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Changes help lead Shiner to state title game (w/video, gallery)

By Julie Garcia
Dec. 19, 2013 at 6:19 a.m.

The Shiner Comanches huddle before a play during the Class 1A,  Division I state title game at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.

ARLINGTON - Jacob Stafford went from "tackle first, think later" to organizing the Shiner Comanches on every play this season.

The Shiner senior's role changed drastically when he switched from middle linebacker and running back to quarterback in early September.

"The mental aspect of it has really changed; it's not so much 'go get a block' - much more touch on the ball when you throw and trying to get everyone in the huddle and everyone set up where they need to be."

That roster change is one of several reasons that Shiner turned its early season slump around to a victorious playoff run and a ticket to the Class 1A, Division I state championship game Thursday.

Shiner (11-4) fell to reigning state champion Stamford (14-1), who scored 34 unanswered points in the second half after being down 28-7 to claim another state championship.

A change in atmosphere also made a huge impact on Shiner's ability to rehydrate and regroup, he said.

"We haven't been inside this atmosphere, and you could just see our kids start to wear down," said Shiner coach Steven Cerny. "Even with the TV timeouts and the breaks, you think you get rehydrated but you don't. It just wears on you."

In the last month, the Comanches have been accustomed to playing in 30- to 50-degree weather.

Though the Bulldogs scored four times in the final quarter, Stafford said his team did not shut down or quit - they were tired, though.

"We got worn down; we've been used to playing in cold-weather games, and coming here - it was a whole different atmosphere," Stafford said. "Stamford's experience really got exposed here in the fourth quarter especially."

This was the third consecutive year that Stamford has played in the state championship game and second time to win the state title.

Stafford had 25 carries for 129 yards and one touchdown in this game which brought his season total to 1,311 rushing yards and 20 touchdowns.

Even though he's responsible for thinking on the field, Stafford is still known for his ability to hunker down and barrel through the defense for quick yardage and first downs.

At the post-game press conference, Cerny called Stafford was one of the best athletes that he has coached in his 26-year career.

The Comanches are known for their ability to run fast, hard and accurately. The strategy often derives more than a few bumps and bruises, which Stafford walked away with after the game.

"Our style is to run right at you - that's what happens," Stafford said. "You just have to suck it up and deal with it."

Saying goodbye to high school football after the last game of his career on the same field the Dallas Cowboys play their home games was bittersweet for Stafford.

"It was great," he said. "It's kind of crazy between our Shiner Comanche field and here; there aren't very many flashing lights down there," he said. "It's a great atmosphere, and I'm proud to be here."

Proud of his team's ability to keep the naysayers guessing all season, Stafford thanked his offensive and defensive lines for their nonstop effort.

"They've worked their tail off and if anything, they deserve those medals, if not the gold," he said. "I love every one of those guys; we played great and it was an all-out effort."

Stafford also wanted to thank the Shiner fans for their never ending support of the Comanches.

"They've been here through the thick and thin, when things were down early in the season and here at the big state, they were here for every moment of it," he said. "We appreciate the effort to make it to all the games; we love all those guys."

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