SOUTHINGTON>> Two years ago, John Nolan remembers leaving Rentschler Field disappointed. Windsor had lost the state championship to Daniel Hand.
A year later he played in three games for the Warriors before getting injured and missing the rest of the season, forcing coach Rob Fleeting to use a platoon of signal-callers the rest of the way.
“He’s a very smart young man, definitely a student of the game,” Fleeting said. “I think he’s definitely on the same page of what I’m looking for, of what our offensive coordinator is looking for. I think that’s the conversations that take place during film study just helps him to be ahead of the game before it even starts.”
In 11 games, including the Class L-Small semi-final vs. North Haven, Nolan has completed 80 of 141 passes for 1,832 yards and 25 touchdowns to go with just three interceptions.
The Warriors are averaging 36 points per game despite scoring just 13 in week one vs. Manchester and 12 vs. Hartford Public.
“I think we’re getting better every week,” Fleeting said. “I think that’s been the key this year. Early in the season we sputtered a little bit, because we didn’t know who we were. We have a good group of young kids and a group of older kids who played last year, but probably didn’t play major roles.
“In the beginning of the season we didn’t put up too many points, because we were still trying to figure out who we are, what our roles were. Each week as we went on, things just got better. The kids started to bond and things have been rolling pretty well for us.”
With play-makers all over the field, it’s tough for the Warriors offense to sputter any more.
The addition of Bennie Fulse III this season to compliment Jordan Knight in the backfield has given Windsor a formidable running game. But they can stretch the field as well. Tyler Coyle and Courtney Rush have the big play ability. Throw in Isaiah Huff to complete a wide receiving core that rivals the state’s best.
“At any time and moment anybody can shine and have a huge play,” Huff said. “We always have at least three or four play-makers on the field, so that can hurt a defense.”
Rush and Coyle both stand at 6-foot-2 causing match-up nightmares for defensive backs with their height alone, the speed is a different story.
“I think they’re just ridiculous athletes,” Nolan said. “[Courtney] Rush is a track star. Tyler Coyle is a basketball star. So I don’t think any cornerback can run with Courtney and Tyler will out-jump anybody. They run good routes, they’re smart players, they come back to the ball and work hard, so it helps me out a lot.”
But no matter how many weapons a quarterback has at its disposal, they still need a way to get the ball and that’s where Nolan has thrived.
“I think John’s a wonderful leader,” Huff said. “He pushes us everyday through practice. When we drop a ball, he’s getting on us. Even after practice we’re working on 15 minutes of catching, before practice we’re working on 15 minutes of catching. So I think he’s an all-around leader. He’s an all-around leader in school. hHe’s a leader on and off the field.”
Huff added: “I think as the year’s gone on he’s started to go through more of his pass progressions. He’s started to relax, try to spread the ball around as [well] as he can — and let everybody get their shot.”
Fleeting has seen his quarterback grow throughout the years and compliments his character at every chance he gets.
“I think his character helps him be a better quarterback,” Fleeting said. “I think his upbringing by his parents help him be a better quarterback. It’s just the things that he does and his approach to life, which is, he’s a true leader. That’s what really helps us as far as helping us develop as a team this year, just having someone back their who’s confident and he tries to pick everyone up, that’s the kind of kid he is.”
With one more game in his football career on Saturday, Nolan says he wants to end the season “the right way.” But he and his teammates will face a tough Notre Dame-West Haven team to reach that goal.
“Just looking at them on film I think they’re very athletic,” Nolan said. Honestly, I feel like they’re a reflection of our team. They run a similar offense, I think they’re defense is pretty strong, so it will be an interesting match-up.”
“We just want to make sure we do what we’ve been doing all year and we can be successful,” Nolan said. And we can bring back a banner to Windsor High School.”