SHINER - Don't call Dakota Kresta's 2012 season a senior slump.
He hasn't thrown for as many yards and won't surpass his 2011 statistical totals heading into the final game of his prep career.
For for the 6-foot-1, 170-pound senior, it doesn't matter because Shiner St. Paul has an opportunity to win its fifth state football championship.
"When I go home, my dad tells me, 'Hey Dakota, you're only going to get six passes a game so you better complete them all,'" Kresta said. "Me and my dad, we're not really worried about how many yards I get."
Kresta and the Cardinals (9-3) take on Frisco Legacy Christian (11-2) in the TAPPS Division III championship at Floyd Casey Stadium in Waco on Friday.
With a win, Kresta and the rest of the St. Paul football Class of 2013 will become the first in school history to win two state titles during their four-year tenure at the school.
The last 24 months have been a bit of a ride for the Cardinals.
After winning the 2010 TAPPS Division IV state championship, head coach Jake Wachsmuth left the program to take a job as an assistant at Yoakum. Paul Johnston came in and installed a spread offense to the team that had a primary rushing offense.
Under Johnston, Kresta threw for 2,446 yards and 26 touchdowns. When Johnston left last December, Wachsmuth was back in as head coach and so was the run-oriented offense.
Kresta has his attempts cut back from 249 last year, to 81 this year and he's accumulated only 771 yards and seven touchdowns with limited opportunities. But you won't hear a complaint from the quarterback.
"He's just what you want on your team," Wachsmuth said. "He doesn't care who does what. The other night, you couldn't be more happy for him because he's definitely a huge part of what we're doing on offense, but he would never care if we threw a pass."
Kresta is up for sacrificing individual accolades for team success.
"You've got to play the way your team needs you," Kresta said. "If they can't stop the run, run it. If they can't stop the pass, throw it."
Last year the Cardinals finished with an 11-3 record, but lost to rival Hallettsville Sacred Heart in the state championship game.
The Cardinals lost a second straight game to their rivals during the regular season, but exacted some revenge during the state semifinals with a 49-35 win in Giddings.
In that contest, the Indians couldn't stop the pass or Kresta.
He completed 10-of-12 passes for 217 yards, connected with senior receiver Dylan Barton for touchdowns of 64 and 60-yards and put the game away with a 20-yard rushing touchdown.
On the final score, Kresta took a helmet to the knee, but keeping with his team first attitude, ran in the two-point conversion after a timeout.
St. Paul is making its third consecutive state title appearance and Wachsmuth sees a lot of similarities between Kresta and his predecessor Devin Pesek, who led the Cardinals to the 2010 state championship.
"Devin was a great quarterback two years ago and Dakota, anyone that was at the game the other night can see how he can play," Wachsmuth said.
Although he may not be airing it out like he did last year and he must pick his spots, Kresta still has the confidence to make the big drive extending throw or a game clinching play.
"(When) It's like third-and-5 and people think we're going to run and I hear the play being called, I turn on a switch," Kresta said.
Friday's game will be the final one for the 13 seniors on the St. Paul roster. