RIPON -- Confusion is Kyle Wengel's best friend a moment before taking a snap. While the defense still is trying to read the formation, Wengel is already putting the play in motion.
Such confusion leads to big plays.
"We'll use 10 to 15 formations in a game," Ripon High's senior quarterback said. "By moving our players around, the defense can't focus on the back or the slot receiver. It doesn't have time to set up for a new look."
That deception helped produce a 34-28 upset of Escalon, the first time in 16 years Ripon beat its rival, and has been integral to an 11-0 season.
It led to the Trans-Valley League title and the No. 3 seed in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division 4 playoffs but will it be enough to upset red-hot Central Catholic (9-2) tonight and send Ripon to the semifinals?
"If we continue to play the way we have this season, we have a chance to get one of the biggest wins in the history of Ripon football," said Wengel, whose club knocked off physical (Escalon, Hilmar) and agile (Hughson, Modesto Christian) teams in the TVL. "One of the things I bring to a huddle is my attitude. I get everyone up."
The Indians needed that optimism after falling behind 28-7 at halftime at Escalon. Wengel rallied Ripon with his passing, including an 80-yard TD to Michael Ysit to cut the deficit to 28-14.
Wengel completed just 11 passes in the game, but piled up 234 yards and tossed two TDs without a pick. He completed five to Bradley Clark for 113 yards, as Ripon exploited its multiple formations to hide its top receiver.
Clark lines up as a slot on one play, halfback on another; Cole Herrin plays his natural receiver position one play, then lines up as the Wildcat the next snap.
The confusion can lead to mistakes by a quarterback, as well, if they're not well-versed in the 30 formations in the playbook.
"Right after my junior season ended, I began studying for this year," said Wengel, whose Indians were upset by Livingston in the first round in 2011. "I've always been a quarterback, so I'm used to studying formations. I try to push everyone else, too."
That includes Sunday school.
Wengel will recruit his father and brothers to fill the key offensive positions, and spend hours calling plays and identifying options he'll be able to exploit.
That's often followed by a film session, conversations with his backs and receivers later in the day, then more talking Monday.
Wengel has made a star of junior receiver Bradley Clark, pressed into service when Herrin turned an ankle early. Bradley has 15 TD catches, and averages 18 yards on his 35 catches.
"We'll talk about whether the defensive back is playing 7 to 9 yards off, or if he bails, and how we can take advantage of that," said Wengel, who has passed for 1,695 yards and 25 TDs with just six picks. "I want to have something to tell everyone, then we work on it all week. By the time Friday comes, we've done the research and we feel confident."
Wengel fired 20 TDs last year, but also threw 10 picks. He was 4-of-13 for 22 yards and an interception in the 12-10 playoff loss.
"We all expect more from ourselves this year," said Wengel, whose club averages 44 points a game, a 13-point increase from 2011. "We gotta keep pushing."