Rocky River quarterback Michael Finnegan was 21-of-33 passing for 275 yards in Friday’s Division III Region 10 semifinal game vs. Norwalk at Ranger Stadium in North Ridgeville.
But the Pirates found the end zone just one time in the 56-7 loss — an 82-yard pass play that was a blown coverage late in the first quarter.
Finnegan was also under siege the entire night. The Truckers (9-3) finished the game with seven sacks and dozens of hurries, forcing Finnegan on the run for nearly the entire game.
“We were able to send just three linemen and had seven sacks,” Norwalk coach Todd Fox said. “Coach (Pat) Herron dialed up some safety and linebacker blitzes that worked out for us — but those three up front brought pressure all night long, and we’re proud of them for that.”
It took a bit for the Norwalk defense — which at one point this season allowed no points in three-plus weeks over 14-plus quarters — to get Finnegan under pressure.
But once they did, it was a rough night for the standout quarterback.
He was sacked four times in the second quarter, which helped negate the Pirates from tying the game. Rocky River had the ball first down at the Norwalk 32 at one point in the second quarter, but got just six yards closer.
When the game was blown open in the third quarter, Finnegan was sacked two more times — and briefly knocked out of the game after a hard hit.
The Pirates finished with just 73 yards of total offense in the second half.
As things got out of hand, the Truckers also produced a pair of turnovers in the fourth quarter. That included an interception by Brandon Haraway — the 24th interception for Norwalk in just 12 games.
In the second half, the Pirates (7-5) never advanced past their own 45-yard line on six possessions.
All told, Rocky River was forced to punt nine times and had three turnovers.
“That’s what we focused on all week, it was pounded into us verbally all week, pass rush over and over,” said defensive end Tche Leroux, who hounded Finnegan the entire night and had three of the sacks. “We really worked hard every single day in practice on it, and it worked out for us tonight.”
Leroux talked about the Truckers playing in Week 13 for the first time ever.
After a 7-1 start, Norwalk stumbled twice against Clyde and Columbian to end the regular season. But two playoff wins over Bowling Green and the Pirates have produced a 98-21 margin.
Win or lose against Sandusky (8-4) next week, Norwalk will receive its second ever OHSAA postseason trophy in football — along with the 1974 state championship.
“I knew it as going to happen, the way we’ve come together from day 1,” Leroux said. “It’s awesome. We just have to work hard, show up to practice, keep grinding ad keep going.”