NORWALK — Sean Ireland froze for a few moments tonight as he tried to remember the first name of his starting running back. It was some curious irony for the Norwalk football coach, given that Jakari Walker had just set the table for a game-winning drive.
The Bears forced a Trumbull punt and took over on their own 33-yard line, trailing 17-14 with 3:19 to go.
Walker ran the ball twice for 45 yards, then traded carries with quarterback Kyle Gordon, whose 2-yard touchdown run with 47 seconds remaining carried the Bears to a dramatic 21-17 win.
“When we get them both going you’ve got to pick your poison,” Ireland said. “Which one you try to stop, the other one goes, and the best thing it is all about reading the defense, so if we make the right read we should be OK.”
Trumbull (2-3) had taken the lead midway through the fourth quarter on quarterback Colton Nicholas’ 6-yard run on a fourth-and-2 play. It was the first points in the second half by either team.
On the final drive, Ireland said he noticed a change in the Eagles’ defense he felt could be exploited.
“The linebackers were loose, it was a three-man line,” Ireland said. “Maybe they thought we were going to throw the ball. I told the guys up top we’ve got some guys who can break some long runs and get us back into field position. We handed it off to Jakari and Kyle. We just didn’t panic, that was the key.”
Norwalk improved to 3-2 in what was an exciting and competitive game, more of a rarity in the FCIAC this fall.
Norwalk scored on its first possession — a Khalil Eason 9-yard run — and Gordon answered a Trumbull score with a 30-yard touchdown pass to Andre Robinson on the second to last play of the opening quarter.
The Bears were held scoreless until their last possession.
“We knew we had to score,” Gordon said. “We had to come up big. We just had to stay together and fight. We ran the ball. We just finished. I think it was heart more than anything. The defense worked their butts off. The offense came up big. It was all heart. We all had it in us.”
The Eagles committed to the run in the second half, getting good production from Corey Osborne, but ultimately stalled before reaching the end zone.
Trumbull stayed predominantly on the ground to take the lead with 8:31 left on Nicholas’ second touchdown run of the night. Four plays earlier he hooked up with Kyle Atherton for a 21-yard gain on fourth and 8.
“We played well in the second half and we just kind of fell apart a little bit,” Trumbull coach Marce Petroccio said. “We will have to learn a lesson from this one. This is a tough one.”
The only time the Eagles failed to move the ball in the second half was the possession that set up Norwalk’s winning drive.
“Tonight we did just enough to lose, and the penalties on big plays, that hurt us,” Petroccio said. “I don’t have an answer for you. The kids played hard, it wasn’t a lack of effort. We just didn’t execute well at all. We did a very poor job of tackling tonight. We didn’t set the edge and we allowed a team to go right down the field. We were stopping them the whole second half.”
The Bears ended a two-game losing streak with what Ireland said was a complete effort.
“This was the best game we played as a whole all year,” Ireland said. “We caused a bunch of turnovers, we made them punt a couple times. We did OK.”
Both teams will have next weekend off, when FCIAC schools have their mandated midseason byes.
“It’s not a good time for the bye. I’d rather play,” Petroccio said. “I’ve got to think about this now for two weeks and I don’t want to do that.”