WACO - Chris Baer knew Shiner was going to go for the game-tying field goal if he didn't make it into the end zone on third down from the Big Sandy 2-yard line with the Comanches out of timeouts and 29.6 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. But there was no way the senior running back was going to let that happen.
Shiner running back Chris Baer twists into the end zone with 25.2 seconds remaining for the Comanches' game-winning touchdown in their 21-17 Class 1A semifinal win. photos by Kerri Besio, Victoria Advocate
Baer carried three Big Sandy defenders into the end zone with 25.2 seconds left to lift Shiner to a 21-17 Class 1A semifinal victory on Saturday night at Floyd Casey Stadium.
"There was no way we wanted to play for a tie," Baer said. "I just drove my feet and got into the end zone."
Baer's touchdown completed a 12-play, 93-yard drive that began with 4:16 remaining and included a 46-yard pass from Baer to Nick Evans, who would have scored if he hadn't fallen down. Baer missed the two plays before his touchdown run after getting the wind knocked out of him when he fell on the ball.
"If it's going to anybody, it's going to Chris," Shiner coach Steve Cerny said of Baer, who carried 21 times for 118 yards. "He's going to give you the extra effort. That's the reason he's up for player of the year. He makes those kind of plays."
Baer's touchdown gave Shiner its first lead of the game and sent the Comanches into the state final for the second straight year. Shiner, which improved to 14-0, will meet Stratford, a 34-31 winner over Windthorst, next Saturday at 6 p.m. in Wichita Falls.
"It's great to be going back," Baer said of the state final. "But we're going to try and take it this time."
The Comanches will return to the championship game despite turning the ball over five times, including a muffed punt by Baer that gave the Wildcats (11-4) the ball on the Shiner 7-yard line, and set up Jerry Tennison's 22-yard field goal with 7:20 left in the fourth quarter.
Shiner's Chase O'Connor outruns the Big Sandy defense on a 42-yard TD reception in the first quarter Saturday. Shiner advanced to the Class 1A state final with a 21-17 win.
"The turnovers hurt us because we lost field position," Cerny said. "But in a game like this, things are going to happen. We gave up three, but we were able to come back and score."
Shiner and Big Sandy, which had three turnovers, were both in a giving mood to start the game, and the result was four touchdowns before the 4-minute mark of the first quarter.
Evans' fumble on the game's opening kickoff was recovered by Big Sandy's Josh Hilton and led to a 30-yard touchdown pass from Vincent Montgomery to Deroderick Strickland.
The Comanches responded after Scott Shimek recovered the first of two fumbles with a 33-yard touchdown pass from Trey Curtis to tight end Chase O'Connor, who was wide open in the middle of the field. Shimek missed the extra point and Shiner trailed 7-6.
"It was weird game," said Cerny, whose team had almost as many passing yards (126) as rushing yards (127). "They were geared up to stop the run. They were big and solid up front and matched up well against us."
Curtis Marsh set up Big Sandy's next score with a 45-yard kickoff return to the Shiner 45. Two plays later, Strickland ran 43 yards on a reverse for a touchdown.
But it took Shiner only 15 seconds to tie the game, as Evans returned the ensuing kickoff 88 yards for a touchdown, and Curtis connected with Baer for the two-point conversion with 4:42 left in the first quarter.
Shiner's defense stiffened after Evans' kickoff return and held Big Sandy to a net of 78 yards in the second half, while limiting running back Brandon McCleveland to 69 yards on 24 carries and no runs of more than 9 yards.
"They were real aggressive on the front line," said defensive tackle Clayton McCorkle. "But once we calmed down and understood what we were doing, we were all right. Coach (Billy) Turek got the defense lined up right and we finally showed up."
The Shiner offense appeared at just the right time, recording five of its eight second-half first downs on the winning drive. Baer touched the ball on all but three plays on the drive, and accounted for 91 of the 93 yards. The most important were the final two.
"Both teams have great defenses and did a great job," Baer said. "It all came down to the big plays in the end."
GAME STATISTICS: Shiner Big Sandy First Downs 11 8 Yards Rushing 34-142 44-130 Yards Passing 125 56 Passing 4-11-1 3-5-1 Punts 4-31.5 8-30 Fumbles-Lost 8-4 3-1 Penalties 2-10 6-40 INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS: Rushing - Shiner, Chris Baer 21-118; Kenzley Wright 5-10; Ryan Kloesel 1-2; Trey Curtis 15-(-3). Big Sandy, Brandon McCleveland 24-69; Deroderick Strickland 4-32; Braylon Johnson 3-15; Vincent Montgomery 8-9; Curtis Marsh 6-5. Passing - Shiner, Curtis 3-9-1 80; Baer 1-2-0 46. Big Sandy, Montgomery 3-5-1 55. Receiving - Shiner, Chase O'Connor 2-64; Nick Evans 1-46; Bucky Boehm 1-16. Big Sandy, Zach Massingill 1-30; Strickland 2-25. SCORING SUMMARY: 1 2 3 4 F Shiner 14 0 0 7 -- 21 Big Sandy 14 0 0 3 -- 17 SCORING DETAILS: First Quarter BS - Deroderick Strickland 30 pass from Vincent Montgomery (Jerry Tennison kick), 10:14 S - Chase O'Connor 42 pass from Trey Curtis (kick failed), 5:58 BS - Strickland 43 run (Tennison kick), 4:57 S - Nick Evans 88 kickoff return (Chris Baer pass from Curtis), 4:42 Second Quarter none Third Quarter none Fourth Quarter BS - Tennison 22 field goal, 7:20 S - Baer 2 run (Scott Shimek kick), :25.2