Now comes the big show. And it doesn’t get any bigger for the Norwalk Truckers as they kick off their Northern Ohio League schedule Friday night against Tiffin Columbian at Whitney Field.
Columbian is the defending NOL champion and the Tornadoes have won seven of the last 10 league titles and 10 of the last 13.
Columbian has won 31 of the last 32 games against the Truckers.
The Truckers enter the game 3-0, while the Tornadoes are 2-1.
“We’ve grown every week,” Norwalk coach Chris MacFarland said. “The kids are doing an outstanding job of the positives, but are also taking the challenge to keep improving.”
MacFarland is glad to be playing NOL foes.
“We’re happy to be 3-0, but that’s over,” he said. “It comes down to improving Norwalk.”
“It’s nice to see us both at full strength,” MacFarland said.
The Tornadoes have been a thorn in Norwalk's side over the years. The Truckers last defeated Columbian in 1992. Norwalk’s last win against the Tornadoes at Whitney Field was in 1980.
“We had some jumps,” MacFarland said. “Last year, we beat Sandusky after they won the league in 2011 and went a couple of games into the playoffs.
“This year, we’ve beaten John Hay, a playoff team from last year,” the coach added. “Tiffin and Bellevue are the teams we’ve all been trying to beat. We want to continue the trend of what's going on with Norwalk athletics.”
Columbian dropped its opener to Clyde 13-7, but rebounded to notch 27-7 and 28-6 wins over Maumee and Anthony Wayne, respectively.
Running back Ryan Lynch leads the Columbian ground game with 301 yards on 59 carries.
“Lynch is a very good athlete,” MacFarland said. “He’s a two-way player. The offense runs through him and he's a very physical and gets downhill at linebacker.”
Lynch has 29 tackles and two sacks defensively.
Spencer Franklin has added 178 yards on the ground.
Quarterback Stone Simmons is 17-of-39 for 364 yards with four touchdowns.
Nate Hoyda is Columbian's top receiver at six receptions for 168 yards.
“The offense is growing more balanced to what we’re used to seeing from Columbian,” MacFarland said. “They’re very big up front. That's what they want to develop and they’re size and strength are factors.
“We’re developing kids into better athletes and feel we can match up with them,” the coach added.
MacFarland talked about the Columbian defense.
“They have a three-, four-down line and play cover 3,” he said. “Their linebacker play is very aggressive. For our line, we have to block the linemen and get to the second level.”
Also for the Tornadoes, Derek Dryfuse also has two sacks and Cliff Miller shares the league lead with two picks.
Columbian tops the league in points given up at 26.
Norwalk’s offense continues to impress.
The Truckers lead the NOL with 156 points, averaging 52 points per game. They have scored 109 points in the first half.
Norwalk junior Breck Turner tops the league in rushing with 508 yards on 56 attempts with 11 touchdowns.
He's averaging 9.1 yards per carry.
Senior quarterback Jordan Johnson is 28-of-42 for an NOL-leading 596 yards with eight TDs.
Senior Joseph Hinckley has hauled in 13 catches for 263 yards.
Defensively for the Truckers, back Matt Davidson is tied for the league-lead with two interceptions.
Linebacker Jared Cook ranks third with 31 tackles, to go with 1 1/2 sacks.