon Raymore added 157 yards and three scores on the ground and Brandon Haraway caught five passes for 76 yards as the Norwalk defense kept Edison under 100 yards of offense.
“That’s two weeks in a row where Garrett has not looked like a sophomore,” Fox said. “I like how we played. There is nothing you can take away from the kids, they did it for 48 minutes. We just have to continue to be more consistent.”
It’s also been homecoming week for Norwalk, with a number of festivities taking place leading up to Friday’s 7 p.m. kickoff with the Whippets.
“We want to focus on us and improvement,” Fox said. “The kids are excited, because they see the improvement and what their work is doing. But even as far back as last week, we expressed to them the thought on outside distractions.
“There is a lot going on, and that’s great for them and the school, definitely,” he added. “But in the 100 minutes we’re on the practice field, we’re 100 percent focused. It can be a tough week for high school kids. But we need to be ready to go. It’s at home again, so let’s focus on getting better.”