Matt Nolan knows the pressures of playing quarterback in Carson High's complex system.
Nolan knows that if the Senators are going to be successful he is going to have to have a big year, both running and throwing the ball. There also is the added pressure of knowing that Blake Plattsmier and Trey Jensen won titles in 2009 and 2010 as starting quarterbacks.
Nolan, in just his second start, put together one of the best individual performances under center in Blair Roman's three-year tenure as head coach. He went 11-for-14 passing for 152 yards and ran for 65 yards, all without a turnover, in Carson's 45-0 win over North Valleys last Friday.
Roman, whose team is 1-1 entering tonight's game (7 p.m.) at Hug, thought there were two games that were probably better, one each by Plattsmier and Jensen.
In 2009, Plattsmier went 9-for-14 passing for 146 yards and three scores, and ran 13 times for 145 yards in a 54-27 thumping of Reed. Last season, Jensen completed 14 of 22 passes for 150 yards and a score In the playoff win over Spanish Springs.
"It (Nolan's performance) ranks right near the top," Carson coach Blair Roman said. "I don't think the opponent was as tough as the other two.
"I knew we had a hard decision to make at quarterback. Early on, Chance (Quilling) had separated himself. Matt kept closing the gap and working hard. For just his second start, I was really happy with the way he played.
"The three quarterbacks are an interesting mix. Plattsmier was a good runner, an average thrower and a great leader. Jensen's ability to run was his strength. In fact, Jensen and Nolan are the same type of quarterback. Both have quick feet and both throw better on the run than they do when dropping back. Nolan probably has a little more quickness than either of his predecessors. He has the ability to make people miss, and that's huge for anybody carrying the ball."
Nolan isn't ready to anoint himself king just yet. He knows he has a lot to learn, and he knows what Plattsmier and Jensen brought to the table.
"Both were good leaders," Nolan said. "They took pride in what they are doing. They did all the little things right. They won two league championships.
"If there is a bad play or broken play, I can get us yards. If the pass isn't open, I can get more yards with my feet alone (than a lot of quarterbacks)."
That may sound like Nolan's bragging, but it's not bragging if you back it up on the field, and he's done that every week. He led the team in rushing in the scrimmage against McQueen, ran for 52 yards against Highland and gained 69 on the ground against North Valleys. He is truly another weapon in the backfield.
"I do think he's very confident," Roman said. "I think that is indicative of first playing varsity basketball as a sophomore. He got experience playing at that level. It should really help his football and will help his basketball this year."
Part of his success running the ball stems from his great vision.
"Matt has a little more vision on the run," Roman said. "You've seen where he cuts runs back up. It (vision) is tough to teach. A lot of times you don't see that until they are seniors."
Playing quarterback is like playing point guard. A quarterback needs to be able to see the whole field, and a point guard needs to see the whole floor. It's a position where quick, smart decisions are a must.
"I've always had pretty good vision, even when I played quarterback in Pop Warner," Nolan said. "Playing basketball has definitely helped with that."
Besides his running ability, Nolan has shown a lot of heart. When Quilling was declared the starter, Nolan could have sulked, but he didn't. He kept at it, and finally convinced Roman to make the switch.
"Coach Roman is always telling the back-ups that they are one play away from being a starter," Nolan said. "I just tried to stay mentally ready."
And, he and Roman usually see the same things during the course of the game.
"He understands what we're trying to do offensively," Roman said. "When we talk football, he understands what we're talking about."
Nolan says he watches a lot of college and pro football on television, and always studies the quarterbacks, especially their footwork.
"I also listen to what the commentators have to say," Nolan said.
Not a bad idea when you consider how many quarterbacks are now color commentators.