There's little glitz and flash about Bishop Carroll quarterback Tyler Nance. No big-name college coaches are panting for him, and his name isn't Blake Bell, the two-time Top 11 quarterback he replaced.
Yet Nance has quietly led Carroll back to the Class 5A semifinals. The Eagles (9-2) play at 7 tonight at Hutchinson (10-1) in a 2009 semifinal rematch.
"I knew coming in I wouldn't be near as good as Blake, wouldn't be able to make the plays he made," Nance said. "But I wanted to be a leader the offense could look up to. If we needed a big play, they could look up to me. I wanted to take the role of stepping up and being the leader, and just helping other guys out ... doing anything to help the offense get better."
There's no denying he's doing whatever it takes. He has nearly 1,000 passing yards and nearly 1,000 rushing yards. He was an All-City League wide receiver as a junior — the only year he hasn't played quarterback — and at times he resumes that position and is a threat for a big pass play from backup quarterback Zeke Palmer.
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"I knew it would take us a while to get going offensively," Carroll coach Alan Schuckman said. "Tyler missed a whole season of reps at quarterback, and people don't understand the importance of it. It's not like it's a real basic offense, hand it to the tailback. We have a lot of reads, not just passing, but in the running game."
Carroll outscored opponents 327-92 in the regular season and ranked second in the City league with 319.6 yards per game.
"He's a good quarterback," center Trent Arion said of Nance. "He gets his job done. I have complete confidence in him. He's able to read where the defense is and put the ball where it needs to go.... He's just come into his own."
Asked to characterize his offense, Schuckman called it efficient.
Nothing flashy about that, is there? All the Eagles' glitz and glamour is on defense, with such players as Beau Bell (16 sacks) wreaking havoc.
But by no means is Carroll's offense a weakness. How could it be when it averages more than 30 points? That includes 30 points against McPherson, ranked third in Class 5A, and 49 against Great Bend in the first round.
And the Eagles average fewer than one turnover.
"As long as we do that, we always feel we have a chance to win," Schuckman said.
The Eagles are different offensively from past seasons, though.
"It's definitely a different look," Shuckman said. "We're controlling the football more, we're using more clock, we're resting our defense.... You need to have a good, strong defense and an efficient offense that protects the football, moves the football and puts points on the board. We're never stagnant on offense."
But when Carroll played at Hutchinson in the regular-season finale, the Eagles' offense sputtered, failing to take advantage of seven Hutchinson turnovers.
"We moved the ball, but we didn't connect in the red zone three or four times," Schuckman said."... I still see that as the emphasis since that game, converting points in the red zone."
The key to the strong offensive play in the playoffs is experience. Eleven games in, Nance and an offensive line that had two returning starters are clearly comfortable in their roles.
Running back Brandon Weber is a physical and an impressive blocker — and he's healthy after missing several games. Throw in sophomore Jalen Hernandez, and Carroll is a threat to break a big play passing or throwing.
"We don't have just one flashy player," Nance said. "We have three or four more who give that little spark of that flash and it makes that one big flash."
The passing game also has improved because Nance — and Palmer — have healthy receivers to throw to.
"Maybe, for the past two years, we stood around and waited for Blake (Bell) to make plays," Schuckman said. "The concept has changed. We've got guys making plays, but there's not one guy.... It's different each week.
"But everything surrounds Tyler because he's the guy creating a lot of it by throwing it or running it. We're just real efficient, and we have to continue doing it."