ROUND ROCK -- A new year, yet a painfully familiar result for the Chilton Pirates.
Top-ranked Shiner capitalized on four Chilton turnovers to emerge with a 24-7 victory in the Class 1A Region IV semifinals here Saturday night at Round Rock's Dragon Stadium, putting an end to the third-ranked Pirates' season for the second straight year.
"(Shiner's) a good football team," said Chilton coach Lucky Gamble, whose team closes out at 11-2. "They're very strong and physical up front. We just gave up the ball too many times and couldn't convert on fourth down. ... Ultimately, they made the big plays and we didn't."
Shiner (13-0) moves on to the regional final to play Bracketville next week at a site and time to be determined.
As Gamble alluded to, the Pirates didn't have their sharpest outing, and yet still were in the game heading into the final quarter. Trailing 14-7, Chilton seemed to have the momentum on its side after blocking a 32-yard field goal attempt from Scott Shimek with around 11 minutes to play.
But the Pirates handed that momentum right back to the Comanches when quarterback Justin McCormick mishandled the snap and fumbled the ball away on Chilton's ensuing first down.
Four plays later, Shimek cashed in on his second chance, splitting the uprights from 33 yards out to give the Comanches a 17-7 edge.
Behind the running of sophomore Travis Landrum, who turned in a gutty second-half effort, the Pirates tried to mount another scoring drive to stay within striking distance, but were turned away when Lamar Simpson was dumped by a swarm of Shiner defenders on a fourth-and-seven play from the Comanche 11.
It was a familiar problem for the Pirates, who had three drives inside the Shiner 20 fail to produce points.
"Our red-zone defense came up big, which is what you've got to have in this stage of the game," Shiner coach Steven Cerny said.
This year's Shiner-Chilton duel didn't match the fireworks of the 2003 version, when the Comanches outgunned the Pirates, 46-39, mainly due to "probably less firepower on both teams," Cerny said. "We lost some good skill kids and they of course lost Jamar Green, who was a heckuva football player."
Even without those stars, a pair of running backs still put on a pretty nice show. Landrum punished the Shiner defenders for 146 yards and a touchdown in the second half alone, and finished with 151 yards on 19 carries.
"The thing about Travis that a lot of people don't know is that he's only 15 years old," Gamble said. "As he matures and gets stronger, he's going to get better and better."
Meanwhile, Shiner's Chris Baer also proved to be a handful, racking up 233 yards and two touchdowns -- including a 78-yard, tackle-breaking scamper late in the fourth that put the game out of reach.
Though Shiner had a lengthy journey from South Texas to Round Rock, the Comanches didn't need to travel far to reach the end zone. After going three-and-out on their opening possession, the Comanches took over at the Chilton 33 and 38-yard lines on their next two touches, and at midfield on the third.
Shiner cashed in on the premier real estate, too. Midway through the first quarter, the Comanches caught the Pirates off guard with a bit of trickery, as Baer snagged the ball on a pitch and instead of rumbling around the end as usual, he launched a 31-yard rainbow pass to receiver Bucky Boehm in the back edge of the end zone for a 7-0 Shiner lead.
Baer added a more traditional seven-yard TD rumble on the second play of the second quarter to give the Comanches a two-score lead.
The Pirates had their chances to crack the scoreboard in the opening half, but fell agonizingly short. Just over four minutes into the second quarter, Chilton mounted a solid drive to the Shiner 6-yard line before running back Lamar Simpson was stuffed by a pack of Comanche defenders on a fourth-and-one play.
Then, just before halftime, the Pirates saw another golden scoring opportunity slip through their fingers -- literally. Behind the running and passing of Justin McCormick, Chilton drove to the Shiner 4 before a trio of McCormick tosses into the end zone either slipped off the hands of his receivers or, as was the case on the final fourth-down play, was deflected away by a gravity-defying Comanche defender.
S (1st): Bucky Boehm 31 pass from Chris Baer (Scott Shimek kick);
S (2nd): Baer 7 run (Shimek kick);
C (3rd): Travis Landrum 57 run (Victor Flores kick);
S (4th): Shimek 33 field goal;
S (4th): Baer 78 run (Shimek kick).