WACO - One long Shiner drive in the waning seconds prolonged Big Sandy's three-decade wait to return to state for another year.
TOUGH DEFEAT: Big Sandy's Jeffrey Crowley and Chris Willingham (left) react after their team's 21-17 loss to Shiner Saturday. photo by D.J. Peters, News-Journal Staff
Shiner's Chris Baer powered his way in for a 2-yard touchdown run with 25 seconds left, lifting the top-ranked Comanches past Big Sandy, 21-17, in a Class 1A state semifinal thriller Saturday at Floyd Casey Stadium.
Shiner (15-0), which never led in the game's first 47 1/2 minutes, moves on to the Class 1A Texas Bowl to face Stratford.
Baer shouldered the load late, touching the ball on all but four of Shiner's 12 play, 93-yard drive to cinch the victory.
After Shiner started from its own seven on the heels of Zach Massingill's 55-yard punt, Baer gathered a pitch from Trey Curtis on first down and lobbed a 46-yard halfback pass to Nick Evans, who slipped at the Big Sandy 47 with a wide-open path to the end zone ahead.
Baer carried the ball eight of the next nine plays for 48 yards, including a 12-yard gain to set up Shiner with first-and-goal at the 4. A banged up Baer walked to the sideline with 50 seconds left, leading to two short gains. Baer returned29.6 ticks showing and Shiner out of timeouts for a final tote, which he took through the right side, outmuscling Jonathan Peavy at the plane for the winning score.
Baer finished with 121 yards on 21 carries to lead Shiner back to the state title game, where it fell short a year ago.
Big Sandy (11-4), which won three straight Class B state crowns from 1973-1975, struggled on offense with just 184 total yards, but stayed in control with stellar efforts from its defense and special teams - which forced four turnovers that amounted to 10 points.
Prior to its game-winning drive, Shiner managed only 88 yards in the second half. Big Sandy recovered three fumbles, the first which resulted in a touchdown and the second from a muffed punt that led to a go-ahead 22-yard field goal from Jerry Tennison with 7:20 remaining.
After falling behind for the first time all game, Big Sandy's Vincent Montgomery fumbled on the kickoff return, ending the Wildcat's hopes.
Brandon McCleveland topped Big Sandy with 74 yards. Deroderick Strickland recorded 107 all-purpose yards and scored both Big Sandy TDs.
The first quarter featured back-and-forth action. The teams combined for just 214 yards of total offense in the first half, but teamed up for 172 return yards - setting up one score each off a turnover and a big kickoff return.
On the opening kickoff, Big Sandy received a quick break when Josh Hilton pounced on an Evans fumble at the Shiner 25. Three plays later, Strickland hauled in his first TD pass on a 30-yard go route from Montgomery to go up a seven less than two minutes into the contest.
A Big Sandy fumble on the Wildcat's next possession positioned Shiner at midfield. The Comanches wasted little time capitalzing, scoring in two plays on Curtis' 42-yard strike to Chase O'Connor. Big Sandy retained the lead when Scott Shimek missed the point-after attempt.
Keeping pace with Shiner, Big Sandy answered with a 45-yard return by Curtis Marsh into Shiner territory. Big Sandy cashed in two plays later with Strickland doing the honors again - taking a handoff on an end around 43 yards down the sideline to the payoff and helping the Wildcats mount an eight-point cushion.
Not to be outdone, Shiner responded immediately. Evans atoned for the earlier mistake and returned the ensuing kickoff 88 yards the distance. Baer pulled in Curtis' pass on the try for two to tie the score at 14 all.
GAME STATISTICS: Shiner Big Sandy First Downs 11 8 Yards Rushing 42-143 44-129 Yards Passing 126 55 Passing 4-11-1 3-5-1 Return Yards 133 79 Punts 4-33.3 8-30.6 Fumbles-Lost 6-3 3-2 Penalties 3-15 6-40 INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS: RUSHING - Shiner, Chris Baer 21-121, Trey Curtis 11-21, Kenzley Wright 5-10, Ryan Kloesel 1-1, Team 4-(-10). Big Sandy, Brandon McCleveland 24-74, Deroderick Strickland 4-33, Vincent Montgomery 7-9, Curtis Marsh 6-7, Braylon Johnson 2-5, Jerry Tennison 1-1. PASSING - Shiner, Curtis 3-9-1-80, Baer 1-2-0-46. Big Sandy, Montgomery 2-4-1-25, Strickland 1-1-0-30. RECEIVING - Shiner, Chase O'Connor 2-64, Nick Evans 1-46, Bucky Boehm 1-16. Big Sandy, Zach Massingill 1-30, Strickland 1-25. SCORING SUMMARY: 1 2 3 4 F Shiner 14 0 0 7 -- 21 Big Sandy 14 0 0 3 -- 17 SCORING DETAILS: First Quarter BS - Deroderick Strickland 30 pass from Vincent Montgomery (Jerry Tennison kick), 10:14 S - Chase O'Connor 42 pass from Trey Curtis (kick failed), 5:58 BS - Strickland 43 run (Tennison kick), 4:57 S - Nick Evans 88 kickoff return (Chris Baer pass from Curtis), 4:42 Second Quarter none Third Quarter none Fourth Quarter BS - Tennison 22 field goal, 7:20 S - Baer 2 run (Scott Shimek kick), :25.2