As individuals, the statistics compiled by Garet Pustka, Quentin Wright and Chris Baer are impressive, but hardly overwhelming.
Shiner's Chris Baer (left), Quentin Wright (center), and Garet Pustka (right) - 2003 Advocate All-Area MOST VALUABLE PLAYERS (all photos by Kerri Spires, Victoria Advocate)
As a group, they not only racked up spectacular numbers, they also helped carry Shiner to its second appearance in a state championship game and to the precipice of a second state title.
Wright, Baer and Pustka played critical roles for the Comanches, who completed a 14-2 season with a 28-27 loss to Windthorst in the Class 1A state final.
For their effort and unselfishness, the three Shiner players were selected as the Most Valuable Players of the Victoria Advocate's 2003 All-Area Football Team.
"They're good kids, they're good athletes and they're all very coachable," Shiner coach Steve Cerny said. "If you want to have a chance to win it all, you better be balanced."
Pustka, a 5-foot-7, 160-pound senior, played quarterback and directed Shiner's veer offense. He rushed 190 times for 1,391 yards and 22 touchdowns, and threw for 522 yards and five touchdowns, despite averaging just over five passes per game.
Wright, a 5-11, 165-pound senior, played running back and defensive back. He had 182 carries for 1,353 yards and 18 touchdowns, and had 68 tackles and four interceptions.
Baer, a 6-foot, 190-pound junior, played fullback and middle linebacker. He rushed 232 times for a team-high 1,724 yards and 24 touchdowns, and had a team-high 122 tackles that included 10 sacks, and also had two interceptions.
"It seemed like the more pressure that was on them, the better they performed," Cerny said. "What amazed me was how well they blocked for each other. We run what is considered a high-risk offense. But we very seldom turned the ball over, and that's a credit to those guys."
Shiner athletic director and head football coach Steven Cerny --
2003 Advocate All-Area
FOOTBALL COACH OF THE YEAR
Cerny deserved much of the credit for leading Shiner to the state final in his second year as head coach. He helped the Comanches bounce back from a District 30-1A loss to Falls City and win six straight to reach the championship game, securing his selection as Coach of the Year.
"We knew the opportunity would be there if we could stay healthy and get out of district," Cerny said. "With the exception of the Boling game, we really hadn't been challenged before we played Falls City. That was a wakeup call for us and we prepared well for each game after it."
Cerny coached Shiner to a pair of state baseball titles, but he saw his hopes for a football championship slip away when the Comanches missed a game-tying extra point with 32 seconds left in the fourth quarter.
"We had worked so hard to get there," Cerny said. "If I had been younger, it might have hurt more. But my experience helped me to see the effort of the kids. I knew they gave it everything they had."
It didn't take Cuero's Latrael Cooper long to learn what it was like to play running back on the varsity level. The 6-2, 190 pound sophomore rushed 167 times for 1,268 yards and 18 touchdowns to help lead the Gobblers to the District 27-3A championship. He also scored a district- leading 120 points and was chosen as the Newcomer of the Year.
"You could just see the maturing process going on," said Cuero coach Mark Reeve. "He just got better every time he went out there and got some confidence. You knew he wasn't going to be intimidated. A kid that tough is always going to have a chance."
Bay City quarterback Scott Elliott wasn't sure what to expect of his senior season. The 6-2, 195-pound senior went through a coaching change and was playing in a new offense.
But Elliott, who has committed to Tulane, completed 157 of 296 passes for 2,498 yards and 24 touchdowns, while leading the Blackcats to the Class 4A, Division I state final to be picked as Offensive Player of the Year.
Ganado's Blake Schlueter is likely to play center when he attends TCU. But the 6-4, 240-pound senior also played defensive end for the Indians, who won the District 28-2A championship before advancing to the Division II quarterfinals. Schlueter had 124 tackles, including 30 for losses and 11 sacks, and blocked four punts to be named Defensive Player of the Year.
It remains to be seen whether Wharton's Kellen Heard plays on the offensive or defensive line in college. The 6-foot-6, 380-pound senior, who has committed to Miami, played both ways for the Tigers, who won the District 28-3A title and advanced to the Division I regional round.
Wharton opponents mostly ran away from Heard's side, but he still had 56 tackles and caused two fumbles. He recorded over 30 pancake blocks on offense to be picked as Lineman of the Year.
Hallettsville quarterback Garett Manning helped Hallettsville snap a four-year playoff drought by completing 124 of 226 passes for 1,939 yards and 22 touchdowns. The 6-2, 175-pound senior set school records for completions and touchdown passes in a season, for single-game passing yardage (319) and career touchdown passes (42).
Manning also played defensive back and on special teams for the Brahmas and was selected as the All-Around Player.
Bay City led the way on the first-team offense with three selections, while El Campo, Van Vleck and Boling each had two.
Bay City senior Shaun Green, who had 57 receptions for 1,053 yards and 10 touchdowns, was selected at wide receiver, while senior Garrett Miller, who has committed to Purdue, and senior Noel Chapa were chosen on the line.
El Campo junior Chad Long, who rushed for 2,101 yards and 21 touchdowns, was chosen at running back and senior Kelvin Clark was picked on the line.
Van Vleck senior John Barnes, who rushed for 1,942 yards and 17 touchdowns, was picked at running back and senior Mark Kimmey was selected on the line.
Boling senior Carlton Waddy, who led the area with 2,559 yards rushing and scored 22 touchdowns, was selected at running back and senior Seth Thomas was picked at center.
The first-team quarterback was Wharton junior Trey Jones, who passed for 2,080 yards and 19 touchdowns and rushed for 479 yards and three touchdowns.
Yoakum senior Colby Wilemon, who had 48 receptions for 902 yards and nine touchdowns, and Hallettsville senior Ahmad Rasheed, who had 54 receptions for 1,004 yards and 12 touchdowns, were selected at wide receiver. Cuero senior Brady Urbanovsky was picked at tight end.
The first-team kicker was Ganado senior Juan Enriquez, who made all 45 of his extra points and kicked 14 field goals, including a long of 47 yards. The first-team returner was Palacios senior Terrell Lee, who ran back two kickoffs for touchdowns.
Bay City had four selections on the first-team defense and Edna had two.
Bay City senior Courtney Williams was chosen on the line, junior Terrence Flagg at linebacker and junior Brandon Brinkley and senior Cortley Blackmon in the secondary.
Edna junior Kolby Dickens was picked on the line and senior Garrett O'Neal was selected in the secondary.
Karnes City senior Cody Hale rounded out the first-team secondary.
The first-team defensive line also included Memorial senior Jacobie Tisdale and Gonzales senior Blaine Hill.
El Campo senior Andy Puryear, Cuero senior Justin Robinson, Refugio senior Bo Crutchfield and Wharton senior Ben Evans were also first-team linebackers.
Shiner senior Steven Evans was the first-team punter with a 39.7-yard average on his 42 kicks.