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Norwalk Keeps Up Winning Ways to Reach Semis

NORWALK, Conn. – Norwalk High School’s football team used a familiar script to defeat Conard, 21-15, in the quarterfinals of the Class LL playoffs Tuesday in West Hartford.

The fifth-seeded Bears (9-1) used an efficient offense and four turnovers from its defense to upend the fourth-seeded Chieftains for their first-ever postseason victory. Norwalk will meet No. 1 Xavier in Saturday’s semifinal at a time and site to be announced.

“We’ve been doing it all year,’’ first-year coach Sean Ireland said. “We weren’t supposed to beat Danbury. We weren’t supposed to beat Stamford. We weren’t supposed to beat Ridgefield. We weren’t supposed to beat McMahon. Everybody we played was supposed to beat us. We just keep proving people wrong.”

Tomar Joseph and Johnny Anzalone scored on touchdown runs for Norwalk. Quarterback Delshawn Wilson hit Derick Edwards on a 78-yard bomb for another score. Anzalone intercepted two passes, while Cody Barrett and Brandon Rembert came up with fumble recoveries.

Norwalk led 14-7 at halftime and went up 21-7 on Anzalone’s 5-yard touchdown run with 8:33 left in the third quarter. The Bears had the game in control until Conard mounted a rally late in the final quarter.

Norwalk fumbled with five minutes remaining – remarkably, its only turnover in a game in which it rained almost from the outset. Conard drew close. After converting on a third-and-34 with a 35-yard run by Anthony Lugo, Ricky Cotton raced 15 yards for a touchdown with 2:18 left. Cotton ran in for the conversion.

Conard tried an onsides kick but touched the ball before it went the required 10 yards. Norwalk ran out the clock to punch its ticket to the semifinals. “Thank God the ambulance was here,’’ Ireland said. “Because I was going down if they recovered that onsides kick.”

Norwalk marched 18 plays on its opening drive but could not score after getting stopped on the Conard 4-yard line. Anzalone brought the Bears back even closer five plays later when he raced 52 yards with an interception before getting knocked out at the Conard 1. Joseph scored on the next play.

Conard answered with a 74-yard run by Dominick Spaulding early in the second quarter. The Bears took the lead for good with 1:49 left in the first half when Edwards got behind a defender along the sideline and raced untouched into the end zone.

Norwalk’s defense also stood tall in the first half. It stopped two Conard scoring threats inside the 10-yard line, once forcing a fumble and stopping the Chieftains on four cracks from the 6-yard line late in the half. “They showed what they’re all about,’’ Ireland said. “They played their hearts out. They’re big, aggressive and they come after the ball.”

Norwalk did a reasonable job on Cotton, who had rushed for 1,238 yards coming into the game. He gained 140 yards on 19 carries but was hardly a factor in the second half. “He’s the best back we’ve seen all year,’’ Wilson said.

Anzalone rushed 12 times for 35 yards for Norwalk, while Wilson completed eigh-of-16 passes for 151 yards and a touchdown. Now the Bears get a shot at Xavier, the team most people believe is the best in the state. “I don’t know much about them,’’ Wilson said. “I guess we’re going to find out.”

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