ROUND ROCK - For Tanner Pietsch's 18th birthday, all he wanted was to beat the Mart Panthers in the Class 1A, Division 1 state semifinal game.
Shiner lineman Mica Morkovsky (74) celebrates Shiner's victory over Mart 49-22 in Round Rock. photo by Mason Trinca, Victoria Advocate
"Last night, I was lying in bed and thinking to myself it would be the greatest present ever to win tonight and go to Jerry World," the Shiner offensive lineman said. "We did it. I wanted it so bad, and we got it."
The Comanches (11-3) punched their ticket to the state championship at Arlington's AT&T Center next Thursday with a 49-22 victory over the Mart Panthers (10-4).
Pietsch and the rest of Shiner's offensive line shined Friday night against Mart, the team that beat the Comanches last season 42-7 at the same playoff round.
Shiner held the Panthers to little more than 12 minutes of possession during the victory. The Comanches lost yardage on one play and gained more than 453 offensive yards on 68 rushes and made 26 first downs.
"I am so proud of these guys; they really stepped up," said Shiner coach Steven Cerny. "(Mart) was so fast, but our offense answered every time tonight. I don't know if they held us once. Our offensive line just did a heck of a job."
Three of the offensive lineman in Friday's game played against Mart last season. But this victory was less about beating Mart and more about making it to state.
"It's just an an unbelievable feeling to be able to go that many drives without being stopped on offense," said junior center Micah Morkovsky. "Coming from last year and only scoring one time and then going to this year and not being stopped once ... I can't even think right now."
Cerny said he wrote a zero on the board for negative yardage plays Friday night, and the Comanche offense delivered on all but one play.
"It was all about them getting that push and that drive," Cerny said. "We told them early in the year that our strength is in the offensive line, and we're going to roll behind (them). Here, in the last three weeks, they've really stepped up and really made the move."
Senior offensive tackle Craig Kneifel predicted a state scenario before Shiner's season even started.
"When school started, I had this prediction in my government book: Us as state champs, 17-10 over Stamford," Kneifel said. "We'll see what happens next week."
Kneifel's clairvoyance will be put to the test during the Hico (13-1) vs. Stamford (12-1) semifinal game, which will be played Saturday in San Angelo. The winner of that game will face Shiner in Arlington on Thursday at 10 a.m..
When Texas football authorities picked Shiner to have a losing season, Morkovsky used it as fuel.
"We've been picked to lose every playoff game, and we were picked to lose by 20 points this week," Morkovsky said. "That's what makes me feel even better - I love being the underdog."
After Friday's win, Pietsch said the Comanches are ready for anything.
"I feel like we can handle anything anyone throws at us. We just do it every time and take care of business every time - all of us," Pietsch said.
Come Monday, the Comanches expect chaos.
"Bombs are going to explode in purple and gold," said senior offensive guard Nathan Schneider, laughing.
Monday will begin a short week of practice before Shiner heads to Arlington on Wednesday, but Cerny believes in celebrating their first trip to the state game in 10 years.
"We'll come up with a plan (for their opponent)," he said. "We're going to enjoy tonight."
Julie Garcia is a sports writer for The Victoria Advocate.
Contact her at 361-580-6588, or by e-mail at email@example.com.