NORWALK, Conn. – Most people didn't expected Norwalk High’s football team to match last year’s 9-2 season, which led to a berth in the Class LL football semifinals.
Neither did most people expect the Bears would fall this hard, either. The Bears enter their Thanksgiving Day rivalry against Brien McMahon with a 3-5 mark after picking up a forfeit win Tuesday versus Westhill. The Vikings forfeited four wins for using an ineligible player.
Thursday’s kickoff is set for 10:30 a.m. at Norwalk High’s Testa Field. The Bears will be attempting to win the rivalry game for the third straight year.
“The good thing about a rivalry like this is there’s always something to play for,’’ Norwalk coach Sean Ireland said. “It’s for the city championship and bragging rights. The season can change with one win if you win on Thanksgiving. We’re going to show up and play hard. I know that.”
After winning their season-opener versus Danbury, Norwalk has struggled on both sides of the ball. It lost to Stamford, 48-7, in the second week of the season, and it has been an uphill climb ever since. Norwalk beat winless Harding, 20-0, and has shown improvement in recent games. Yet, Ireland said the team has been inconsistent on both sides of the ball, from game-to-game and snap-to-snap.
“There are some series where we look like the team from last year,’’ Ireland said. “There are others where we look like we haven’t played the game before. It’s crazy, but that’s the game of football.”
Inexperience could be attributed to the inconsistent play early in the season. The Bears lost virtually all of their key players from last year.
“This late in the year, they have eight games under their belt and you can’t really use that any more,’’ Ireland said.
Ireland has seen some encouraging signs. Sophomore Jeremy Linton has emerged as the starting quarterback, and is a threat as a passer and runner.
“Some people think he’s the best athlete in the sophomore class,’’ Ireland said. “Actually, he might be the best athlete in the school.”
Seniors Marc Lerebours, Tomar Joseph and Tristan Opdahl also have played well for the Bears this year, Ireland said.
There are promising underclassmen, and the Bears’ freshman team had a strong season, finishing 7-1 and beating McMahon, 37-0. All that is great for the future, but Ireland’s focus is ending this season on a positive note.
“I won’t look at next year until the day after Thanksgiving,’’ Ireland said. “Right now all of our attention is on McMahon and getting our seniors a win on their last game.”