AUSTIN — The only thing that stopped Shiner's offense Friday night was the clock expiring.
Mart's D'Marcus Cosby recovers his own fumble before being pulled down by Shiner's Craig Kneifel in the first half. photo by Rod Aydelotte, Waco Tribune-Herald
The Mart defense was helpless against the powerful Comanches up front, and Shiner scored touchdowns each time it had the ball except for the end of the first half and the final gun to cruise to a 49-22 state semifinal victory at Reeves Athletic Complex.
"Hat's off to them," Mart coach Rusty Nail said. "We got whipped up front. There's no excuse, and I won't give one. Hat's off to Shiner. They beat us in every phase up front . . . and whipped us."
For Shiner, the victory avenged a 42-7 loss to the Panthers in the same round at the same venue last season, and it advances to the Class 1A Division I state championship game at 10 a.m. Thursday at AT&T Stadium in Arlington. The Comanches will meet the winner of Saturday's other semifinal between defending state champion Stamford and Hico.
The Shiner offensive front paved the way for three 100-yard rushers, including a 204-yard, five-touchdown night on the ground from quarterback Jacob Stafford. The signal-caller also threw for a score and hit both of his attempts for 56 more yards.
Chad Neubauer rushed for 127 yards, and Marcus Coleman picked up another 123 yards and a score as the Comanches racked up 454 yards on the ground and 510 total.
Shiner (11-3) put together four drives of nine plays or more, frustrating the Panthers by keeping the ball out of their hands for extended periods of time. The Comanches kept drives alive by staying on schedule with solid gains on first down.
"The bottom line is, when you get four, five, six, seven yards every first down, you're not going to stop their offense and we didn't," Nail said. "It wasn't about changing the front. It wasn't about changing the scheme. It was about playing low, getting after it and tackling, and they just beat us up front."
Mart forced Shiner into four fourth-down situations, but the Comanches converted each time.
Mart got 207 yards and a pair of scores from De'Nerian Thomas on the ground. Thomas missed all three of his first-half passing attempts, including one on a fourth-down play, and he was stopped for no gain on a fourth-and-1 as the Panthers failed to keep up their end of the scoring.
"It had a whole lot to do with the frustration carrying over from not being able to stop them in some key spots," Nail said. "They loaded up, stayed seven in (the box), and we tried to flip it out a couple time and overshot the deal, and just didn't execute very well on expanding the field horizontally and vertically."
For the first quarter, it looked like the game could turn into a shootout, as the teams combined to score touchdowns on their first four drives.
Mart on scoreboard
Mart struck first, with D'Marcus Cosby strolling home from 52 yards on the second play from scrimmage, before the Comanches methodically answered by running 10 straight times to get to fourth-and-4 at the Mart 29.
Stafford had time and looked for a receiver before finally spotting Tyler Patek in the back of the end zone. The pass was on target to the wide-open receiver, who just managed to get his feet down inside the end line to level the score.
Thomas took off again for a 25-yard run to cap a five-play, 91-yard march the Panthers' next time out, but Stafford answered with a 1-yard plunge that ended a 67-yard trek that took 10 plays.
It was the Panthers' turn to respond, and they couldn't get it done this time. An 11-yard loss on third-and-1 forced Mart to throw for the first time, and Thomas' pass into the end zone fell off the mark.
That was the first of three straight empty possessions for the Panthers, and the Comanches took advantage with a pair of second-quarter touchdowns of 38 and 2 yards from Stafford to take a 28-14 lead into halftime.
Shiner got the ball to start the second half, and Mart knew it needed a stop. None came, however, as Stafford popped a 47-yard run to the Panther 1, then scored from a yard out to make it a 35-14 game.
Mart tried again to keep pace, but Thomas fumbled going into the end zone, Shiner recovered it and was off to its longest drive of the night.
"They were slipping tackles, popped a sneak, and we fumble in the end zone," Nail said. "We just never got a break that would turn the worm."
The Comanches kept the ball on the ground for all but one of the 15-plays, and that was a 27-yard jump ball pulled down by Caleb Kalich at the Mart 3 on a third-and-8. The Panthers had forced Shiner into a fourth down earlier in the march, but Stafford only needed a yard and easily picked it up with a quarterback sneak.
Stafford finished the march, which took 8:34 off the clock, and the Comanches were in control, 42-14, with 1:07 to go in the third.
Mart finally reached the end zone with its next drive, overcoming a pair of penalties that called back touchdowns. Thomas hit passes of 15, 14 and 10 yards to Austin Rauls, then slipped into the end zone from 4 yards out. D'Marcus Cosby's two-point try made it a game again at 42-22 with 10:24 left, but it was Shiner's night.
The Comanche's recovered the onside kick and took advantage of the short field, with Coleman busting loose for a 37-yard sprint for a score that put the game away.
Mart had one last gasp, but Thomas had a pass intercepted by Patek with 4:36, and Shiner ran it out from there.