Hart’s elation was understandable. For the second straight week, the Trucker defense turned in a shutout performance despite taking the form of a rubber band.
“We did a lot of bending, but our defense never broke,” said Hart. “I thought it was a superb job by the defense.”
But it wasn’t only the defense doing the sparkling as halfback Eric Kirk put on a running performance totaling 195 yards and a touchdown on 23 attempts to run his season total to 411 yards.
“I thought our backs did a great job tonight,” Hart said. “I wasn’t even aware that Eric was close to 200 yards. Anytime you get over 100 yards, you’ve done a fine job of running.”
The running game picked up 241 yards to the Rams’ 213 total, but the passing game caused Hart to remark, “We broke down on pass protection. We worked on that, but obviously we haven’t worked enough on it. It’s something that can be corrected.”
Norwalk passed three times with quarterback Pat Brown completing two to Jeff Wyatt for 47 yards — one that went for a touchdown for the game’s other score.
But on several occasions, Brown was hit before he could fire the ball.
The Rams, who possess a potent running attack, were without the full-time services of Matt Thiel, who suffered a severe ankle sprain midway through the third quarter. Thiel, who led the Rams running attack with more than 220 yards coming into the game, was limited to 57 yards on 13 attempts before exiting.
Jim Jackson paced the Upper Sandusky ground game with 83 yards on 19 carries.
“I thought they would run Thiel more than they did before he got hurt,” Hart said. “He’s their main runner, but they showed that they have other runners besides him.”
Norwalk has nothing but super athletes,” Upper coach Gary Ricker said. “Their success was their offense, not our defense. We didn’t play bad defensively, it’s just their offense was super.
“The loss of Thiel really hurt us. We had to go with a 140-pound fullback. And when you go wit that size against those studs Norwalk has, you’re asking for it,” Ricker added.
Norwalk got the ball with about eight minutes remaining in the first half on its first scoring drive. Kirk carried the ball five times in six-play, 86-yard march. He picked up 89 yards, as Brown was thrown for a three-yard loss on a blind side hit accounting for the difference.
Kirk’s fifth carry went for a 22-yard touchdown with 5:53 left in the half. The extra point was wide to give Norwalk a 6-0 lead that it took into halftime.
The Truckers then took the second half kickoff and promptly marched 62 yards for the last score.
Jeff Orwick was the workhorse on the 12-play drive, picking up 25 yards on six carries, with Brown taking a dive play and then hitting a wide open Wyatt for a 44-yard TD pass with 6:41 left in the third quarter.
Upper Sandusky put on a seven-minute drive to open the fourth quarter, but the drive stalled on the Norwalk 35-yard line. The Truckers then ran out the clock — finishing the game with an offensive penalty on the 1-yard line of the Rams.
“We knew Upper would run, but I was expecting them to throw a little more against our three-deep,” Hart said. “Again, our whole defense did a nice job. When the chips were down, they came up with key plays. Right now I can’t single anybody out because on each play it was somebody different making a key hit,”explained Hart.
Norwalk (2-1) has given up just 14 points in the opening loss of the season to Huron. The Truckers visit Shelby while Upper Sandusky heads to Galion next week.
“We are very much aware of what happened the last time at Shelby,” Hart said of the Whippets’ Week 9 win over the state champion Truckers in 1974. “We are going to emphasize poise and discipline for the Shelby game. It’s going to be a good one.”