SHINER - Shiner's D.J. Pustka motioned fellow running back Dexter Mayberry over to his side as he was being placed in an ambulance during Friday's scrimmage against Yoakum at Comanche Stadium.
Shiner running back D.J. Pustka will miss the entire season after being injured in the Comanches' scrimmage against Yoakum. Shiner will also be without Kevin Patek, who played center and linebacker and was injured in a scrimmage against Ganado. Advocate file photo by Harry Reese
"He told me I was going to have to step up and be more of a leader," Mayberry said. "That's the way I'm approaching it. I'm stepping up and doing more."
Mayberry won't be the only Shiner player doing more than originally planned if the Comanches are to overcome a pair of season-ending injuries that has put a damper on preseason expectations.
Shiner enters the season ranked No. 7 in the Class 1A state preseason poll but will be without Pustka and Kevin Patek, who started at center and linebacker.
Patek, a senior, suffered a broken collarbone when he was knocked down at the line of scrimmage during Shiner's first scrimmage against Ganado. Pustka, a junior, broke a bone in his leg, tore ligaments in his knee, and dislocated his ankle after being horse collared while running in the Yoakum scrimmage. Pustka had surgery Saturday and is expected to return for baseball season.
"I've never had injuries this early and that serious," Shiner coach Steven Cerny said. "I've had stuff like broken fingers but the kids were always able to come back for district. We've had nothing like this right from the start."
Cerny has thought a lot about the injuries but won't second-guess the way his team approached the scrimmages.
"You've got to get yourself in game shape," Cerny said. "We felt like we matched up well with Ganado and Yoakum. We were in control of what we were doing and we were not going overly long. They were both kind of freak accidents. It's just something that happened. We had two really bizarre incidents take place."
Cerny would like to see the UIL follow the lead of the NFL and make tackling by grabbing the shoulder pads illegal.
"When you catch somebody by the shoulder pads, you've got total control," Cerny said. "A jersey will give, shoulder pads don't. I'd like to get rid of the crack-back block, blocking below the waist, and the horse collar. That's the way people get hurt."
Cerny's immediate concern is finding a running back to replace Pustka for Friday night's season opener at Schulenburg. He may also have to find a way to get some rest for Mayberry, who has been forced to play linebacker since Patek was hurt.
"There's definitely a difference," Cerny said. "We thought we had a game plan. But losing one person, much less two, makes a difference, especially on the Class 1A level. We've got four games before we begin district to figure out what we're going to do."
Mayberry admits watching his teammates being carried off the field was difficult, but has no doubt the Comanches will eventually rebound.
"When we lost Kevin it was kind of weird and then it happened again with D.J.," Mayberry said. "It's scary, but you can't be cautious. You have to play every play like it's your last day. We're coming along but I can't say it's all the way there"
Cerny got a chance to see how his team would perform under duress when it continued the Yoakum scrimmage after Pustka's injury.
"After it happened, we could have shut it down," Cerny said. "But you can't stop. You have to get right back on the horse after you get thrown off. I don't think D.J. would have wanted us to quit. He knows we've got to get better. I can promise you one thing. Nobody else in our district is going to feel sorry for us. You've just got to get somebody else to step up for you."
Mike Forman is a sports writer for the Victoria Advocate.
Contact him at 361-580-6588, or by e-mail at email@example.com.