Senior Dareon Wills has played in a number of big games during his career at Refugio.
Refugio quarterback Austin Ochoa runs into the end zone for a touchdown during last year’s ( November 30, 2018 ) Class 2A regional playoff game against Shiner at Dub Farris Athletic Complex in San Antonio. photo by Angela Piazza, Victoria Advocate chief photographer (2018)
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But Wills has found how players prepare can be vastly different.
“Whatever helps you play your best in a game is it,” Wills said. “If it helps you to get hyped, stay hyped. If it helps you to stay quiet and focused, stay quiet and focused.”
The preparation is over for Shiner (12-0) and Refugio (12-0), who will meet in a Class 2A, Division I regional playoff game at 7:30 p.m. Friday ( November 29, 2019 ) at Converse’s Judson Stadium.
“We’re all really pumped about it and ready for it,” said Shiner senior Gage Brooks. “I keep telling myself it’s just another game. We need to stay aggressive up front and see it like another game.”
The buildup for the rematch of last year’s regional playoff won by Refugio 56-41 began before the season began.
The Bobcats and Comanches have been ranked Nos. 1 and 2 in varying orders in virtually every poll, and there seemed little doubt the teams would meet again in the third round.
“I’m not going to lie to you, our kids look forward to it,” said Refugio coach Jason Herring. “They like playing in big games and games that mean something. I think anybody that follows 2A football and our region for sure had this pinpointed weeks and weeks ago.”
Shiner fullback Doug Brooks knocks down a Goliad defender on his way to a first down ( on Friday, September 28, 2019 ).
photo by Evan Lewis, Victoria Advocate photojournalist (2019)
Shiner had no problem staying focused on the present, rolling through the season and the first two rounds of the playoffs.
The Comanches’ closest margin of victory has been 24 points, and they have defeated three teams still in the playoffs.
“They knew we had to prepare ourselves one week at a time to get to this point and give ourselves an opportunity to be here,” said Shiner coach Daniel Boedeker. “I know they’re excited about the opportunity. It’s going to be an exciting environment for the community, these players, the coaches and everybody who’s involved in this game.”
Refugio was tested early in the season when it rallied from a 28-6 deficit to defeat Mart 48-40.
The Bobcats were also tied with Thorndale at halftime of last week’s area playoff before going on to a 49-20 win.
“I feel like that game helped us,” Herring said. “We know that Shiner can play, they’re going to come off the ball, they’re fast, and they’re athletic. It’s by far the most athletic Shiner team I’ve played since I’ve been here.”
Boedeker, who moved from defensive coordinator to head coach this season, is well aware of Refugio’s ability to score and score quickly.
“They’re explosive as always,” he said. “They’re fast on both sides of the ball. They’re well coached. It’s going to be a challenge for us, and the kids know that. They know we’re going to have to work and be prepared.”
Shiner’s biggest question mark coming into the season was its offensive line, where Brooks was the lone returning starter.
Refugio's Naaji Gadsden evades tackle by Shiner during last year’s ( November 30, 2018 ) Class 2A regional playoff game against Shiner at Dub Farris Athletic Complex in San Antonio. photo by Angela Piazza, Victoria Advocate chief photographer (2018)
But the Comanches have been impressive with their front lines, dominating most of their opponents.
“We’ve got a lot of speed,” Brooks said. “We’ve all come together real tight and I think we’re doing great. I’m really proud of the linemen. They’ve all been stepping up and doing great.”
Refugio was without quarterback Austin Ochoa for three games in district play, but has worked hard to find its rhythm.
“It’s been a lot of focus, a lot of coming together as a team and fixing the mistakes we made in the past,” Wills said. “What’s helped is our dedication and our teamwork. We strive to get better and better.”
Shiner and Refugio attempted to keep practices as normal as possible given the Thanksgiving holiday and the gravity of the game.
“You’ve got to build up to it eventually,” Boedeker said. “You come to practice on Monday and you can’t try to win the game that day. You’ve got to make sure you prepare yourself and as the week goes on that’s when the adrenaline starts flowing a little bit and the mental sharpness is there and you’re ready to play on Friday.”
Both teams have been mentally preparing for each other the entire season. But only one will have a chance to get ready for the quarterfinals.
“Both programs have a lot in common,” Herring said. “Both are tradition-rich, both have won championships, and both make deep runs. It’s honestly a shame we have to meet this early. Friday night, either way, a real good football team will go home.”
Refugio will be the home team. Tickets will be $5 and $7 at the gate.
Refugio and Shiner have played six times and the Bobcats lead the series 5-1.
The winner will advance to the quarterfinals against the winner of Friday’s game between Holland and Mason.
Mike Forman is the sports editor of the Victoria Advocate.
Contact him at 361-580-6588 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Evan Lewis is a photojournalist at the Victoria Advocate.
Contact him at 361-574-1204 or email@example.com.
Angela Piazza was chief photographer for the Victoria Advocate in 2018-2019.
Contact her at 361-574-1222 or firstname.lastname@example.org