SHINER - Shiner coach Steve Cerny is more concerned about what his team is playing for than where it's playing the game.
Head coach Steve Cerny and his Shiner Comanches departed Friday for their 360-mile trip to Wichita Falls, where they will face the Stratford Elks for the Class 1A state title today. The Comanches lost in last year's 1A final 28-27 to Windthorst. photo by Kerri Besio, Victoria Advocate
The Comanches boarded a chartered bus and left for Wichita Falls on Friday, and spent the night in Decatur before completing the 360-mile trip today.
But when Shiner (15-0) arrives at Wichita Falls' Memorial Stadium for today's 6 p.m., Class 1A state final against Stratford (13-2), the possible reward will be well worth its time and effort.
Shiner will be making its second consecutive appearance in the state final and will seek its second state championship. The Comanches won the Class 2A state title in 1986.
"This is the ultimate goal and the ultimate reward," Cerny said. "You don't have to save yourself until next week. We have a chance to win a state championship and have a perfect season. We have no regrets. Whatever happens, happens."
Shiner has worked hard to get back to the state final after losing 28-27 to Windthorst in last season's championship game. The Comanches scored a touchdown with 32 seconds left in the fourth quarter to pull within one, but missed the extra point.
"There are so many different variables to making it to a state championship game and they're not just physical," Cerny said. "You have grades, injuries and you have to be fortunate enough to have the right matchups. You can have sicknesses or tragic events in the community. There are a lot of emotional things that come into play. I have to give our kids a lot of credit for stepping up and doing what they've needed to do every Friday or Saturday night."
Shiner's loss in last year's championship game has motivated this year's team, especially in the playoffs.
"Last year, we went through Falls City (quarterfinals) and Chilton (semifinals) and during the week of the final, we kind of got caught up in the hype," Cerny said. "We didn't go into the (Windthorst) game in the frame of mind we really needed to be in. We still played well. But to win a state championship, you have to play an exceptional game."
Cerny is hoping for an exceptional effort against Stratford, which won the 2000 Class 1A state title. Stratford's Eddie Metcalf was an assistant coach on the 2000 team before taking over as head coach this season.
The Elks, who are averaging almost 400 yards of offense and 36.9 points per game, have won six straight since losing 42-21 to Sunray in a District 1-1A contest. Stratford's other loss came against Class 2A Spearman (37-34) in non-district play.
Stratford avenged its loss to Sunray with a 28-27 quarterfinal win before knocking off Windthorst 34-31 in the semifinals last week.
Quarterback Josh King was the difference for Stratford in its wins over Sunray and Windthorst. The 6-foot, 200-pound senior rushed for 123 yards and two touchdowns and passed for 104 yards and two touchdowns against Sunray, and rushed for 164 yards and three touchdowns and passed for 181 yards and two touchdowns against Windthorst.
"What he likes to do is read the number of guys in the box and check at the line," Cerny said of King, a three-year starter. "He's pretty quick, he does a good job of play-action and he has a rifle for an arm. You can't just give him time to sit back there and throw."
Shiner's defense has six shutouts and has limited opponents to 105 points this season. Big Sandy became only the third team this season to eclipse the 10-point mark against Shiner, in the Comanches' 21-17 semifinal win last week.
Big Sandy scored one touchdown after recovering a fumble at the Shiner 25-yard line, and kicked a field goal after recovering a muffed punt at the Shiner 7.
"You can't change for this game," Cerny said. "You have to keep doing what you've been doing and have confidence in what you do. We've prepared as we always do. We have the same offensive and defensive schemes. We try to give our kids the best looks possible."
The ideal look for Shiner would be the same wherever it played. The Comanches want to be ahead on the scoreboard at the end of the game.
"Teams are always different," said Cerny, who is in his third season as head coach. "Last year's team rose up and rose up time and again. We have some guys back from last year, but we have different strengths. Both teams were fun to coach and they both found ways to win. In both cases, the defense has been a big part of our success. The thing that's been great about this year's team is that we've had different heroes in different games."
NOTES: Shiner will be the home team. ... Tickets are $5 for students and $10 for adults and will be available at the Memorial Stadium gate. ... The game will be broadcast on KTXM, 99.9 FM, and on the Internet at www.tsrnsports.com ... Billy Turek has been the defensive coordinator for all three Shiner teams that have reached the state final. ... Shiner running back Chris Baer and offensive lineman Clayton McCorkle were first-team all-state selections by The Associated Press. ... Baer needs 8 yards to reach 2,000 yards rushing this season. ... Stratford is located in the Panhandle, just 15 miles from Oklahoma and less than 50 miles from New Mexico, Colorado and Kansas. Stratford is 680 miles from Shiner and is closer to Sioux Falls, S.D. ... When El Campo coach Bob Gillis was told Shiner was playing the state final in Wichita Falls, he quipped, "I'd go to Wichita Falls if I could play for a state championship."