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DeLuca comes home with established program

Mark Hazelwood • Aug 13, 2019 at 9:36 PM

NORWALK — The nostalgia side of it has worn off.

But that is only meant as a good thing for Olmsted Falls football coach Tom DeLuca.

Entering his seventh year coaching the Bulldogs, DeLuca, a 1999 Norwalk graduate and former standout athlete, always brings his team to his alma mater for a practice scrimmage.

That annual trip home happened late afternoon Tuesday, as the Bulldogs and Truckers got in some work against each other behind NHS.

DeLuca came back to the Maple City on Tuesday as a head coach with an established program. The Bulldogs are 28-10 over the past three seasons, qualifying for the Division II playoffs each year with two regional runners-up finishes.

So Tuesday’s trip was more about his team facing another quality program more than a trip down nostalgia lane.

“It’s more that I feel good about the scrimmage now, because it’s always been a good one for us,” DeLuca said. “Hopefully next year they can come to us if we can get some good facilities going — and we’re in the process of that.

“But I always enjoy coming back home,” he added. “It’s always nice to be back here.”

While coming off three very good seasons, DeLuca will have a fairly young team in 2019 — at least compared to the last couple of years.

“We’re a team that needs every ounce of practice we can get,” he said. “We had the boys raise their hands that didn’t have any experience at their particular position and there were 22 hands that went up.

“So when you’re going against the team the caliber of Norwalk and it’s the first go at it — you’ll see a lot of things you need to get better with,” he added.

Though a significantly bigger school compared to Norwalk, and though the Bulldogs play an exclusively Div. I-II schedule where Avon and Avon Lake await each season, DeLuca said Tuesday’s scrimmage is very good for his team.

“Norwalk has a really good team again that is doing some really nice things,” said DeLuca, an NHS Athletic Hall of Fame member. “But that’s why we scrimmage them. We want to put ourselves in position to play some high-caliber teams so we can keep improving and getting better. It was a good day for us in that fact.

“There is no doubt who controlled the scrimmage,” he added. “But I was excited to see where we were today. I was eager to get out here and see where we’re at with some things. We have some areas to take care of, and if we do that, we have the chance to be a good team.”

Playing a rugged schedule with inexperience, DeLuca says it’s too early to say what type of season the Bulldogs can have.

“Wins and losses, I have no idea where we’ll be,” he said. “That will be decided on Friday nights. But I know as far as the work ethic, attitude of the kids and the culture — that’s in place. We have to gain some experience, and we have to gain it quickly.”

Truckers establish base

As for the host Truckers, Tuesday offered a chance to simply see a different team as opposed to facing each other in practices on a daily basis.

Norwalk is coming off a 10-win season and the second-ever regional championship, which ended with a Div. III state semifinal loss to Kettering Alter.

“We wanted to be able to go against someone else and kind of gauge where we’re at and set a baseline where to get better from,” second-year head coach Todd Fox said. “I think we did accomplish some things we wanted to do, and we’ll be able to identify some things through film work some areas to get better.

“It’s a great experience, I think we feel good — but there were areas to improve,” he added. “Olmsted Falls was a good test … Tommy does a nice job and has things going over there.”

Norwalk brings back a wealth of experience — about 16-of-22 starters on offense and defense. However, replacing 2,500-yard running back Trevon Raymore is one of the key storylines, and Fox thought that area was the highlight on Tuesday.

“Our running backs stood our today,” he said. “We tried to get as many of them as we could the ball. (Evan) Stumpf came in early, then (Jake) Sommers after that … and (Alec) Maloney showed what he can do at 230 pounds. We felt really good about our running backs.

“That is a big question replacing Trevon Raymore, but we feel we have a stable of options that we’re excited about,” he added. “But obviously it starts up front. We didn’t prep for Olmsted Falls, we prep for ourselves and see where we want to get better.”

Another playoff regular awaits the Truckers on Saturday with a 10 a.m. scrimmage at Genoa.

“What we will do Saturday is adjust our brain and be able to adapt to the game setting quicker,” Fox said. “Not really in terms of conditioning, but just getting our heart rate going and adapting to that environment. We want to be faster on Saturday.

“We’ll focus on little things … we try to break it down and get better in every facet that we can,” he added.

After visiting Genoa on Saturday, the Truckers host Shelby on Aug. 23 at Whitney Field in the final tune-up for the regular season — which begins on Aug. 30 at Mansfield Senior.

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