LEONARD — The identity of the Tiger offense has changed since the playoffs started. A unit once known for keeping the ball on the ground has found unprecedented postseason success by turning things loose through the air.

LEONARD — The identity of the Tiger offense has changed since the playoffs started. A unit once known for keeping the ball on the ground has found unprecedented postseason success by turning things loose through the air.


Even a tweak in philosophy might be more of an off-season endeavor but Leonard is making the transition look easy at the toughest time of year.


"Our kids are smart. That’s the biggest thing — our football I.Q. is the best it’s ever been here," Tigers head coach Shane Fletcher said. "They line up at different positions. We ask them to do so much and they adapt well."


Leading the way has been an offensive line adjusting on the fly. Senior Cameron Adkins and juniors Juan Martinez, Dylan Pelton, Justin Baker and Tristan Farber have gone from a run-blocking focus to providing more protection for the passing game.


"I think we’ve made a pretty easy transition to it," Adkins said. "We’ve really needed to step up. That’s exactly what we did."


The latest effort has Leonard (11-3) facing Cisco (14-0) in a Class 2A Division II state semifinal at 4 p.m. on Saturday at Saginaw Chisholm Trail. Both teams are on short rest having played on Monday afternoon and the winner has another quick turnaround against either Waskom or Refugio in the state championship game at 8 p.m. on Thursday at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.


"At some point the light comes on and the lights came on for that group," Fletcher said.


Coming into the year Pelton and Farber were returning starters. A year ago Adkins was a back-up on varsity, Martinez wasn’t starting on the junior varsity and Baker wasn’t even playing football after taking off his sophomore year. Now they have combined to protect during this outstanding run, which is leaning on the pass.


"We learned to compete together as a team and function," Baker said. "We just go out and give it all we have. You’ve got to go out there and play like it’s any other week."


Leonard has spread the ball around but opened the season getting Solomon Titus, Dylan Monck, Justin Bennett and Ryan Nixon their touches on the ground.


Now the Tigers are doing a lot of their damage through the air with Ty McKinney and Colson Coheley becoming more of a factor.


During the 10-game regular season, Bennett average just eight passing attempts per game. In the four postseason contests, the senior QB has thrown nine, seven, 12 and 19 passes.


"Bennett’s really turned it on in the playoffs," Fletcher said. "It helps your running game so much."


Bennett and Nixon combined for nine touchdown passes in the regular season. In the playoffs they already have nine in less than half the games.


Leonard continued its best season in school history with a 28-20 victory over Cooper in the Region II final. Titus ran for 190 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries while Bennett threw three touchdown passes — two to Monck and then another to Nixon with just under two minutes left to provide a cushion.


"Monday was the best that offensive line has played all year," Fletcher said. "That’s the best they’ve played hands down."


The Tigers shut down an offense that came into the contest averaging 51.5 points and 434.8 rushing yards per game, holding them well below their previous lows.


Cooper managed just 289 total yards and outside of the three touchdown plays, which gained 138 of those yards, the Bulldogs had trouble moving the ball. Cooper didn’t earn a first down until three minutes into the second quarter and Darmarcus Robinson — who was averaging 13.9 yards per carry — was held to 64 yards on 16 carries.


It was the second straight team the Tigers handed their first loss after beating district rival S&S in the region semifinals.


"The main thing that drives us is we love to prove people wrong," Adkins said. "We don’t back down from anybody."


Cisco made the state semifinals for the sixth time in the last decade with a 42-14 victory over Canadian in the Region I final. It was a rematch of a 27-20 Canadian win in the area round in 2012.


Colton Kent ran for 155 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries while throwing for 146 yards and three TDs. Canadian scored on its opening drive and then didn’t score until the middle of the third quarter when it trailed 28-7. The Loboes added two touchdowns early in the fourth to close out the win.


Cisco has been one of the premiere programs in Region I. The Loboes were the Division II state runner-up in 2011, 2008, 2006 and 2003.


"Tradition wins you a lot of football games but we’re at that part now where we’re writing our own tradition," Fletcher said.


The Loboes opened the playoffs with a 54-10 victory against Stanton, followed by a 37-6 win over Spearman and then beat Abernathy, 41-14.


The District 2-2A champions surpassed 700 points on the season and scored at least 37 points in every game — including more than 50 points in half of their contests.


"We have to get Cisco where they haven’t been. We have to get Cisco down," Fletcher said. "That’s what we did against Cooper."


Kent has completed 86-of-120 passes for 1,732 yards with 26 touchdowns and four interceptions to go with 1,616 yards and 24 touchdowns on 147 carries.


The running tandem of Mason Reed and Landen Lewis have a combined 1,798 yards and 30 touchdowns. Kent’s main targets are Kotie Hoover, who has 26 catches for 461 yards and eight touchdowns, and Taylor Massey, who adds 372 yards and seven TDs on 16 catches.


Defensively the Loboes have allowed more than 19 points just once — a 62-34 victory over Hamilton in district play. Godley was the only other team to reach the end zone more than twice against Cisco.


"Exactly what I thought I would see — a bunch of tough West Texas kids who are blue collar and well-coached," Fletcher said. "Offensively they’ve actually similar to us. A lot of different formations."