Tolar head coach Mike Franklin had said before the season began that he intended to make a decision on who would be the starting quarterback – junior Dakota Endsley or senior Corbin Wood – before the start of District 6-2A Division II play.
He said the choice would be made via a simple method – choosing the one who put the most points on the scoreboard.
Even with two-time 1,000-yard rusher Cory Solomon sidelined, the Rattlers proved in their last game that they still had more than enough firepower to dominate an opponent. Wood proved he could make big plays and get the ball into the end zone, so he’ll be the starter Friday when the Rattlers go on the road to take on Dallas Life Oak Cliff in the district opener.
“Corbin just has an uncanny knack of making busted plays into something,” Franklin said, pointing out that’s not a new discovery. “He’s done that since the seventh grade. How, I have no idea.”
Wood threw for 294 yards and two touchdowns in the Rattlers’ 30-7 victory over De Leon – a game in which Tolar was out-gained 154-95 on the ground. He completed 13 of his 18 attempts in that game, and has not thrown an interception this season.
“It was a great thing,” Franklin said. “Corbin was keeping things alive and the receivers were running great routes – and we didn’t have the drops we had the week before.”
An added bonus – and crucial because of what happened the week before – Wood finished that game without getting banged up. He wasn’t sacked, and got knocked down only once.
Wood and Solomon both left with injuries in the opening quarter the previous week, a 31-20 loss to Comanche. But Wood made a big impression before leaving that game, connecting with Dalton Shaw on a 62-yard TD pass for the game’s first score on his only attempt.
Franklin said that because of Wood’s ailing shoulder, he was held out on defense. Endsley played the entire game on defense, at safety.
“It kind of happened by default last week,” Franklin said, referring to the De Leon game. “Corbin couldn’t play defense. Neither one of them did anything bad.”
Wood, whose time in the 40-yard dash improved from 4.8 seconds last year to 4.7 to start this season, is also a running threat when he scrambles – or on fake punts.
“We worked hard as a team in the offseason,” Wood explained. “Everybody’s 40s are faster. The coaches did right by us.”
Wood, who was able to gain some varsity playing time even as a sophomore, indicated lots of positive factors fell in place for him this year.
“I feel a lot more confident,” Wood Said. “Our receivers are running great routes and getting open. “Our offensive line is doing a fantastic job this year. They really work well together. It’s a lot more comfortable when you’re not worried about getting hit.”
Senior right guard Jose Becerra said, “We didn’t pass last year very much (as the always dependable Solomon rushed for more than 1,700 yards). We have really improved our pass blocking. We make sure we pick up blitzes.”
Senior right tackle Clayton Greenwell said the offensive line as a group is playing more instinctively this season, and they are “making sure no one touches our quarterback.”
Junior center Clay Foster noted that the linemen are getting used to each other, and “over time, we have gotten a lot better.”
“Common sense” is one characteristic junior left guard Aaron Platt said the line is taking advantage of this year.
“We cover for each other,” said Platt who also started as a sophomore and was an all-district defensive tackle. “If we see something, we can adjust pretty quickly.”
Junior left tackle Dalton Webb said, “One thing we’re doing new is using a two-point stance instead of three so we can look around (at the defense). I think we can get a lot better as a group. We all kind of know what everybody else is doing.”
Franklin said the line has also benefitted from a bigger pool of starting candidates this year, which means less two-way play and more rest. Also, the Rattlers simplified their blocking schemes, reducing the number that had to be learned from 12 to “seven or eight,” Franklin noted.
Franklin said Tolar’s defensive coordinator Gregg Lee told him, he would hate to have to defend the Rattlers’ multiple offense because they run so many formations and players in motion, forcing the defense to prepare for attacks from many different sources.
“Hopefully, we can keep the defenses in more of a base look and keep them on their heels, and (not) let them be the aggressor,” Franklin said. “We want to be balanced.”
The significant number of injuries after the Comanche loss has shrunk considerably, as the Rattlers had an idle week.
Although Solomon is expected to be ready to return to action, his No. 1 sub at tailback, Blayne Denton, is out for an undetermined number of games – by doctor’s order – with a shoulder stinger. Blake Watson and Marcus Garcia moved up from the junior varsity before the De Leon contest and had carries in that game.
Carson Becker is also out as he recovers from a concussion, Franklin said, before adding that upper respiratory infections had become a problem more recently. Three players had to sit out of practice Friday for that reason, he said.
Franklin called Dallas Life Oak Cliff (0-3) “scary” because they show flashes of talent, and noted, “They may be more dangerous running than they are passing.
“I think they’ve improved from last year. They have a new head coach. They are a lot like us in the stype of play they run.”
In the three games Dallas Life has played, three quarterbacks saw playing time, Franklin said.
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