Call it performance with a purpose.
Chris Baer takes a pitchback from quarterback Trey Curtis and launches it to Nick Evans for a 74-yard touchdown play. photos by Shiner Gazette
In a dogged display of defensive prowess and offensive firepower, the Shiner Comanches overcame a 6-point deficit and an upset-minded opponent Friday en route to rolling past the Flatonia Bulldogs 43-9 in a key District 31 -1 A matchup.
Shiner, the top-ranked team in Class 1 A since mid-September, improves to 9-0 on the season and 5-0 in league play. The victory assures Shiner at least a share of the district championship. A win over the Eagles in Pettus this Friday would secure the title outright for Steve Cerny's Comanches.
Flatonia, meanwhile, slips to 7-2, 4-1 and faces a must-win situation in the season finale against Falls City to maintain its playoff aspirations. The Bulldogs, a team rich in talent and tradition, opened the season with a loss to Sacred Heart before posting a string of seven straight victories.
Scott Shimek puts a hit on Flatonia quarterback R.J. Lester and drops him for a loss.
But the Comanches had no intentions of becoming number eight on that list.
Trailing 9-3 in the first half, the Shiner offense came to life, and when all was said and done, the Comanches had reeled off 40 unanswered points to thwart Flatonia's hopes for an upset. In fact, things looked bleak for the Bulldogs from the outset, and when Dustin Pohler pounced on a fumble on the very first play from scrimmage, the Comanches set up shop on the Flatonia 22-yard line. Although the Bulldogs did not allow Shiner to pick up a first down, Scott Shimek's 31-yard field goal split the uprights and gave Shiner a 3-0 lead with just 2:12 elapsed in the opening quarter.
Shiner quickly shut down the Bulldogs on the ensuing series and began a drive of their own, only to be stopped when a fourth down gamble failed to pay off. Flatonia capitalized on the opportunity, and when Gutierrez sped in from the 10, the Bulldogs seemed to have captured the momentum. The PAT failed, but the 'Dogs clung to a 6-3 advantage.
Kenzley Wright breaks away from the crowd and scampers for a 52-yard touchdown.
Things appeared to go downhill for Shiner after that as on the very next play from scrimmage, Juan Grifaldo scooped up a Comanche fumble deep in Shiner territory at the 16. Coupled with an illegal procedure penalty and Shiner's stifling defense, the Bulldogs went backwards.
Nevertheless, the Flatonia fans had even more reason to celebrate when Jose Manzano salvaged the ill-fated drive by booting a 40-yard field goal to give Flatonia a 9-3 edge over the favored Comanches a team that knocked Flatonia out of the playoff picture with a 34-8 win a year ago. But from that moment forward, the Bulldogs would no longer be in control of their own destiny.
Shiner's swarming, sideline-to-sideline defense seemed to increase the intensity a notch or two and kept the Bulldog offensive unit out of sync the rest of the evening, limiting Lyndon Gutierrez, the area's leading rusher going into the contest, to a sub-par 54 yards on 17 carries. Flatonia's vaunted passing attack, spearheaded by quarterback R.J. Lester and receiver Galen Dunk, also found the going tough. Lester completed just 6 of 19 passes for 76 yards, was under heavy pressure whenever he dropped back to pass and was intercepted three times.
But as impressively as the defense performed, it was the Comanche offense that the Bulldogs simply could not corral.
Bucky Boehm brings down R.J. Lester on a quarterback keeper.
Two plays after Flatonia took a 9-3 lead, halfback Chris Baer took a pitch from quarterback Trey Curtis, faked a sweep to the left and then pulled up to launch a pass deep down the sideline to Nick Evans. The pass got hung up in the teeth of a strong breeze, but Evans played it perfectly and outjumped the defender to haul it in around the Flatonia 35 yard line before racing in to paydirt to complete the 74-yard effort. Shimek's kick gave Shiner a 10-9 lead that the Comanches would never relinquish.
Flatonia's next drive would last only one play before Chase O'Connor intercepted a deep throw by Lester to give the Comanches possession at their own 40. Curtis then rambled for runs of 35 and 4 yards before Baer, on a perfect veer pitch from Curtis, shrugged off the initial tackier, maintained his balance and scampered into the end zone for a 21-yard TD. Shimek's point after was true, and Shiner led 17-9. Shiner added another score before the half -- a 25-yard touchdown run by Baer -- to take a commanding 23-9 advantage into the locker room.
In the second half, the Comanches were even more determined to put the game away. And, with excellent blocking by the entire offensive unit and a persistent and aggressive defense, they did just that. Kenzley Wright exploded for touchdown runs of 35 and 52 yards, and Baer put the icing on the cake late in the game with a dazzling 86-yard scoring sprint in which he started left, cut back to the middle of the field and then simply outraced the secondary the rest of the way to paydirt.
Shiner racked up 469 yards rushing on 39 carries while Flatonia tallied 110 yards on 33 tries.
Chris Baer fends off a tackler on a punt return early in the game.
Baer, who also recovered a fumble in the contest, carried 10 times for 187 yards while Curtis picked up 127 yards on 20 attempts. Wright became the third Shiner runner to top the 100-yard mark as he carried 7 times for 105 yards. Dustin Mayberry added 49 yards on one carry.
In addition to O'Connor's interception of Lester, Kevin Berger and Bucky Boehm each picked off a Bulldog pass.
GAME STATISTICS: Flatonia Shiner First Downs 11 15 Rushes-Yards 33-110 39-469 Passing Yards 76 74 Comp-Att-Int 6-20-3 1-3-0 Return Yards 129 30 Punts 3-39 0-0 Fumbles-Lost 2-2 4-2 Penalties-yds 5-36 3-30 INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS: Rushing - Flatonia: Lyndon Gutierrez 17-54, Tyrone Williams 6-39, R.J. Lester 5-8, Margarito Grifaldo 2-10, Kurt Morril 1-3, Isidrio Aguillon 2-(-4). Shiner: Chris Baer 10-187, Trey Curtis 20-127, Kenzley Wright 7-105, Dustin Mayberry 1-49, Kyle Condel 1-1. Passing - Flatonia: Lester 6-19-3, 76yds, Gutierrez 0-1-0. Shiner: Curtis 0-1-0, Baer 1-2-0, 74yds. Receiving - Flatonia: Galen Dunk 5-77, Juan Grifaldo 1-(-1). Shiner: Nick Evans 1-74. SCORING SUMMARY: 1 2 3 4 F Flatonia 0 9 0 0 -- 9 Shiner 3 20 13 7 -- 43 SCORING DETAILS: First Quarter S - Scott Shimek 31 FG; 9:48 Second Quarter F - Lyndon Gutierrez 10 run (kick failed); 11:09 F - Jose Manzano 40 FG; 9:35 S - Nick Evans 74 pass from Chris Baer (Shimek kick); 8:23 S - Baer 21 run (Shimek kick); 6:53 S - Baer 25 run (kick failed); 4:06 Third Quarter S - Kenzley Wright 35 run (Shimek kick); 8:52 S - Wright 52 run (kick failed); 1:10 Fourth Quarter S - Baer 86 run (Shimek kick); 8:12