SHINER - Drew Stafford has never started a varsity game at quarterback, but he's been running the veer offense since he was in sixth grade.
Drew Stafford will start at quarterback and kick for Shiner this season. photos by Frank Tilley, Victoria Advocate
"I know my plays and I know where I'm going," Stafford said. "The backs know where they're going. Once we get going and get everybody where they need to be, we'll be good."
Shiner has been consistently successful, advancing to the playoffs for 11 straight seasons and winning a Class 1A state championship in 2004.
The key to the Comanches' success has been continuity.
Steven Cerny begins his 22nd season at Shiner and his eighth as head coach with all but one of his assistants returning.
Shiner has been running the same offense and defense before the players on this year's team were born.
The Comanches will not only have a new starting quarterback this season, they'll also have to replace two linemen who are playing in college.
Shiner could have four sophomores and one freshman in the starting lineup, but expectations remain high.
"Right now they don't know where they're going so they're being cautious and they're feeling their way through it and that's what's hurting us," Cerny said. "With our offense, we're not asking you to hold blocks long, you've just got to get to your spot quick as can be and that's what we're trying to stress to them right now. It's just a matter of them figuring out where they need to go and I think that part will come."
The burden on Stafford and the line will be eased by the return of 215-pound running back Josh Greathouse, who rushed for 1,217 yards and 11 touchdowns last season.
Shiner running back Josh Greathouse runs through agility drills for backs and receivers during practice on Monday.
"Skill-wise we're pretty good," Cerny said. "It just depends on what we're going to do. We're going to find some things to get the ball out on some quick passes or quick pitches and some of our one-back stuff and spread the field a little bit. We'll do a lot of quick-hitting plays where our linemen aren't asked to do a whole lot."
Shiner's defense limited opponents to one touchdown or less in six games and posted three shutouts last season.
Defensive coordinator Billy Turek has made some position changes, but has a strong nucleus led by linebackers Gabe McAfee and Brady Beal, lineman Justin Weise and defensive back Joey Gamez.
"I still think we're going to be pretty stout defensively," Cerny said. "We've got a lot of quickness out there. We're not as big and we're not as strong, but we think we can move them around and make things happen."
Shiner traditionally plays a difficult non-district schedule and has been known to struggle with turnovers early in the season.
"I don't know why it seems like every year we start out and it's a problem and we fumble the ball and it doesn't seem to be veer-related," Cerny said. "I don't know if it's just a matter of getting adjusted to getting hit or what. With Greathouse being a veteran and Stafford having taken a lot of snaps, I think that's going to eliminate a lot of that."
Shiner's ability to keep from making mistakes could be the formula for another successful season.
"It's going to be a little slow because we've got a bunch of young guys coming," McAfee said. "I think once they figure out what they've got to do it's going to be pretty good."
Mike Forman is a sports writer for the Victoria Advocate.
Contact him at 361-580-6588, or by e-mail at email@example.com.