SHINER ó As is the case with most small Texas towns, this rural community takes high school sports very seriously.
Shinerís Chris Baer is stopped by Falls Cityís Derek Sturm during a game on Dec. 5, 2003. photo by Kerri Besio, Victoria Advocate (2003)
And nothing is more serious than high school football, which kicks off this week all over the Lone Star State.
In this part of Texas, that means the Shiner Comanches play Vanderbilt Industrial at home. St. Paulís High School, a Catholic prep located across town, i.e. two miles away, plays Yorktown on the road. Both games start at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
In Shiner, a Czech-German town of 2,107 located halfway between Houston and San Antonio, football comes with certain expectations.
For one thing, itíll be easy to find everyone Friday night.
"The streets will be empty," says Travis Kremling of Texas Thunder Radio 94.3 FM, the local radio station. "Everyone will be at one of the games."
Secondly, there will be Czech music in the air. Thatís not a cheap shot at an ethnic stereotype. Both schools use the "Shiner Song," which was originally a polka called "Road to Praha (Prague)" as their fight song. They sing it before, during and after games.
Given that these are scholastic sports, there will be no beer allowed, even at the Catholic game. But beer will be on everyoneís subconscious.
Thatís because the Comanchesí helmets sport the longtime Shiner Beer insignia, minus the word "Premium" in the middle and "Football" in place of "Beer" at the bottom. The Spoetzl Brewery, which makes the stateís best mass-marketed beer, sits on the edge of town.
And finally, people will expect the Comanches to win, because thatís what they tend to do. The school won last seasonís UIL Lone Star Cup for Class 2A schools. The award is the all-sports trophy given to the high school in each division with the best all-around program.
It wasnít a fluke.
Here are the Comanchesí state championships in recent years: football (2004), baseball (2002, 2004), softball (2001-02, 2008, 2011, 2015), and mixed doubles tennis (2007).
Last season, the Comanches went 10-2 in football. This season, Shiner comes in as the fourth-ranked team in Class 2A Division I.
People here are so accustomed to winning that a visitor this week was hard-pressed to find signs that football kicks off Friday.
Unlike other towns, where downtown merchants decorate their storefronts and cheerleaders put school- colored ribbons on anything that isnít moving, I saw no signs in Shiner that football season was here.
Shiner, in other words, acts like itís been there Ö because it has.
"I guess weíre spoiled," said mayor Fred Henry Hilscher, chuckling. "Weíve been very lucky."
Itís a simple formula, Hilscher said.
"The deal is that here, right off the bat, in Shiner, we start them young," he said. "Weíve got great youth programs for kids. These kids, especially the girls, are so prepared when they get to high school to play volleyball and softball. They get used to winning."
Shiner also benefits from being on U.S. Highway 90 rather than on Interstate 10, the newer, parallel road. Thereís less traffic, worse accessibility to larger cities and fewer distractions for the kids than in neighboring towns on the interstate.
The same holds true for adults.
"The parents around here are involved," Hilscher said. "Weíve got great volunteers. Thatís a key to it."
High school and youth sports are, for the most part, the only show in town.
Shiner also has benefited from consistency. Head football coach Steve Cerny has been here for 28 years. He has coached entire families on the gridiron and on the diamond.
Diamond? Yes. Heís also the softball coach, which means he has guided multiple state championship teams and in three sports.
The school wins, Cerny said, because the whole town works hard.
"Itís not just about athletics," he said. "Itís academics, itís music, itís everything. Itís about the work ethic of the town. It starts in the homes and carries over to the school."
Roy Bragg / firstname.lastname@example.org / Twitter: @roybragg