“It was easy to move on from the last two weeks,” Norwalk senior receiver Brandon Haraway said. “It’s flushed, just keep moving forward.”
The Norwalk football team had lost back-to-back games to end the regular season, which cost it the SBC Lake Division championship. But Friday brought a new slate, as the Truckers entertained Bowling Green in a Division III Region 10 quarterfinal at muddy Whitney Field.
Norwalk got a big fourth-down stop and scored on its second play — and quarterback Garrett Chapin and Haraway dominated the first half of a 42-14 victory over the Bobcats.
With the win, Norwalk (8-3) will advance to face Rocky River (7-4) at 7 p.m. next Friday at a site to be determined on Sunday. The win over the Bobcats (6-5) was the fourth playoff victory in school history.
“We get this win, now move on to the next game,” Haraway said. “It’s one game at a time from here.
“It feels great, because all my brothers besides me, we’re carrying and helping each other,” he added. “It’s a great feeling to have a group of guys around me who care about something as much as you.”
Faced with a fourth-and-2 from its own 28-yard line on the fourth play from scrimmage, the Bobcats elected to go for it rather than punt. The Trucker defense stood tall, allowing just a yard for a huge turnover on downs.
On Norwalk’s second play, Chapin found Ryan Sowders across the middle for an easy 27-yard touchdown pass. The first of six Garrison Smith extra points had the Truckers off and rolling at 7-0 at the 9:41 mark of the first quarter.
Norwalk coach Todd Fox had typically had his captains receive the ball if they won the opening coin toss this season.
“We decided to defer for the first time because we wanted to pin them deep and try and get the ball on that side of the field,” Fox said. “That was big. We’ve known all year with this team, it’s critical for our kids to have that early lead.
“I can’t say enough about Garrett and this offense tonight,” he added. “They were just clicking tonight. But that early score kind of set us up to be on fire.”
The Bobcats had a chance to get right back in it. They drove 61 yards on 4 plays, using the triple option offense to advance to the Norwalk 9. But quarterback Bryce Hoehner was stripped by Tche and Trey Leroux, and the Truckers recovered.
Forced to punt on that next possession, Norwalk then caught a break when the Nathan Adelman punt deflected off the helmet of a BG player. Ethan Hernandez was there to pick it up for the Truckers at the BG 12.
Three Trevon Raymore carries — the last from 2 yards — resulted in a touchdown and a 14-0 lead with just five seconds left in the first quarter.
On Norwalk’s next possession, Chapin and Haraway broke the game open. At the BG 48, Chapin dropped back in the muddy, sloppy conditions to throw a deep strike that Haraway caught in stride over his shoulder.
He then shook off the BG defender and glided into the end zone for the 48-yard TD catch and a 21-0 lead with 10:01 left in the second quarter.
Norwalk’s next possession saw Chapin and Haraway connect three times for 36 yards, which helped set up a 1-yard TD by Raymore for a 28-0 lead with 2:42 left in the first half.
Chapin finished 14-of-19 passing for 176 yards with 2 TDs, while Haraway caught six passes for 99 yards in the less than ideal conditions.
“We’re used to it a little bit,” Haraway said of the lack of grass. “The practice field is almost the same as this game field. You just have to get used to the rain, because you can’t do anything about it — so just play your best.
“Every step feels like you’re on the ice in a hockey game,” he added. “All the mud, you can’t get a good grip on anything. So just work with it and do what you can.”
Bowling Green got on the board with a short TD run by Hoehner with just 35 seconds left in the half to trail 28-7. However, Norwalk put the game away with two short scoring drives of 45 and 49 yards in the second half.
Alec Maloney scored from 3 yards out with 2:17 left in the third, and Tche Leroux scored with 9:09 left on a 5-yard run to make it 42-7.
Raymore carried the ball 19 times for 116 yards and the two scores ‚ unofficially pushing him over 2,000 yards for the season. Maloney added seven rushes for 45 yards and Sowders had three catches for 49 yards.
“One thing with Trevon banged up last two weeks, we knew we had to start depending on the passing game more,” Fox said. “And Garrett has really come out of his shell, and some of our receivers, they call themselves the fly squad, they’ve decided to pick it up, too.
“Not that they weren’t playing well before, but blocking and catching the ball … they’ve made me come out of my shell more as well and we’re throwing the ball a little more,” he added. “We went from a straight I-formation to the spread tonight — so that gives us something we can make tough on defenses.
As for facing the unfamiliar Pirates next week, Fox said the Truckers would have loved a rematch with Clyde — but it’s on to the next, regardless.
“We’re excited to advance, and to be honest, we would have loved to have the rematch,” he said. “But at the same time don’t mind playing a different team, too.
“It’s a little bit different to see someone else, and now we represent the SBC a little bit on our own here,” he added.
B. Green 0 7 0 7 — 14
Norwalk 14 14 7 7 — 42
NOR — Ryan Sowders 27 pass from Garrett Chapin (Garrison Smith kick)
NOR — Raymore 2 run (Smith kick)
NOR — Brandon Haraway 48 pass from Chapin (Smith kick)
NOR — Raymore 1 run (Smith kick)
BG — Bryce Hoehner 1 run (Ethan Warner kick)
NOR — Alec Maloney 3 run (Smith kick)
NOR — Tche Leroux 5 run (Smith kick)
BG — Kyle Jackson 25 pass from Hoehner (Warner kick)