FLATONIA - Shiner is known as a team of big plays, but none have been bigger than the ones it made against Flatonia on Friday night at Bulldog Stadium.
The Comanches stopped Flatonia four times from the Shiner 1-yard line in the closing moments of the fourth quarter to preserve a 20-17 District 31-1A win.
"We've done that for three years in the row," Shiner coach Steven Cerny said of the goal-line stand. "We did it twice against Chilton in the playoffs. You have to give credit to our kids."
As a result, Shiner (7-2, 5-0) stayed unbeaten in district clinched a share of the league championship and the top seed in the playoffs. Flatonia (7-2, 4-1) suffered its first district loss and must defeat Falls City next Friday to earn a trip to postseason play.
Shiner's title hopes appeared in serious jeopardy after Flatonia's Wade Berger blocked a Kyle Condel punt and the Bulldogs took possession at the Shiner 16-yard line with 1:10 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Flatonia was out of timeouts but it didn't seem to matter when runs of 5 and 8 yards by Kurt Morrill and 2 yards by Margoritto Grifaldo gave the Bulldogs a first down at the Shiner 1 with 31 seconds left.
"We went to a five-man front, pinched down with our tackles, had both linebackers stunt, and crashed with our safeties," said Shiner defensive coordinator Billy Turek, who called a timeout after Flatonia reached the 1. "We wanted to put pressure on them up the middle."
Morrill ran to the left side on first down but was stopped short of the goal line, and by the time Flatonia lined up and quarterback Zach Osborne spiked the ball only 8 seconds remained on the clock.
Osborne attempted pass to the corner of the end zone but it was knocked away by Shiner cornerback Josh Nance, setting up fourth down with 8 seconds still remaining since no time went off the clock on the third-down play.
"We were only covering their receiver split out wide," Turek said. "If they would have thrown it to the tight end, nobody would have been covering him. I'm just glad they didn't."
Grifaldo had made a 25-yard field goal in the first quarter and just missed wide to the left on a 39-yard attempt on Flatonia's previous possession. But Flatonia coach David Sine elected to go for the win instead of playing for overtime.
"It was a situation where I didn't want to put it on a kid, I wanted to put it on me," Sine said.
"We were going to go with our bread and butter. I looked across the field at the official thinking, 'Please raise your hands,' but it just didn't happen."
Osborne took the snap and gave the ball to Morrill, who swept around the left side. But the Shiner defense converged on Morrill and linebacker Ryan Kloesel and free safety Trey Curtis combined to tackle him short of the goal line as time expired.
"I thought they were going to run a quarterback sneak," Turek admitted. "Thank goodness Ryan and the rest of our defense was there."
Shiner used big plays on offense to score two of its three touchdowns. Dustin Mayberry, who carried 16 times for 149 yards, took an option pitch from Curtis and ran 80 yards for a touchdown to put Shiner up 14-10 with 11:44 left in the second quarter.
After Flatonia took a 17-14 lead on a 16-yard run by Grifaldo with 2:03 left in the second quarter, Shiner scored the decisive touchdown on an 82-yard pass from Curtis to Condel with 11:10 left in the third quarter.
"The thing about Shiner is they make you defend the whole field," Sine said. "But they're the defending state champions and you have to give them credit. It just wasn't meant to be."
Flatonia showed it had every intention of ending an eight-game losing streak to Shiner when it drove 63 yards in seven plays to score on the game's opening possession.
Morrill, who carried 28 times for 121 yards, ran five times on the drive and scored on a 10-yard run by Grifaldo kicked the first of two extra points with 8:36 left in the first quarter.
Shiner tied the game three plays after Curtis recovered a Morrill fumble on the Flatonia 23. It was one of three turnovers for the Bulldogs, who also threw two interceptions. Chase Veit had one interception and Condel got the other.
Curtis scored Shiner's first touchdown after taking the snap in the shotgun and running 11 yards. Condel kicked the extra point with 4:41 left in the first quarter.
Flatonia's David Gordon recovered a Curtis fumble at the Shiner 24 to set up Grifaldo's field goal with 45 seconds left in the first quarter.
Mayberry scored three plays later, but Flatonia drove 41 yards before Grifaldo scored on a trap play to take the lead at halftime.
GAME STATISTICS: Shiner Flatonia First Downs 14 15 Rushes-Yards 47-262 44-188 Passing Yards 103 53 Comp-Att-Int 2-5-0 4-13-2 Return Yards 32 52 Punts 3-18.7 2-33.5 Fumbles-Lost 2-2 3-1 Penalties-yards 4-30 3-15 INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS: Rushing - Shiner: Dustin Mayberry 16-149, D.J. Pustka 15-98, Trey Curtis 15-41; Flatonia: Kurt Morrill 28-121, Margarritto Grifaldo 15-61, Isidro Aguillon 1-6. Passing - Shiner: Curtis 2-4-0 103, Condel 0-1-0 0; Flatonia: Zach Osborne 2-7-0 31, Brandon Williams 2-4-1 22. Receiving - Shiner: Condel 1-82, Pustka 1-21; Flatonia, Hunter Pinney 2-25, Wade Berger 1-15, David Gordon 1-13. SCORING SUMMARY: 1 2 3 4 F Shiner 7 7 6 0 -- 20 Flatonia 10 7 0 0 -- 17 SCORING DETAILS: First Quarter F - Kurt Morrill 10 run (Margarritto Grifaldo kick), 8:36 S - Trey Curtis 7 run (Kyle Condel kick), 4:41 F - Grifaldo 29 FG, 0:45 Second Quarter S - Dustin Mayberry 80 run (Condel kick), 11:44 F - Grifaldo 16 run (Grifaldo kick), 2:03 Third Quarter S - Condel 82 pass from Curtis (kick failed), 11:10 Fourth Quarter no score