WICHITA FALLS -- Stratford had the lead for 15 seconds.
Shiner's Chris Baer (10) breaks loose on his 88-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the first quarter. T.C. Baker/Victoria Advocate
But Chris Baer's 88-yard kickoff return put Shiner in command Saturday night, and the Comanches rolled to a 33-19 victory over the Elks in the Class A state championship game.
No. 1 Shiner (16-0), which lost by one point to Windthorst in the title game last year, completed a perfect season. The state title was the first for the Comanches since 1986, when they won it all in 2A.
The Elks (13-3) grabbed the lead on an 88-yard pass from Josh King to Tony Ruiz with 6:48 left in the first quarter, but Baer quickly erased that with his return. The senior shook off an attempted tackle by Tyler Haynes 34 yards from the end zone.
"That kickoff was huge," Shiner coach Steven Cerny said. "The momentum swung back our way again. In a big game like this, momentum is everything."
The kickoff return was just a preview of what was to come -- a whole lot of Baer.
He carried 21 times for 128 yards and three touchdowns. As a linebacker on defense, Baer had eight tackles, including a pair of sacks.
His 28-yard run with 2:55 left in the first quarter gave the Comanches a lead they never would relinquish.
Stratford scored first in the second quarter on King's 8-yard TD run. But a 6-yard TD run by Baer gave the Comanches a 21-13 halftime lead.
The Elks kept the ball for more than 16 minutes of the second half but got into the end zone only once, thanks to a solid effort by the Shiner defense -- especially nose guard Dustin Pohler and Baer -- and three turnovers.
"In the second half, it seemed like we never had the ball," said Cerny, whose team had it for just 7 minutes and 42 seconds. "But our defense has stepped it up all year, and they came through when we needed it."
Pohler posted 10 tackles and 31/2 sacks.
King ran for his second TD, this one from 3 yards out, with 3:37 left in the third quarter to pull Stratford to within 21-19.
A 37-yard kickoff return by Chase O'Connor set up the Comanches at the 36, and they covered that in just one play with Trey Curtis connecting with Nick Evans for the TD.
That was the only completion of the game for Shiner, which attempted just three passes.