Trent Nunn has been the starting quarterback of the Central Cougars for just three games, but already, the 6-foot-2, 215-pound senior has taken over ownership of the Cougars offense.
It’s just the way Central head coach Brian Short hoped he would.
Nunn was at his very best in the Cougars’ 42-27 win at Cahokia Conference rival Freeburg last week. With touchdown passes of 15 yards to Tyler Malone and 55 yards to Timothy Callahan, Nunn finished 11 of 18 for 251 yards through the air.
But it’s on the ground where Nunn continues to put up numbers at a staggering pace. For the third straight week, Nunn ran for four touchdowns as he powered his way through the Midgets defense for 183 yards on 28 carries.
All totaled, that’s 434 yards of total offense for the senior, who will lead the Cougars against Carlyle in a battle of undefeated Clinton County teams Friday.
Following the contest with Carlyle, the Cougars will travel a mile up the road in Breese to take on rival Mater Dei in the annual Milk Bowl Game on Sept. 22.
“It’s a big rival,” Nunn said of the Knights. “But the game with Carlyle at home is also a big game. I know they (Carlyle) throw the ball a lot. We have a good defense, and if we’re able to shut down their pass offense, we should be fine.
“We’re 3-0, and that’s good. Every win gets us closer to making the playoffs.”
Last week’s win against Freeburg was the third straight offensive outburst by the Cougars, who are averaging 41 points per game. In those three games, Nunn has run for 426 yards and 12 touchdowns while completing 72 percent of his passes (42 of 59) for 715 yards and six touchdowns.
Nunn said there have been many heroes in the Cougars fast start.
There was no big adjustment made this season. We played with the second team last year, and I’ve played football with a lot of these guys for a long time. We know each other well.
Trent Nunn, Central senior QB
“I couldn’t have the success I’ve had without my offensive line. Those guys put in a lot of hard work in the weight room in the offseason and have improved their technique,” Nunn said. “We’re throwing the football a little more this year, and those guys are running great routes. It’s my job to put the ball where they can catch it. We’ve got some young receivers, and they are making plays.”
Although listed as the Cougars backup quarterback a year ago, Nunn never threw a pass for a Central team that finished 7-3 and lost in the first round of the playoffs.
Nunn did have five rushing attempts for 25 yards and two touchdowns. But the Cougars’ two-sport athlete was his most productive at linebacker, where he was credited with 20 tackles, an interception and a fumble recovery.
Thus far in 2017, Nunn has been the biggest part of the Cougars’ offense, lending a hand to 108 of the team’s 143 points.
“Trent has done a great job in leading this football team,” Short said following a recent Cougars practice. “I really think what helped him was his work in the weight room over the summer. He’s really gotten a lot bigger and stronger. He’s put on some weight, but it’s good weight.
“I also think it helped him being a backup (quarterback) last year. It gave him a chance to watch from the sidelines and learn. That’s one of Trent’s best attributes. He is always thinking. Even when a coach is talking to someone else, Trent is listening to what is being said.”
Although most of his playing time came on the defensive side of the football last year, Nunn got plenty of repetitions during practice with the second string. Players on that unit are making the most of their opportunities this season.
Teams can’t just load up in the box to stop the run. They have to know that we can throw the football, and that just opens up things even more for our offense.
Brian Short, Central head football coach
“There was no big adjustment made this season. We played with the second team last year, and I’ve played football with a lot of these guys for a long time. We know each other well,” Nunn said. “We’re throwing the football more this season, and as a quarterback, I like that.
“Last week against Freeburg, we were able to get into a lot of 1-on-1 pass situations. The offensive line gave me time, and our receivers made plays.”
Nunn, who also plays on the Cougars baseball team, spent his offseason getting stronger and mastering the Cougars offense. He also attended the Southern Illinois University Carbondale quarterback camp.
“We always try to be as close to 50-50 with the run and the passing game as we can,” Short said. “Trent has spent a lot of time working and learning, and his ability to read (coverages) and make good decisions with the football have allowed us to do that.
“Teams can’t just load up in the box to stop the run. They have to know that we can throw the football, and that just opens up things even more for our offense.”