SHINER - Shiner defensive coordinator Billy Turek likes to use a financial analogy to explain the importance of the front line to the Comanches' overall defensive success.
Ball carriers have had a difficult time breaking through Shiner's defensive line this season. photo by Kerri Besio, Victoria Advocate
"I tell them the defensive front makes the big bucks," Turek said, "so the other guys don't have to pay that much."
The defensive line helped No. 1 Shiner cash in on a 21-7 Class 1A quarterfinal victory over No. 2 Brackett last Saturday night at Alamo Stadium in San Antonio, by clearing the way for the linebackers to make 21 tackles.
The front five will try to bring the Comanches (14-0) another step closer to the big payoff when they confront Big Sandy (11-3) in a semifinal game Saturday at 7 p.m. at Floyd Casey Stadium in Waco.
"We ask our guys to hammer them up front and play good technique," Turek said. "That way we can keep our little linebackers free to make the tackles."
Seniors Dustin Pohler, Clayton McCorkle and Scott Shimek, and juniors Willie Leach and Dylan Hagens have been doing the dirty work all season for the Shiner defense.
The Comanches have shut out six opponents, while yielding only 88 points overall, including a total of 21 in four playoff games.
"We would have maybe liked to have scored a little more," Shiner head coach Steven Cerny said of postseason wins over Benavides, Charlotte, Chilton and Brackett. "But to limit our (playoff) opponents to less than a touchdown a game is impressive, especially when you've played against the No. 3 and No. 2 teams in the state."
Playing against tough competition is nothing new for Shiner's defensive linemen, who have a combined seven letters and saw considerable action during last year's run to the state final.
"Our coaches always tell us that if our front controls the game, we'll be successful," Shimek said. "We've been playing together for a long time and everybody knows each other forwards and backwards. We have good chemistry. We use our technique to disrupt things and let our linebackers get to the ball."
Shiner's front line not only has ample size and strength, it also makes the most of its quickness. Hagens weighs 260 pounds, McCorkle checks in at 240 pounds, Shimek weighs 230 pounds, Leach, who missed two games with a broken hand, weighs 200 pounds, and Pohler weighs 190 pounds.
"You have to be quick, come off the ball and be aggressive," McCorkle said. "If you're going to be on the defensive line, you have to aggressive. You can't be soft."
The Comanches will have to be extremely aggressive and smart to contain a Big Sandy backfield made up of three players who weigh over 200 pounds.
"Most of the people we come up against are big and strong," Pohler said. "We have to use our quickness to get around them. We just have to keep our focus and keep plugging holes like we're supposed to do."
Chris Baer, who along with fellow linebacker Ryan Kloesel, has been the beneficiary of the defensive line's work, appreciates the thanklessness of their task.
"Their job is basically to control the line of scrimmage so we can get in and make the plays," Baer said. "They do a good job of staying low, keeping their feet driving and playing good technique. We spend a lot of time studying our plays and making sure we know what they do."
What the Shiner front five has done the best in the postseason is clamp down on opposing running games. The Comanches' four playoff opponents combined for 343 yards rushing and averaged less than 2.6 yards per carry.
"We're pretty quick and we're solid with experience," McCorkle said. "You have to have experience to read your assignments and play good technique, which is a big key. We work on that a lot."
The work ethic and performance of the defensive line has been worth millions to Turek, who received the same kind of effort from the front line on Shiner's 1986 Class 2A state championship team.
"This is one of our better fronts," Turek said. "They're playing pretty good, physical defense. That's a good sign."
NOTES: Tickets for the Shiner-Big Sandy game will be available at the Floyd Casey Stadium gate. Ticket prices are $8 for adults and $4 for students. ... The Shiner-Big Sandy winner will advance to the state final against the winner of the Windthorst-Stratford game set for Friday at 7:30 p.m. at Lowery Field in Lubbock.