Gonzales Cannon On-Line

Great Expectations:
Loaded with experience, Shiner full of potential

Thursday, August 25, 2011

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Shiner High School photos
SHINER -- 2010 was a tale of two seasons in Shiner. The Comanches came out of the gates slowly and carried a 1-5 record into the district portion of their schedule. They lost the hard-fought league opener 21-14 to Ganado, which left the team mired in a five-game losing streak.

"We got off to a pretty rough start with our non-district schedule, but there were two things that contributed to that," said head coach Steven Cerny. "We had several injuries so we had to kind of restructure some things, plus our non-district schedule was one of the toughest we’d ever played in Shiner."

The Comanches responded by sweeping the rest of the district and advanced all the way to the regional semifinals, where they lost to Mason 28-21.

"The thing that turned our season around was the fact that I’ve got a great coaching staff, and we’ve got a great bunch of kids here that always work hard and never give up," said Cerny. "We were able to hang in there until things turned around for us."

Shiner is ranked #10 in the Texas Football preseason poll and have 14 starters back including four on the offensive line in center Jake Jalufka, guard Donovan Mardis, tackle Derek Duke and tight end Blaine Caka.

"I think the main thing that we’re excitedabout this year is our line is intact for the most part," Cerny said. "That was one area where we struggled last year because we were young, so we’re hoping that will be a big plus for us."

Running back Marlon Wallace is expected to play a key role this year after rushing for 708 yards and nine scores last season. He will be joined in the backfield by Evel Jones (31-205,TD), who was moved to wide receiver last year after suffering a knee injury. Other prospects includeZach Lawrence (39-189, 2 TDs) and Caleb Curtis (15-67).

"Marlon did an outstanding job for us last year and we’re counting on his senior leadership to get us going," said Cerny. "We have a couple of other prospects to look at that position like Evel. We look for him to do good things in the backfield. We’ve got some depth there and we’ve got some options to take a look at."

The biggest question on offense is who will be under center for the season opener against Vanderbilt Industrial.

"The quarterback spot is open right now,"Cerny said. "We had several who worked there last year, but we’re probably going to give Brady Cejka and Jacob Stafford shots at the position. Over the course of time, we’ll see who is going to be the best for that. We try to go one way, so if somebody doesn’t pan out on offense then hopefully we can use them on the defensive side of the ball.

"The team’s greatest potential arguably rests in the defense, which gave up 242 points last year but only 37 in their three playoff games. Graduation brought significant losses with safeties Coy Boedeker and Joey Gamez, line-backer Brady Beal and defensive end Kenneth Coleman all gone, but defensive tackle Sabino Rodriquez (55 tackles, 7 sacks) is back to anchor the defensive front.

"We lost some key people, but we still think our defensive line may be our strength," said Cerny. "We have Sabino and we had Caleb Curtis at the nose last year, but we might move him to a defensive end."

"We’re still going to have to re-shuffle people, some are going to be asked to play different positions. It’s possible Lucian Blaschke may go from corner to safety and if Stafford stays at quarterback, then we’ll have to go with somebody else at middle linebacker. If Cejka quarterbacks, then we’ll have to find another safety because we plan on using him there. We’ve got some questions to answer, but that’s what your scrimmages and non-district schedule are for."

In order for Shiner to finish atop District15-1A DI, they are likely going to have to wrest away the title from defending champ and preseason #1 Ganado. The Indians return a whopping 18 starters from an 11-1 regional semifinalist squad including preseason district Offensive MVP Josh Labay (1,576 rushing yards, 28 TDs).

"Hands down, Ganado is the (district) favorite," Cerny said. "Not only do they have size, but they have speed and it looks like this is one of the best groups of kids that they’ve had in a long time. Here in Shiner, we always think that we have a chance to challenge for the district championship so we’re not going to just say it’s theirs. We hope to give them a battle for it."

The rest of district is expected to be a three-way race for the third playoff spot between Flatonia, Louise and Yorktown. The Bulldogs won only once last year, but return nine starters on both sides of the ball. Louise was 4-6 last year, but must find a way to overcome the loss of a strong senior class. Yorktown has 11 starters back from their 7-5 area finalist including the versatile all-stater Jayden Barefield (1,024 receiving yards, 19 TDs).

"Flatonia was really young, but they started to progress and move the football towards the end of the year," Cerny said. "I look for them challenge for a second or third spot. Louise’s program has really come around over the years, they’ve consistently played us tougher than almost anybody else."

"We couldn’t stop Yorktown and their speed last year, so even if you look at Ganado being first the other two spots are going to be up for grabs. We just hope that we’re going to be one of the teams who are able to secure one of those spots."

Before they get to district play, the Comanches must navigate their way through another killer schedule that includes games at 2A Schulenburg and Weimar, and against 3A Geronimo Navarro. One of the marquee 1A games in Texas will take place on Sept. 30 when they travel to Ben Bolt. The Badgers were area finalists last year and return some of the state’s top playmakers in WR Andres Alaniz (1,750 yards, 19 TDs), defensive lineman Ryan De la Cruz (76 tackles, 16 sacks) and linebacker Ivan Gonzales (142 tackles, 2 INTs).

"They’ve got a great ballclub coming back and they’ve shown that they’re a playoff-caliber team," Cerny said. "They’re one of the best teams in 1A. Once we get through our non-district games with 2A and 3A clubs, we’re hoping to still be healthy. I think Ben Bolt will give us an idea of where we need to be as far as 1A teams are concerned."

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