Facing their toughest opponent since last year's playoffs, the Shiner Comanches fought their way to a 32-31 win over the Class 2A Randolph Ro-Hawks in last Friday's homecoming game.
In a game that saw plenty of mistakes and some big plays, the Comanches prevailed to retain their perfect record (now 4-0).
The Comanches played catch-up all night and when they finally did catch up it was on a 2-point conversion with 2:21 left to play in the game which proved to be the winning margin.
Down 31-24 with just 6:23 left in the game, the Comanches, battled back with outstanding defense and a determined offensive effort to score the winning touchdown and conversion.
Chris Baer leaves Ro-Hawks behind on this 27-yard touchdown run. all photos by Shiner Gazette
The touchdown was set up by a fumble recovery by Scott Shimek on the Ro-Hawks' 27-yard line with 2:30 left in the game. On first down Chris Baer, who rushed for 163 yards on 24 carries, took the pitch from quarterback Trey Curtis and ran to the right, shed a couple of tacklers and raced 27 yards into the end zone.
With the score, 31-30, the Comanches lined up for the extra point kick to tie the game. Instead, holder Bucky Boehm pitched the ball to Ryan Kloesel coming from the left. Kloesel threw a perfect strike to the Nick Evans in the end zone and instead of a tie the Comanches took a 1-point lead.
"We knew they weren't expecting it and even if we didn't make the two points, we felt we had another chance with an onside kick and plenty of time for another score," said Coach Steven Cerny.
The Ro-Hawks had about two minutes to try to recapture the lead and given the big plays they had earlier in the game, Shiner knew it was possible.
But the Comanche defense stood up to the challenge. After the kick off to the Randolph 35, Brandon Ervin was sacked by Clayton McCorkle and Dustin Pohler for a 2-yard loss. Following an incomplete pass, Zach Collins, who had already scored two touchdowns on long runs, got the call but was stopped by McCorkle and others for no gain.
Facing fourth down and 12, Ervin again went to the air but Pohler knocked the pass away and Shiner's win was preserved.
Randolph took a 6-0 lead early in the game on a 68-pass from quarterback Brandon Ervin to Sean Applewhite. Applewhite beat the Comanche secondary and rambled untouched into the end zone.
Their second score came following Shiner's second fumble recovered by Randolph on the Comanche 15.
Three plays later Chris Woods scored on a 1-yard run giving the Ro-Hawks a 12-0 lead. Both conversion attempts failed but with 5:55 left in the first quarter Randolph led 12-0,
Shiner had to punt on their next possession. Shimek booted a 45-yarder which Ervin fumbled on his 10-yard line. Shiner's A.J. Perez pounced on the loose ball giving Shiner a break.
Dustin Pohler goes up and deflects Ervin's pass on fourth down on Randolph's last possession of the game.
Curtis picked up three yards and then Baer carried three times, scoring on a 1-yard run on fourth down. Shimek's kick cut the lead to 12-7 with 1:48 left in the quarter.
The quarter ended with Randolph on their 47. The Ro-Hawks continued their march to the Shiner 25, but a penalty set them back to the 41. A big defensive rush forced a quick throw by Ervin and Baer picked off the aerial on the 40.
The interception stopped the drive but the Comanches couldn't capitalize and had to punt.
Ervin took Shimek's punt inside the 20, broke to the outside behind good blocking and raced 80 yards for the touchdown.
Applewhite's kick upped the lead to 19-7.
Shiner responded with an 11 play, 64-yard drive for a score. The Comanches converted two crucial third down plays on the drive.
Baer converted a 3rd-and-7 and Kenzley Wright got the call on a 3rd-and-2 and fought for nine yards to the Randolph 23.
Shiner then faced another third down on the Ro-Hawks 20-yard line. This time Curtis fired over the middle to Chase O'Connor in the end zone for the touchdown. Shimek's kick cut the lead again to 19-14.
With 1:20 left in the half the Ro-Hawks weren't done and returned the kickoff 87 yards for another touchdown.
Dominic Campano fielded the kick, handed the ball to Collins and the speedster broke through the defense and raced to the end zone. The try for two failed and the half ended, 25-14.
"We made some mistakes early in the game, but that touchdown in the second quarter gave our kids confidence. Except for the big plays in the second quarter we started to wear them down and we got the feeling that we could win," said Cerny.
