In the heartland of the spread offense, Fort Worth Nolan Catholic is living in the past.
Rarely today, do you see a quarterback line up under center and hand the ball off the majority of the time, out of the I formation.
Area teams in state semifinal matchups:
Nolan Catholic (10-2) vs. Austin St. Michael's (12-0), 3 p.m. Saturday, Wildcat Stadium, Temple
Dallas Bishop Lynch (8-4) vs. Addison Trinity (10-2), 3 p.m. Saturday, Wildcat-Ram Stadium, Dallas
Frisco Legacy (10-2) vs. Colleyville Covenant (12-0), 7:30 p.m. Friday, Pennington Field, Bedford
Hallettsville Sacred Heart (8-3) vs. Shiner St. Paul (8-4), 7 p.m. Friday, Giddings
That old-school approach to offense has pushed the Vikings (10-2) into the TAPPS Division I state semifinals at 3 p.m. Saturday against Austin St. Michael's at Temple's Wildcat Stadium.
If the Crusaders (12-0) need firsthand scouting knowledge of Nolan's pound-the-rock methods, phone calls to St. Michael's playoff victims are in order. Then again, Nolan coaches can do the same thing because Plano Prestonwood and Dallas Bishop Dunne went 0-4 against Nolan and St. Michael's.
"What sets them apart for me is that they are a very physical team," Bishop Dunne coach Michael Johnson said of Nolan. "They don't run a lot of plays on offense, but those they do, they run effectively. They overpower you with their offensive line."
This year's line prides itself on physical play and strength, Nolan coach Joe Prud'homme said. Prestonwood's Chris Cunningham agrees.
"They've always got good size up there -- strong and physical," he said. "That's their MO. They're going to play physical on both sides of the football and beat you up. Their offensive scheme is a scheme aimed for that kind of approach."
Cunningham, who spent 11 years as coach at Colleyville Heritage before moving to Prestonwood, said Nolan's scheme always reminds him of a former district rival, equally successful at the run game -- Euless Trinity.
A home-run pass play for both Nolan and Trinity might be few and far between, but when the ball is sent flying, percentages are high that it will result in a good play. Nolan has passed for 1,215 yards and rushed for 2,692. Still, the Vikings average 16 yards per completion.
Trinity doesn't "throw it a bunch, but when they do, they do it well and it's the same thing with Nolan," Cunningham said. "When they want to throw -- very rarely do they have to -- they do a good job and protect well."
Nolan took its old-school approach seriously when it faced rival Prestonwood this season, letting the all-but-extinct wishbone formation roll to a 33-21 win. Cunningham said he took the formation switch as a compliment of sorts, seeing one of Nolan's few variations from its consistent I formation.
Prud'homme said he just likes to keep his options open.
"We don't want to be in a situation where the wind takes us out of the game and we can't play," Prud'homme said. "That's part of why we do it and it's an offense that people just don't run anymore, so it's hard to prepare for it."
Both Cunningham and Johnson agreed that Nolan's physical play on the line will dominate a much smaller St. Michael's defensive line, resulting in more rushing success for the Vikings. Those time-consuming drives will also keep an up-tempo, multiple-set St Michael's offense on the sideline and out of the end zone, Johnson said.
"With Nolan's attack coming right at them, [the Crusaders] are going to really have to bring some support from their secondary and linebackers quick, which will open up the play-action," Cunningham said.
But in reality, there aren't many that can stop Nolan's old-fashioned offense, Johnson said.
"Nolan can run the ball on any team, private or public," he added.
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