SHINER - A year removed from being an extra point away from possibly hoisting the Class 1A state championship trophy in the air, the Shiner Comanches aren't looking back to what could have been.
Chris Baer is back to lead the Shiner Comanches' offense and defense. The Comanches fell 28-27 to Windthorst in last year's Class 1A championship game. Kerri Besio, Advocate Staff Photographer
"That was a great experience last year," Shiner running back and middle linebacker Chris Baer said, "but once it's over it's over. It's a whole different team, so you have to start from scratch."
Shiner marched through the regular season holding six of 10 opponents to single-digits in scoring. The only blemish in their record was an 7-0 loss to Falls City and a 28-27 loss to Windthorst in the Class 1A final. The Comanches also scored 30-plus points in eight games.
"It's just a little bit different," head coach Steve Cerny said. "Offensively, I don't think we'll be as strong as we were. I don't think we'll put up the numbers we did last year. Defensively right now, we look pretty sound."
While the expectations are endless for a repeat performance on both sides of the ball, the pressure in the air is as thin as their deficit in last year's state final game.
AT A GLANCE
HEAD COACH: Steven Cerny - third year (25-4), all at Shiner.
LAST YEAR'S RECORD: 14-2, 4-1 in District 30-1A.
RETURNING LETTERMEN: 13
RETURNING STARTERS: 10 (4 offensive, 6 defensive).
LAST PLAYOFF APPEARANCE: 2003 - Lost to Windthorst 28-27 in state final.
STRENGTH: Linebackers, defensive line, running back.
WEAKNESS: Inexperience at quarterback, secondary.
"Pressure doesn't seem to bother any of us out here," Shiner linebacker Jared Boedeker said. "I think everybody has kept it in mind what we need to do. We don't really talk about it that much. We understand what's going on and what everyone expects us to do."
"Our expectations are always high no matter who we have coming in." Baer and Boedeker, along with Ryan Kloesel, provide solidarity to the defense as all three starting linebackers will return from last year's 14-2 team.
Many on the team, including the linebacker trio, say opponents will recognize their defense.
"I think our defense has improved alot from last year," Baer said. "Nine seniors start on defense, so it's going to be tough to run anything against us."
2004 SHINER COMANCHE FOOTBALLDate Time Team Last Year Aug 27 7:30 at Poth W 34- 0 Sep 3 7:30 at East Bernard DNP Sep 10 7:30 Boling W 7- 6 Sep 17 7:30 Randolph DNP Sep 24 OPEN Oct 1 7:30 * Falls City L 7- 0 Oct 8 7:30 * at Runge W 46-13 Oct 15 7:30 * Louise W 70-12 Oct 22 7:30 * at Woodsboro DNP Oct 29 7:30 * Flatonia W 34- 8 Nov 5 7:30 * at Pettus DNP * = District 30-1A Games CLICK HERE FOR TEAM ROSTER
Still, a few question marks remain on that side of the ball as the secondary will see some changes. Chase O'Connor and Nick Evans will take over at cornerbacks, and Kevin Berger and Bucky Boehm will start in the two safety positions.
The changes in player personnel on defense do not involve as much drastic adaptation as those on offense.
Trey Curtis will take the reins of the offense to replace Garet Pustka, who was a mainstay in Shiner's starting lineup for three seasons. Curtis still has varsity experience, playing weak safety as a sophomore and taking snaps in non-district games last season.
"We have a little bit of transitioning at quarterback and with the linemen," Cerny said. "We just have to teach. (Curtis) is not as polished as Garet was, obviously. He's got a great work ethic; he does know the veer system. He was the backup last season, so it's not anything new to him."
The offensive line will undergo the most changes with Berger moving over from starting center to tight end in part because "his speed just kind of blossomed out of nowhere," Cerny said.
"I think our defense has improved a lot from last year."
Chris Baer, Shiner RB/LB
Slot end Perez is coming off his first year of football, John Mraz was on JV last season and left tackle Dylan Hagens moves into the starting role after serving as a backup last season.
Kenzley Wright will take over the role voided by his cousin, 2003 running back Quentin Wright.
Cerny said the Comanches learned a valuable lesson last year. "We found out to have a chance, you have to be good at everything," Cerny said. "If you have a weakness somewhere, you're going to have a hard time going anywhere in the playoffs."
Dustin Wenzel is a sports writer for the Victoria Advocate.
Contact him at 361-580-6508, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.