"That's what we told them in the locker room. With our defense picking up and with a few breaks we can win this game," we said.
The confidence was bolstered on the first play of the second half when Baer took a pitch from Curtis, picked up some good blocks and rambled 62 yards for a touchdown. Shimek's kick now cut the lead to four points, 25-21.
Jared Boedeker recovered the onside kick, but the Comanches went nowhere and had to punt.
The Comanche defense held on downs and got the ball back on their 34. Shiner drove to the Randolph 35 where a fumbled pitch-out was recovered by the Ro-Hawks to set up their final score.
Ryan Kloesel (28) makes an ankle tackle on Patrick McDonald in fourth quarter action.
Two plays later Collins found a hole off tackle and slipped through for a 66-yard touchdown run. Randolph opted to go for two points and it failed, leaving a 10-point margin, 31-21 as the third quarter ended.
"That gave us another break," said Cerny. "A kick would have made it a 12-point game and as things turned out we would have had to try the \ 2-point conversion following our last touchdown and they would have been prepared for it."
Shiner started the final period with a 14-play drive which resulted in a 26-yard field goal by Shimek. Now it was a 7-point ball game with 6:23 left in the game.
This time the Comanches had good kick off coverage and stopped Collins on the 28-yard line. Collins was stopped on two carries, including a solo tackle by Willie Leach for a loss. Ryan Kloesel then stepped up and stopped Patrick McDonald short of the first down forcing a punt.
The Comanches were stopped on downs and Shimek punted the ball to the Randolph 31. Shimek then recovered the fumble on the next play which set up Shiner's winning touchdown with 2:30 left in the game.
"This was a big win for us. Our guys played with a lot of heart and character and never gave up," said Cerny.
"This game showed us we can win over a good team. We have an open week which gives us some time to enjoy this win and prepare for Falls City which has always been a close and tough game."
Cerny said they will be working on special teams and trying to contain speed.
"Randolph had a lot of speed. They had a long punt return and kick off return for touchdowns and we couldn't stop them early."
Cerny said the one thing that most hurt Randolph and helped Shiner was the fact that they missed four of their PAT attempts.
Offensively, Shiner did what they do best, run the ball. They had 53 rushing plays for 250 yards, while Randolph ran 30 times for 159 yards. Both teams attempted five passes, completing one apiece, both of which were for touchdowns.
Shimek was perfect with the PATs and his punting was excellent, averaging 41 yards per kick.
But Shiner fumbled five times, losing three, which in a game like this could have serious consequences.
The Comanches have an open date this week and will open district play at home against Falls City on Oct. 1.
GAME STATISTICS: Randolph Shiner First Downs 11 14 Rushes-Yards 30-159 53-250 Passing Yards 75 20 Comp-Att-Int 2-5-1 1-5-0 Punts 3-29 4-41 Fumbles-Lost 4-2 5-3 Penalties-yds 3-15 1-5 INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS: Rushing: Randolph, Zach Collins 16-130; Chris Woods 7-22; Patrick McDonald 2-10; Brandon Ervin 5-(-3). Shiner, Chris Baer 24-163; Trey Curtis 18-40; Kenzley Wright 8-36; Ryan Kloesel 3-11. Passing: Randolph, Ervin 2-5-1 75. Shiner, Curtis 1-5-0 20. Receiving: Randolph, Sean Applewhite 1-68; Collins 1-7. Shiner, Chase O'Connor 1-20. SCORING SUMMARY: 1 2 3 4 F Universal City Randolph 12 13 6 0 -- 31 Shiner 7 7 7 11 -- 32 SCORING DETAILS: First Quarter R - Sean Applewhite 68 pass from Brandon Ervin (kick failed), 10:18 R - Chris Woods 1 run (run failed), 5:55 S - Chris Baer 1 run (Scott Shimek kick), 1:48 Second Quarter R - Ervin 81 punt return (Applewhite kick), 6:40 S - Chase O'Connor 20 pass from Trey Curtis (Shimek kick), 1:20 R - Zach Collins 87 kickoff return (pass failed), 1:05 Third Quarter S - Baer 62 run (Shimek kick), 11:41 R - Collins 66 run (run failed), :34 Fourth Quarter S - Shimek 26 FG, 6:29 S - Baer 27 run (Nick Evans pass from Ryan Kloesel), 2:21