The Stratford Elks' defense should have no problem recognizing what the Shiner Comanches like to do offensively during Saturday's Class 1A state championship football game. Undefeated Shiner (15-0) employs the veer-option offense, which is similar to what Stratford and quarterback Josh King have run well in the Elks' last two playoff games.
Chris Baer: Shiner back has rushed for 2,019 yards and 38 touchdowns behind a strong offensive line.
The major difference is Shiner's main veer threat has been running back Chris Baer, while King has emerged as Stratford's main running threat the last two weeks in the playoffs.
The 6-foot, 200-pound Baer, who earlier this week was named first-team all-state by The Associated Press, has rushed for 2,019 yards and 38 touchdowns. Baer also has completed five halfback passes for 121 yards and a touchdown.
Quarterback Trey Curtis (5-7, 155) is Shiner's No. 2 rushing threat in the option with 739 yards and five TDs.
Also like Stratford, the Comanches' offense runs behind a solid line.
"No disrespect to Baer, but we faced several backs this year as good as he is. The strength of Shiner's team is their offensive line," said Big Sandy coach Scott Callaway, whose team lost to Shiner 21-17 in last week's state semifnals.
The Comanches have used the veer-option scheme for several years, dating to their 1986 state championship won while Shiner was a 2A school.
"In that offense, you don't have to hold your blocks too long," said Steven Cerny, in his second year as the Comanches' head coach. "We usually don't have a lot of size down here so we have to do it with technique."
Unlike Stratford, Shiner doesn't pass often. But when the Comanches do pass, they've been effective. A 50-yard halfback pass by Baer jump-started Shiner's game-winning drive against Big Sandy.
A fourth-quarter reverse pass for a touchdown gave Shiner the lead for good, 14-7, in a 21-7 quarterfinals victory over Brackett.
Curtis, a junior and first-year varsity starter at quarterback, has completed only 19 passes in 15 games, but nine of his completions have gone for touchdowns.
"Baer throws most of their halfback passes, " said Brackett coach David Yeager.
Class 1A Title Game
Stratford (13-2) vs. Shiner (15-0).
6 p.m. Saturday, Memorial Stadium, Wichita Falls.
Final AP Rankings:
Shiner was ranked No. 1; Stratford was unranked but received votes.
"You know it's coming, but you've still got to stop it.The halfback pass is effective because Baer runs with the ball so often."
Clayton McCorkle, a 6-3, 240-pound senior, made first-team all-state this week and was a 91-percent blocker with 51 knockdown blocks this year.
Nick Evans, Shiner's leading receiver, returned a kickoff 88 yards for a touchdown against Big Sandy.
The defense, which returned six starters from last year's state runner-up team, has been Shiner's biggest asset this season. The Comanches allow seven points per game and have shut out six opponents, including Benavides in bidistrict.
The 17 points by Big Sandy marked just the third time this season for Shiner's defense to allow 10 or more points in a game. The most points the Comanches have allowed came in a 32-31 win over Universal City Randolph, a 2A playoff team.
"We couldn't block them," Brackett's Yeager said.
"They're big, strong and fast. We played about as well as we could have against them.
"It was 0-0 at the half, and we led 7-0 in the third quarter. We had some success on the edges, but we couldn't block their front line."
McCorkle and Scott Shimek lead the Comanches' defensive line, while linebackers Baer and Ryan Kloesel (5-10, 165) are the leading tacklers.
Big Sandy's Callaway said his team had the most success with misdirection runs against Shiner's defense. He also said a passing team might be able to loosen up the Comanches' defensive front.
More than anything, Callaway said Shiner's playoff experience - Saturday will be its 32nd game in two seasons - made a difference against Big Sandy, which led 17-14 until the final minute. He said the Comanches offense did not panic in crunch time.
"They were very calm and relaxed through it all," Callaway said. "They obviously felt comfortable with what they were doing.
"I don't know anything about Stratford, but that game will come down to whether Stratford can block them (Shiner) up front or not."