SHINER - There's no question Shiner is best known for its beer.
Shiner's Chris Baer (10) has rushed for 1,572 yards and 22 touchdowns this season. The Comanches have compiled more than 4,000 rushing yards in their veer offense. Victoria Advocate Photo
But when it comes to football, Shiner has been recognized for brewing up success with the veer offense for over three decades.
The triple-option may be a relic of the past for a majority of the teams in the state, but it's very much a creature of the present for the Comanches.
Shiner (14-1) has rolled up over 4,000 rushing yards as it heads into Saturday's 7 p.m. Class 1A state final against Windthorst (14-1) at the Waco ISD Stadium.
"Everybody wants to go with the trend and with what's being talked about at clinics," said Steve Cerny, who came to Shiner as the offensive coordinator in 1988 and took over as head coach last season. "People like to do different things. But Shiner has just always been blessed with kids who fit with what we're doing." Shiner first installed the veer in 1966 when coach Calvin Tucker returned from a clinic taught by University of Houston head coach Bill Yeoman, who created the offense. With the exception of 1987, when Shiner briefly ran a version of the wishbone, the Comanches have operated out of the veer ever since.
"It's been good for Shiner and for those kids," said Tucker, who retired from coaching in 1989. "I feel good about it. They still haven't really thrown the ball. But they keep coming up with new schemes to run the ball."
Shiner players start learning the veer in sixth grade and are well versed in the offense by the time they reach the varsity level.
"The blocks are pretty basic and we know it pretty routinely," said guard Dustin Brown. "Once you've learned this offense, it sticks with you. All you have to do is study your play sheets."
Another aspect of the veer, which has benefited Shiner, is it places a premium on quickness rather than size. "We don't have tremendous size here," said quarterback Garet Pustka. "But our quickness makes up for it. In our offense we know there is always one play or a couple of plays that will get us the yards."
Shiner compiled over 5,000 yards and scored 520 points in 1986 when it went 16-0 and won the Class 2A state championship with quarterback Gilbert Price directing Tucker's veer offense.
Price went on to Southwest Texas State where he ran the veer for coach Dennis Franchione and remains a firm believer in the offense.
"We practiced it so much and we'd go through so many repetitions," Price said. "It's one of the things they instill in the kids. They do it well and they've stuck with it for a while. It's obviously still working. They're not 14-1 for nothing."
Shiner's offensive success this season has been based on its knowledge and execution of the veer. The Comanches feature a number of three-year starters, including Pustka and running backs Quentin Wright and Chris Baer.
"We have a lot of experience playing with each other," Pustka said. "We've been together for so many years that we've grown to know each other very well. Defenses always have their tendencies with what they're trying to stop. As the game goes on, we pick up on those tendencies."
Shiner has done a good job of keeping defenses guessing by utilizing virtually every nuance of the offense.
While Baer carried 32 times for 246 yards and two touchdowns in last week's 47-39 semifinal win over Chilton, Pustka rushed 15 times for 118 yards and four touchdowns, and Wright added 14 carries for 107 yards and one touchdown.
"We definitely have a triple option," Baer said. "You cannot just stop one part. You have to stop three parts."
The Comanches have maintained the same balance through the season. Baer leads the way with 189 carries for 1,572 yards and 22 touchdowns, while Pustka has 166 carries for 1,244 yards and 19 touchdowns, and Wright has 162 attempts for 1,249 yards and 18 touchdowns.
"You have to actually get into a game to kind of get a feel for it," Cerny said. "We'll be calling things and seeing which things work, and just stay with it."
Shiner's versatility combined with the scarcity of teams running the veer makes it difficult for opponents to prepare in a week's time.
"A lot of teams have abandoned the veer and that makes it extremely hard to practice against," Pustka said. "Scout teams just don't have the speed that we have. Timing and precision are so important, and that's what's hard about the veer."
In an era of spread offenses, that place an emphasis on the pass, many coaches have shied away from the veer. But Shiner has not only accepted the veer, it has embraced it.
"It's the system we run and we do it from the junior high on up," Cerny said. "But you've got to believe in it and these kids believe in it."
NOTES: Tickets for the state final are $4 for students and $7 for adults. Tickets are on sale at Shiner High, Patek's and Quality Pharmacy. All tickets at the gate will be $8.