With 22 seconds left in Friday’s live scrimmage vs. Shelby, the Norwalk offense decided to take one last shot at the end zone.
After a two-yard run and a timeout, junior quarterback Garrett Chapin found Ethan Phillips for a 40-yard gain. With time running down, the offense then ran to the line of scrimmage — where Chapin scrambled and again found Phillips for a 23-yard touchdown pass with one second left.
The Truckers outscored the Whippets by a 28-14 score in the live half at Whitney Field. They scored two other TDs that were longer than 50 yards.
“It wasn’t even by design,” Norwalk coach Todd Fox said. “But once we hit that first one, it was an effort to try and do it again one last play. But that’s Garrett taking control of the field.
“I can’t say enough about that young man’s development this year,” he added. “What he brings to the table along with the others … we feel blessed at our skilled positions and offensive line.”
Last season’s Norwalk win over Shelby marked the the 92nd consecutive year — and 98th time overall — that the two have played in a series that dated back 119 years to 1899.
Norwalk replaced the Whippets this season with MOAC member and former NOL foe Ontario at home on Sept. 27. But despite the schedule change, the two teams were able to at least keep playing in the form of Friday’s scrimmage.
The scrimmage began with Norwalk turning it over on downs at the Shelby 28. The Truckers then got an interception, but the next drive ended when Garrison Smith’s field goal from 28 yards was just wide to the right.
The teams then traded possessions, and the Whippets pinned Norwalk at its own 7.
But the very first play of the drive, running back Evan Stumpf followed three lead blockers and found a seam. The 185-pound senior turned it into an impressive 93-yard scoring run with 11:08 left in the second quarter.
On Norwalk’s next possession, Chapin then connected with Stumpf on a 50-yard TD pass up the right sideline. That put the Truckers up 14-0 at the 7:49 mark of the second after Smith’s extra point.
“We had a very limited tool chest we wanted to look at and see what we could do,” Fox said. “But Evan, it’s not a shock for us to see him play that way, but we saw flashes of what he is going to bring us. Garrett really settled down in that half and got his feet underneath him and played more under control.
“I thought Garrett was outstanding and his receivers did a great job,” he added. “And big plays mean you’re blocking downfield, and our receivers did a great job of that. It’s something that Coach (Chris) Harkness focused on with them this week.”
The Whippets quickly answered on their very next play with a 65-yard TD pass to trim the deficit to 14-7. The Truckers then responded with a 9-play, 65-yard scoring drive that ended with Chapin scoring on a 3-yard keeper.
Shelby then put together a lengthy scoring drive and got a 2-yard TD run with 22 seconds left to trim the deficit to 21-14, setting up the final sequence from Chapin to Phillips to close out the scrimmage.
Chapin was 11-of-15 passing for 190 yards and the 2 TDs. Stumpf ran for 143 yards.
“We learned that there are some things we used tonight that we won’t use all the time,” Fox said. “But we did see that we maybe have a bit more big play potential than what we had in the past. The other part we learned is defensively we rested on ourselves a little bit.
“We didn’t prep for them, and I think we were a little bit flat tonight,” he added. “It shows we are vulnerable on that side of the ball, because up until tonight we had only given up one score in our scrimmages. But that’s great. This is all about the learning experiences, not wins or losses.”
Norwalk now turns its attention to Friday’s season opener at Arlin Field in Mansfield against the Senior Tygers. The Truckers won last season’s matchup by a convincing 42-21 score, but Fox knows the rematch will be a big test.
“We start Monday to get ready to go against a very good Mansfield team,” he said. “They are outstanding and we have our work cut out for us. We’re just going to go there and do our best to compete. Whatever the score is after four quarters — we just hope we have put our best effort out there.”