A fire truck riding through the center of town at the crack of dawn with its engines blaring would normally be cause for alarm. It was a call to celebrate in Shiner.
Shiner fan Trey Rainosek, above, displays "Bring It Home" on his chest as he cheers on the Comanches to bring home the state championship during Saturday's Class 1A final against the Stratford Elks at Wichita Falls' Memorial Stadium. T.C. Baker/Advocate Staff Photographer
The Comanches got to enjoy a victory parade after claiming the Class 1A state football championship with a 33-19 victory over Stratford on Saturday night at Memorial Stadium in Wichita Falls.
It mattered little to Shiner residents, many of whom had made the 720-mile round trip, that the proceedings were taking place at sunrise on a Sunday morning.
What counted was the Comanches had claimed the school's second state championship with a 16-0 record, equaling the mark of the 1986 Class 2A state championship team. Shiner won its second state title a year after losing 28-27 to Windthorst in the state final.
"Was it ever worth it," said Shiner coach Steven Cerny, who finally got some sleep on Sunday afternoon and can look forward to a trip to Las Vegas his wife, Donna, promised to make with him if the Comanches won a state championship. "The weather cooperated and it was a great game. We had so many people step up and make big plays."
The Comanches watched the tape of the championship game on the bus ride home and relived an experience that was exhilirating at times and had its excruciating moments.
Shiner took a lead it would never relinquish on a 28-yard touchdown run by Chris Baer with 2:55 left in the first quarter. It was the first of three rushing touchdowns for Baer, who ran for 128 yards and also returned a kickoff 88 yards for the Comanches' first touchdown in his final game for Shiner.
But the Comanches never had more than an eight-point advantage until Baer scored on a 1-yard run with 2:58 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Stratford quarterback Josh King kept the Elks within striking distance by running for two touchdowns and passing for one.
"I never really felt comfortable," Cerny admitted. "The way the guy could throw the ball, I knew they could score at any time."
The Shiner defense kept King under control by creating four turnovers - interceptions by Chase O'Connor and Nick Evans, and fumbles caused by Dustin Pohler and Ryan Kloesel and recovered by Willie Leach and Kevin Berger - and getting six sacks, including 3 1/2 by Pohler, who had 10 tackles, and two by Baer, who had eight tackles and blocked an extra point.
"We were going to bend with them but we didn't want to give up the big play," Cerny said. "We took our shots and that's the thing that coach (Billy) Turek does so well. He goes by instinct and he just seems to know when to blitz at the right time."
While the defense did its best to keep Stratford out of the end zone, the offense made the most of its limited chances. The Comanches had the ball for only 18 minutes and 35 seconds and ran only 39 offensive plays to 75 for the Elks. Shiner had just 17 offensive plays in the second half and two of those came when quarterback Trey Curtis took a knee at the end of the game.
"We felt like we could move the ball on them," Cerny said. "But it didn't seem like we had the ball that much."
Stratford packed its defense to stop the run, but Shiner still rushed for 202 yards and its only completion was a 36-yard touchdown pass from Curtis to Evans in the third quarter.
Baer carried 21 times and had four runs of more than 10 yards, and Kenzley Wright added 57 yards on seven carries, including a 43-yard run to set up Shiner's third touchdown.
"We run the veer and we're going to stick with it," Cerny said. "The one thing about a 5-3 defense (that Stratford ran) is it's weak to the outside. We felt we could have success with the sweep and the counter, but we still had to run inside to keep them honest."
The Shiner defense sacked King the last three times he touched the ball and the offense set off an all-night party by draining the final seconds off the clock.
While most of the players, coaches, band members, cheerleaders and fans boarded buses for the long trip home, the Comanches must have felt like they were riding back to Shiner on air.
"It was a great game all together," Baer said. "It was the perfect ending."