SHINER - Shiner coach Steven Cerny didn't even try to explain what the Comanches had done to keep Flatonia from scoring on four plays from the Shiner 1-yard line in the closing seconds of a crucial 20-17 District 31-1A win earlier this season.
Shiner defensive coordinator Billy Turek has been instrumental in the Comanches' success over the past two decades. Turek's defensive squad will face another tough task on Friday when the Comanches face top-ranked Chilton in a Class 1A regional playoff game in Pflugerville. Kerri Besio, Advocate file photo
Cerny has relied on Turek's defensive expertise since replacing him as head coach when Turek retired after the 2001 season. Turek, who stepped down because of problems with his knees, worked as a part-time coach during the 2002 season before rejoining the staff full time for the 2003 season.
Turek has directed the Shiner defense for more than two decades and it's no coincidence that the Comanches have consistently advanced deep into the playoffs while playing in three state finals and winning two state championships during that time.
Shiner (10-2) looks to continue its drive toward a third consecutive Class 1A state final appearance when it takes on top-ranked Chilton (12-0) in a regional playoff game Friday at 7:30 p.m. at Pflugerville Hendrickson High School.
"He'll do what he has to do," Cerny said of Turek. "If we're not capable of stopping a team with what we've practiced, he'll invent a defense. It could be something we've never worked on. He'll come in at halftime and say this is what we have to do.
"Anybody who thinks they've figured out coach Turek from play to play," Cerny added, "knows more about him than I do."
Cerny witnessed what Turek's defenses accomplished the past two seasons and has no qualms about entrusting the Comanches' fate this season to the defense.
During Shiner's run to the 2003 state final and 2004 state championship, the Comanches yielded one touchdown or less in seven of their 12 postseason games.
Shiner has made it nine of its last 14 games this season with a 21-0 bi- district win over Ben Bolt and a 21-6 area victory over Charlotte. Until Charlotte scored in the second quarter of last week's game, the Comanches had shut out opponents for 11 consecutive quarters.
"I've learned a lot from watching his (Turek's) teams in past years," senior defensive end John Mraz said. "He's always had set formations but he'll move us around if he has to. One of the things that has helped hold our defense together is his good coaching tactics."
The performance of the Shiner defense has allowed Cerny to remain fairly basic with his play calling.
"We have been conservative," Cerny said. "When I feel like the defense is doing well, I don't want to put us in a situation where we have bad field position. We want to win the battle of field position. That doesn't always mean scoring. That could mean driving to midfield and getting a good punt. I don't want to get in situations I've seen where one bad play can turn the momentum of a game."
Turek was forced to do a lot of teaching earlier this season to overcome some missteps caused by inexperience and a slew of injuries.
"When you're giving up 30-something points and 80-yard runs you're not looking too bright," Mraz said. "After we played (Universal City) Randolph (a 34-20 loss), we knew we had some things to fix and we fixed those things. It was just a matter of playing and getting our reps in the games."
Turek helped initiate the defense's last-season resurgence by shifting personnel, including Ryan Kloesel from linebacker to strong safety, when he returned from an injury that kept him out most of district play.
"Coach Turek said he wanted someone who could stop the run and cover the pass," explained Kloesel, who started at linebacker last season. "He said for the last three years we've had a pretty good secondary. It seems like everything we're doing now is pretty much the same as what we've done the past three years. We're just playing as hard as we can in every game."
The Shiner defense has the ability to go full speed for an entire game because end Colton Henley is the only full-time player who also starts on offense.
"I think that's what's helped us out a little bit this season, especially in the second half," Cerny said. "Our defense doesn't get tired."
Shiner's defense will have to be at its best against a Chilton team that has averaged 41.6 points per game and scored less than 33 points in a game only twice this season.
Turek has declined to comment on his defense this week, but he's had plenty to say to his players about what must be done to contain the Chilton offense.
"A lot of teams don't spend a balance of practice on defense like we do," Cerny said. "We kind of split our practices. Early in the week, we do more offense. By the end of the week, we're concentrating more on defense. That's kind of the way it's been with us all the way through."
Mike Forman is a sports writer for the Victoria Advocate.
Contact him at 361-580-6588, or by e-mail at email@example.com.