Prior to Shiner's 49-22 victory over Mart on Friday night, offensive guard Nathan Schneider remarked that no one expected the Comanches to make it past the bi-district round of the playoffs.
Shiner quarterback Jacob Stafford, left, breaks for the end zone during the semifinal playoff game. photo by Frank Tilley, Victoria Advocate
"It's kind of strange that every week we've been picked to lose by six, by 20, by so- and-so, and each time, we're coming back and beating them by who knows how much and keep going on," Schneider said after a practice at the Shiner stadium.
With that confidence, Schneider and the rest of the offensive line protected quarterback Jacob Stafford better than ever and helped the team rush for 453 yards and retain possession of the ball for more than 30 minutes in Friday's state semifinal win over Mart.
Junior center Micah Morkovsky is jubilant to prove the naysayers wrong.
"I just love shutting people up," Morkovsky said after the Comanche win in Round Rock. "It's so nice to be able to walk around with your head held high with people doubting you the whole way."
This is the first time Shiner will play in a state championship since they beat Stratford 33-19 in 2004. That season, the Comanches went undefeated and brought the second state championship back to its community of about 2,000 people.
This year's team has taken a different journey to the state championship than the 2004 squad.
The Comanches (11-3) started their season with a strong win against Industrial before losing two in row to Hallettsville and Schulenburg.
Hallettsville (13-1) went undefeated until their quarterfinal loss to Cameron Yoe earlier this month. Schulenburg fell to Poth in the area round.
Coach Steven Cerny has had a few different strategies that have led to the team's overall success.
After Shiner's two early season losses in September, a torrential downpour and lightning caused their Friday night game to be canceled. Cerny said the players were disappointed in missing out on a night of football.
"It was tough," Cerny said in September. "You have a full week of practice for one game - a major letdown. You do the work and don't get to go out there and have fun, which is what it's all about."
It's not uncommon that a team will lose enthusiasm mid-season, and the Comanches were no stranger to that. However, after five more victories and a ticket to the Class 1A, Division I playoffs, they picked up speed again.
"That's what makes the playoffs so special," Cerny said. "Once you get to playoffs, it's like a new energy level comes out, and it just gets more exciting. As a coach, you have to do very little motivating. It takes off, and it's from the freshmen that you bring up from the JV to the seniors. It's a bonding that takes place that makes it really special and so much fun."
During most of Shiner's championship run, Schneider did his best to keep his cool.
"A lot of (my teammates) were getting pumped up, and I just tried to stay neutral," Schneider said. "It's kind of got to me this week - I'm ready to play."
The Comanches will battle Stamford at AT&T Center in Arlington on Thursday at 10 a.m.
Cerny said he felt like an excited little kid after the team's victory over Mart.
"I told them seven weeks ago that when you want something real bad, it's just like when you're a child at Christmas," Cerny said. "When you want something really bad, you do whatever it takes. We're going to try to seize it."