Mason (11-0) and Shiner (8-2) might as well be district opponents considering how often they play in the postseason. The two teams have met in the playoffs six of the last seven years, and will again on Friday at 7:30 p.m. for a Class 2A Div. I Area Round playoff game at The Pfield in Pflugerville.
“We have a tremendous amount of respect for the football program in Shiner,” said Mason coach Kade Burns. “Their kids play hard and conduct themselves with a lot of class on the field. That is a reflection of Coach (Steven) Cerny and their staff. They do a great job with their kids and that shows with the amount of success that they have had through the years. They are very well coached and we enjoy the challenge when trying to play them. As everywhere, their kids graduate but they just replace them and continue being successful. It is always a challenge when you play Shiner. You know what you are going to get… a tough team that is well coached and plays very hard.”
The Punchers have won four of those six match-ups, including a 34-28 overtime thriller in last year’s area round, where the Comanches overcame a 15-point deficit in the final three minutes, only to fall short in the extra period.
“It was a typical Shiner/Mason ballgame,” said Shiner coach Steven Cerny. “Both teams have hard nosed football players that work hard and don’t like losing. It was a really tough loss for me because it was the last football game for my son and I can remember it like it was yesterday. Our kids really battled hard to get back in the game and force overtime. Unfortunately we came up a little short.”
This game should go quickly since both teams employ run-based offenses. Mason keeps it on the ground 76.5 percent of the time and Shiner junior quarterback Tyler Mikes has thrown only 25 passes all season. Mason’s rushing attack is led by junior Jake Cockerham (835 yards, 21 TDs) and sophomore Klay Kaerner (813 yard, 10 TDs). Shiner’s top dogs in the backfield are junior Collin Bujnoch (644 yards, 6 TDs) and sophomore Donyai Taylor (644 yards, 9 TDs).
“Mason has a great football team this year with a lot of depth,” Cerny said. “We are definitely bigger this year but don’t have the depth we had last year. We only have six seniors this year and one of them had a season ending injury.”
Shiner might have a tough time scoring against Mason’s defense. The Punchers have given up just 40 points all season, less than four a game. Cockerham is also the leader on that side of the ball with 86 tackles, 19 for a loss and five sacks from the linebacker position. But no defense can be that suffocating with just one great player.
Senior defensive lineman Sebastian Burke (80 tackles, 16 for a loss), junior linebacker Chandler Buntyn (80 tackles, six for a loss), senior defensive back Emmanuel Martinez (67 tackles, six for a loss) help solidly the menacing unit.
“Our kids enjoy playing defense and running to the ball and take great pride in doing that,” Burns said. “We are probably quicker than we have been in the past and our kids take pride in playing with great technique and hustle. Those things have contributed to our success from a defensive standpoint.”
Shiner’s two losses came in the season opener to 3A Hallettsville (49-12) and the season finale to Refugio (35-0). The Comanches have looked solid in every other game with non-district wins against 3A Brazos, 3A Hitchcock and 2A-power Falls City, along with five other wins by a combined score of 216-14. Mason is more on the level of Refugio and Hallettsville, however, not the eight other teams Shiner has disposed of.
“We have played some really good teams this year and those games helped us gain some valuable experience on both sides of the ball,” Cerny said. “Mason has a very explosive offense this year and we have to prevent the big play. Defensively, they are big and quick. We can’t afford to get in long down situations… To beat Mason you have to be very physical. We have a lot of respect for their players and their coaching staff. It’s going to be a great football game.”
Mason hasn’t been touched all year. Its closest decision came by 41 points. But Burns understands the playoffs are a different animal and that his team has to be prepared for any possible situation going forward.
“There is a sense of urgency in everything that you do in practice and drills (come playoff time),” Burns said. “Everything that should be done on Friday night needs to be done in practice with every drill and rep. When you get two good teams playing one another it often comes down to 4/5 plays in the game that can determine the winner. We need to be able to win those plays despite not knowing when they will be.”
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