The weekend starts off with a bang in Shiner as the Comanches will play host to a familiar foe in the form of the Flatonia Bulldogs.
"It’s a rivalry game and every year it’s always interesting," said Shiner head coach Steve Cerny. "Everybody comes out and they get all fired up, it’s a great atmosphere for football."
Flatonia (3-4, 0-1) enters the game after suffering two big losses - the 33-19 defeat at the hands of Yorktown on Oct. 7 and the season-ending injury of their standout quarterback Colby Mica, who has a broken collarbone.
"When you’re in a spread attack at a 1A school and you lose your quarterback, it really changes your offense," said Flatonia head coach Chris Freytag. "We were in a predicament because we’re used to throwing the ball 30 times a game. Our kids played hard, but it just didn’t turn out for us."
In addition to the loss of Mica, the Bulldogs went into their district opener without other starters including running Dalton Griffin.
"We’re still banged up," said Freytag. "We’re healthier than we were at this time last week. The open week gave us some time to get our quarterbacks ready, but we still don’t know who is going to be taking the snaps for us on Friday."
Cole Robbins was 4-of-7 for 50 yards against Yorktown, but Will Bruns is also in the mix and played two weeks ago despite nerve damage in his shoulder.
The one thing Freytag said he is sure of is the caliber of this year’s edition of the Comanches.
"This is the best Shiner team I’ve seen in the last four years," he said. "They’re big, they’re physical, but above all they’re very fast. They’ve got a legit shot to play in the state championship."
Shiner (3-5, 1-1) is once again peaking at the right time. They nearly upset top-ranked Ganado in their district opener and responded by rolling over Yorktown last week 41-6.
"We’re kind of starting to put the puzzle together," Cerny said. "We’ve made several changes on the line and in the backfield, some of it was forced because of injuries. We had a really tough non-district schedule that exposed some of our weaknesses, but it gave us an opportunity to make some changes."
The Comanches have the district’s best rushing offense, having run for 1,990 yards on the season including 637 in league play. The ground attack has been enhanced by the emergence of Caleb Curtis, who ran for 162 yards against Ganado while filling in for the then-injured Marlon Wallace. Evel Jones is another cog in the machine, along with quarterback Jacob Stafford, who leads the district with 11 rushing touchdowns.
"Caleb showed us that he can really run the football," said Cerny. "We’re using him more in a fullback role since we’ve kind of gone with a semi-wishbone look. Marlon is back from his shoulder injury so he’s working at halfback and we’re using Evel as more of a slot receiver. We’re just going to see if we can open things up and utilize some of our speed."
While the offense has just begun to settle in, the defense has been consistently strong all season. They have continued to bring it during district, allowing an average of 258.5 yards per game and forcing seven turnovers.
"We have given up a few big plays, but I’ve been really pleased with the play of our defense," Cerny said. "We’re finally starting to get some turnovers, which we weren’t doing earlier in the year. They just have to continue to perform the way they have been."
The game will kick off Friday night at 7:30 p.m. at Shiner’s Comanche Stadium.
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