Many teams in the south-central Texas area have strong football traditions, but no one can claim to have a more proud football history than the Shiner Comanches and the Poth Pirates.
Both teams have made the playoffs five years running. Shiner has won five postseason games in the last 2 seasons, and Poth has made the third round of the 2A playoffs every season since 1998. All teams want to win every game, but Shiner and Poth are two of the rare programs that can reasonably expect such a lofty accomplishment.
That being said, the Comanches and Piratesí meeting on the gridiron Friday night promised to be a good one, and the two teams didnít disappoint. In the end, a trick play and a changed coaching decision made all the difference, as 1A top-ranked Shiner defeated 2A #3 Poth 14-7.
The game started out quickly enough. Poth kicked off, sophomore Chris Baer returned it 36 yards to the Poth 46-yard line, then scored on a 54-yard touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage. Barely 20 seconds had elapsed, and already Shiner was on top.
The Pirates moved the ball well on their first drive of the season, racking up two first downs and driving into Comanche territory before Kurt Semlinger fumbled after catching a 17-yard pass from Sherman Posey. The Comanches took over on their own 30, but could move the ball just 10 yards before being forced to punt. Poth then drove 74 yards in eight plays, scoring on a 38- yard touchdown run from Jason Weed.
That was all of the offense for the first half. Only two first downs were achieved in the second quarter, and those were on back-to-back rushes from Jason Weed, who scampered 29 yards on second down from his own 14, and then rushed for 21 yards on the very next play. However, 10 of those were wiped out by an illegal use of hands penalty, and the Pirates ended up punting.
The second half started out the same, as the Pirates received the kickoff and gained just 3 yards on 3 plays before punting. Baer then took over again for the Comanches, picking up first downs on runs of 22 and 14 yards. However, Poth solved the Comanchesí pitch-out to Baer, and Shiner found itself looking at 4th and 5 on the Pirate 25. Shiner head coach Steve Cerny opted not to kick a field goal, but instead went with what had been working all day; he handed it off to Baer. Baer appeared to have a 25-yard rushing score on the 4th down play, but it was rules that he stepped out of bounds at the 2-yard line.
Just three plays later, Cerny made another gutsy call. Facing 4th and goal from the Poth 6, kicker R.J. Lester trotted onto the field to attempt a kick. The snap came, and holder/quarterback Garet Pustka pulled the snap into his body. He handed off to Quentin Wright, who was supposed to run the ball into the end zone. Wright instead found tight end Desmond Brooks wide open, and completed a 6-yard score that put the Comanches ahead for good.
"Weíd been practicing it since two-a-days, but we never wanted to put it in until the playoffs," said Wright. "But we needed a big play, and I saw (Brooks) wide open. Instead of running, I just lobbed it up."
The Pirates threatened one more time, in the fourth quarter, as they put up maybe the most impressive drive of the night. A 51- me if yard punt by Steven Evans backed Poth up to itís own 8- yardline, but Poth coach Jerry Bonewald started getting creative. Weed threw a fleaflicker pass to Semlinger for 14 yards, and quarterback Posey had a 21-yard keeper of his own. The Pirates looked almost unstoppable, and drove all the way down inside the Shiner 10. On 4th and 2 from the 5-yard line, coach Bonewald had to make a decision.
"I was actually going to call a running play, but my coaches talked me into going with the pass," Bonewald said. The results were immediately disastrous, as Baer sacked Posey from his linebacker position, forcing a 19-yard loss and basically ending Pothís chance for a comeback. Baer also made the last play of the game, a tackle on Posey as the clock ran out.
"Iím glad he did," Shiner defensive coordinator Reggie Morgan said of Bonewaldís decision. "Iím glad he threw a pass. If he would have ran the ball, I thought that I had every hole filled, with the blitz, but I was hoping he would try to pass it. I sent everybody on that play. I sent linebackers, I sent the outside guys, I sent everyone at him, hoping our kids would sack him before he passed the ball."
Baer, just a sophomore, was easily the most outstanding player of the game. In addition to the huge sack on Posey and several other key defensive plays, Baer finished the game with 135 yards on 18 carries. "Our defense has really changed this year, with Coach Morgan," Baer said. "Heís made our defense more aggressive."
If this win is any indication, the Comanches wonít miss a beat under Cerny, who takes over for longtime coach Billy Turek. "Iíve been here for 14 years," said Cerny, "and Iím doing the same thing I did before. The only thing is that I have a little more responsibility. Coach Turek trained me well. Heís great to work for, heís still around, and he still gives me advice. Iím glad I had the opportunity to keep the tradition going, and keep the same style of football that weíve been playing in the past."
As for Poth, not all is lost. "We had some young kids make some mistakes tonight," said Bonewald. "We had too many penalties, missed a few tackles, and a had a few problems with cramps. We have Falls City next week, and we canít afford to get dominated in the fourth quarter."
GAME STATISTICS Shiner Poth First Downs 10 9 Yards Rushing 46-224 33-192 Yards Passing 6 86 Passes 1-4-1 4-16-1 Punts 5-40.2 5-35.2 Fumbles-lost 0-0 1-1 Penalties-yards 5-25 4-30 SCORING DETAILS Shiner 7 0 7 0 -- 14 Poth 7 0 0 0 -- 7 First Quarter S - Chris Baer 54 run (R.J. Lester kick), 11:35 P - Jason Weed 38 run (Week kick), 1:32 Third Quarter S - Desmond Brooks 6 pass from Quentin Wright (Lester kick), 4:56