Sept. 21–When the Norwalk football team walks the bridge over Black Fork Creek to W.W. Skiles Field on Friday, more than 100 years worth of history will be represented.
Despite the end of the Northern Ohio League, and the two teams being in different divisions of the 18-team Sandusky Bay Conference, the Truckers (2-2) and Whippets (4-0) will play for the 91st consecutive year — and 97th time overall — in a series that dates back 118 years to 1899.
And while Shelby leads the all-time series decisively, 69-24-3, there has been no shortage of signi›- cant moments between the two programs.
Records show the two teams played in 1899, a 12-0 Norwalk win. The two teams did not play again until 1914, an 8-6 win by the Whippets played in a downpour of rain.
In 1916, the unfathomable happened. The Truckers hosted the Whippets, and sent them back to Shelby with a staggering 101-0 defeat.
Obviously it stands as the largest score Norwalk ever posted over a Shelby team. The Truckers scored on every possession, including 41 points in the fourth quarter. Shelby had no ›rst downs, and never crossed its own 35-yard line.
Norwalk’s use of the forward pass was the key to the high score. The Truckers passed on just about every play and the Whippets simply couldn’t defend it. The game was played at the present day Whitney Field in Norwalk before a large crowd.
Add in a 42-0 win in 1915, and the Truckers outscored the Whippets 143-0 in back-to-back games.
The two teams didn’t play again until 1923 and 1924, then took two more years off until 1927. The Truckers and Whippets have played every single year since.
The NOL’s ›rst full football season was in 1945. Prior to that, the Truckers were members of the Little Big league that included the number of schools in its formal title.
Norwalk was in the Little Big from 1912-44, winning the Little Big Four in 1937, 1940 and 1942. Other schools in the league during that span included future NOL foes Bellevue, Tif›n Columbian and Willard, along with Elyria, Fremont Ross, Lorain, Oberlin, Port Clinton and Sandusky.
From 1925-44, Shelby was a member of the North Central Ohio League, which included Ashland, Bucyrus, Delaware, Galion, Mans›eld, Marion Harding and Mount Vernon.
Once members of the NOL, the Truckers and Whippets played three games that determined who won the league championship.
In 1946, the Whippets came to Norwalk with a 4-2 record (4-0 NOL) to face the host Truckers (4-1-1, 3-1) on a Thursday night. According to the Norwalk Re-›ector, it was the largest crowd ever assembled to to watch a football game in Norwalk.
In front of more than 6,500 fans, the Whippets scored touchdowns in the ›rst and fourth quarters for a 14-6 win en route to the NOL title.
In 1960, the Truckers (7-1, 6-0) traveled to Skiles Field to face the Whippets (6-1, 6-0) in search of their ›rst-ever NOL title. It was the league ›nale for both in Week 8 of a nine-game schedule, making it a winner-take all matchup.
Played in front of an estimated crowd of about 5,000, the Whippets scored the go-ahead TD in the ›- nal 43 seconds of the game in a 16-12 win.
Faced with a fourth-and-2 at the Norwalk 34, Shelby’s Russ Pfahler covered that distance in the ›- nal minute. The 1-2 punch of Steve Schillig and John Levers had led the Truckers to a 12-8 lead up to that point.
From 1966-69, no team beat Shelby, as it had an unbeaten streak of 35 games (33-0-2).
But perhaps the most famous game between the two teams came in 1974. The stakes were very similar to 1960, as it was Norwalk (8-0, 6-0) at Shelby (7-1, 5-1) with everything on the line again.
A Norwalk win meant an outright NOL title and a possible undefeated season. The Whippets needed a win to force a tie, as they were coming off a 21-14 loss to Columbian — which in turn gave the Truckers a share of their ›rst-ever NOL crown.
Norwalk arrived at Skiles Field with a .03 lead in computer points ahead of the host Whippets. Played before a crowd of 5,804, the Whippets led 12-0 at halftime. The Truckers cut it to 12-6 on a 6-yard TD run by John McCarty, but Shelby responded its very next drive and put away the 20-6 upset win.
The teams were so similar in 1974, as Norwalk outscored teams 247-72 through 10 games and Shelby bested its opponents by a 282-73 margin.
But still young into the computer points system — the OHSAA began the playoff format in 1972 — only one team per region over four regions made the playoffs, a modern-day state semi›nals.
But because of Lorain Catholic beating Perkins in the regular season ›nale, it was Norwalk (105.83), not Shelby (104.16), that earned a spot in the playoffs. If Perkins had won, Shelby would have earned two points and the regional championship, since the Whippets beat the Pirates earlier in the season.
The Truckers famously went on to knock off Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary (20-7) in the Akron Rubber Bowl, then beat Louisville St. Thomas Aquinas (27-17) for the 1974 Class AA state title at Welcome Stadium in Dayton.
From 1970-78, the 20-6 margin in 1974 was the biggest point differential between the two teams, with Shelby holding a 5-4 edge head-to-head. Ironically, Norwalk’s only two NOL titles prior to 2014 saw it suffer losses to Shelby (1974, 1976).
Another famous game between the Whippets and Truckers didn’t have a winner — but the end result de›nitely produced a team on the wrong end of history. In the 1981 Week 10 ›nale at Whitney Field, all Shelby (8-1) had to do was beat the host Truckers (2-6-1).
Instead, Brett Mason’s 37-yard ›eld goal with one second left forced a 3-3 tie. It not only prevented Shelby from winning the NOL title, but sent Bellevue — a team the Whippets beat, 10-7 — to the Class AA playoffs instead of Shelby. Neither the Whippets or Redmen had been to the playoffs prior to Mason’s kick.
In more recent times, Norwalk’s four straight wins from 2011-14 vs. Shelby has been its longest win streak in the series. Shelby won last year’s game, 29-15.
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