Four years of hard work pay off for Shiner valedictorian
Nov. 18, 2013 at 5:18 a.m.
SHINER - Steven Cerny has been coaching long enough to know the play he calls on the sideline isn't necessarily the play that arrives in the huddle.
But the Shiner coach doesn't worry as long as Jacob Stafford is taking the snaps.
"If I send in a play and one of the receivers messes up, he can correct and make changes for it," Cerny said. "He studies the game. It's not just what he does out here with us. He goes home and studies because he loves football. That's why he's one of the best players on the team."
The 6-foot-1, 210-pound Stafford is completing his fourth year on the varsity for the Comanches (7-3), who will take on No. 5 Mason (8-1) in a Class 1A, Division I area playoff Friday at 7:30 p.m. at Bible Stadium in Leander.
He has played quarterback, halfback and linebacker and has often changed positions during the season.
He switched this season when an injury forced him to move from halfback to quarterback.
Stafford has rushed for 688 yards and 12 touchdowns and passed for 270 yards and three touchdowns in Shiner's veer offense, while leading the team in tackles from his middle linebacker position.
"I'll do anything to help the team," Stafford said. "I'd rather be a team player than anything. I've got sets that fit both positions. I enjoy leading the team at quarterback, and I enjoy blocking for my other backs at running back."
Cerny could tell Stafford was going to be a welcome addition when he saw him working out on his own in the eighth grade while the varsity was holding two-a-day practices.
"The guys on the varsity were saying he could be playing for us now," Cerny recalled. "He was going through a workout on his own that was harder than what we were doing, so we knew he was going to be special."
Cerny is cautious about demanding too much from freshmen but was never concerned about Stafford's ability to handle any assignment.
"The main thing is you don't want them thrown into the fire too quick because they can get discouraged because they're going to be going against seniors, and they still don't have the experience or the strength to keep up with them," Cerny said. "He's one who held his ground from the get go and didn't back off from anybody. We didn't have to do a whole lot of protecting him."
Cerny has few worries about Stafford's ability to master the mental part of the game, considering he has a 4.0 GPA and will graduate as the valedictorian of his class.
He has received a letter of assurance from the Air Force Academy, leaving him only a letter of recommendation shy of being admitted.
Stafford hopes to play football at Air Force after attending a camp there last summer.
"It's definitely a challenge," Stafford said. "I wouldn't have it any other way. I love the challenge. I really love the competition. It keeps you busy. You never have too much free time, but it's all worth it in the end."
Mason ended Shiner's season Stafford's freshman and sophomore years, before the Comanches captured a 21-3 decision over the Punchers in last year's quarterfinals.
Stafford is thankful for the opportunity to play Mason again.
"It's been great competition," Stafford said. "They've been great every year. This is another stage that I'm happy to be at. I really respect them and wouldn't have it any other way."