Truckers will get second chance against Tornadoes

Redemption.
Mike Greco
Nov 7, 2013

Norwalk will have that opportunity at 7:30 p.m. Friday against Tiffin Columbian at Frost-Kalnow Stadium in Division III, Region 8 first-round tournament action.

The teams met in the regular season Northern Ohio League opener for both teams and the Tornadoes picked up a 24-20 win.

“We get a second chance to play each other,’’ Truckers coach Chris MacFarland said.

The win helped Columbian clinch the NOL crown outright.

The Tornadoes were 7-0 in the league and Norwalk checked in at 6-1.

“We approach it like every Friday night,’’ MacFarland said. “We want to set the tone, control the situation early and take care of our business. We feel very confident. It’s a one-week season.

“This is the most important game of the season for us,’’ the coach added. “We want to make sure the kids understand to leave everything on the field.’’

Columbian (9-1 overall), as the fourth seed in the region, has captured nine straight wins since a 13-7 opening-season loss to Clyde, another playoff team.

Norwalk, also 9-1, is the fifth seed.

In the first meeting, three fourth-quarter Trucker mistakes helped the Torndoes prevail.

“The kids learned they can compete,’’ MacFarland said. “We feel like we didn’t finish. The kids are out to prove themselves that they can play at a high level for four quarters. The kids are excited about the opportunity.’’

Ryan Lynch paced the Tornadoes with 116 yards rushing and a fourth-quarter touchdown in the first game.

Quarterback Stone Simmons hit wideout Russ Yeast with scoring passes of 80 and 39 yards, respectively.

But Donovan Walker has returned to the Tornado lineup at quarterback. He missed the Sept. 20 game.

“He’s a very good athlete and more of a runner and Lynch is an outstanding running back,’’ MacFarland said. “They run the same offense. Elliot Rhodes didn’t play for us and Jordan (Johnson) was coming off an ankle injury. Both teams will be at full strength.’’

Johnson, a senior quarterback, is looking forward to seeing Columbian again.

“We’re glad to face them again,’’ he said. “We want a chance to get back at them. We have to get the job done Friday.’’

Lynch and Derek Dryfuse are forces defensively for Columbian.

MacFarland said playing on the road isn’t a concern.

“The seniors have a lot of road experience,’’ he said. “They’ve played in Toledo, Cleveland and in between. They’re very businesslike. The bus ride there, a lot of it is mental.

“Once we get to the game, it’s the same,’’ the coach added. “We’ve played Tiffin before and we’ve played at Frost-Kalnow before.’’

MacFarland is hoping a large throng of Norwalk fans will be in attendance.

“We want everybody to come out and support the kids and the team,’’ he said. “The kids want to play hard for the team.’’

The Torndoes aren’t new to the postseason.

This is Columbian’s 14th time in the playoffs, including fourth straight season.

They have a 10-13 overall mark.

Meanwhile, Norwalk broke a 39-year drought and is making its second playoff appearance in football.

It marks the longest gap between playoff appearances of 2013 postseason participants.

Norwalk won the Class AA state title in 1974.

The Truckers have been building toward the playoffs in MacFarland’s time, finishing 7-3 the last two seasons before 2013.

“Each year we sit down and evaluate and try to figure out how we can push forward,’’ MacFarland said. “We’re always chase perfection. They’re not willing to sit on their laurels.”

Norwalk hasn’t been too shabby, either, since the regular-season loss to Columbian.

The Truckers have claimed six straight wins, scoring 40 or more points in each outing.

They’ve hit the 60-plus plateau twice in that span.

In the meantime, junior running back Breck Turner has set numerous school records.

“We’re healthy and did improve each week,’’ MacFarland said. “We’ve gone through a lot of fundamentals and repetitions. We feel the kids are playing at a high level. Winning has helped the kids gain some confidence.’’

Columbian has won 10 of the last 13 NOL crowns.

The Tornadoes have captured 31 of the last 32 games against the Truckers.

“Offensively, we have to be able to move the ball and score points,’’ MacFarland said. “We have to eliminate turnovers and penalties.

“On defense, we have to be physical and swarm to the football and look for special teams for momentum,” he added.