SHINER -- The Shiner Comanches aren't quite sure what to expect in their new classification except much higher expectations.
Shiner dropped from Class 2A to 1A in the most recent University Interscholastic League reclassification and the Comanches are ranked as high as No. 2 in the state in some preseason polls.
"The expectations are higher," said Shiner coach Billy Turek (pictured at right). "Of course, we know it doesn't come for free. You still have to earn it. But the thing I like most is we're competing against teams with numbers like ours. When we made the playoffs in 2A, the other teams always seemed to be deeper. This evens the numbers with other people."
Even with its numbers, Shiner was usually competitive in Class 2A and won a state championship in 1986.
"The thing we're going to miss is our rivalries," Turek said. "We had good rivalries against teams like Schulenburg, Yorktown and Weimar and I know our fans our going to miss that. We don't really know anything about the (District 30-1A) teams we're playing now.
"When they announced the teams during realignment, we had to go get a map."
Turek doesn't need a map to know he faces some serious work in replacing quarterback Jason Condel and running back Adrian Barnett, who teamed up to rush for 2,700 yards in Shiner's traditional veer offense last season.
"The thing we got out of our older kids last year was leadership," Turek said. "These kids have been led by them for the last two or three years. Some of them have got to step up and be leaders."
The Comanches will rely heavily on senior running back Ray Gates (see photo at right), who rushed for over 800 yards last season, while also starting at linebacker.
"Ray was a two-way starter for us last season and will probably play both ways again," Turek said. "Ray will be all right."
Senior Travis Wright will take over at quarterback. Wright got some valuable playing time last season when Condel was hurt against Weimar.
"Travis came in and won the Weimar game for us," Turek said.
"He's got a little experience, but not a whole lot. He can make it happen. We just hope he makes good things happen."
Senior Elvis Brooks and junior Bryan Franklin will compete for the other running back position.
While the backfield is a concern, the line figures to be solid.
Dustin Ulcak will move to center to join returning guards Ross Spann and Craig Fric. Kyler Johnson is back at tackle and Brett Siegel returns at tight end.
"We think our line will be a good strength for us," Turek said. "Whoever is there will be all right."
Along with Gates, Fric (end), Johnson (tackle) and Siegel (free safety) will also see action on defense. They will be joined by Shawn Flores at end or linebacker, David Evans at nose guard, Adam Dawson at linebacker and Jason Kaspar at strong safety.
Turek has always done his best to two-platoon, but admits it has become more difficult as Shiner's numbers have shrunk.
And if the enrollment in the lower grades is any indication, Shiner will remain in its current classification for some time to come.
"It's going to be this way for at least six to eight years," Turek said. "We're just not growing. We're going to stay in the 160 category and I don't see the (reclassification) numbers coming down."
Thus, the key to Shiner's success will be no different than it is for other Class 1A teams.
"We can't have injuries and we can't lose kids to grades," Turek said. "If we do, we're going to be hurting. Injuries and grades have become more important than they ever have before."
Contact Mike Forman at 361-574-1206, Ext. 1388, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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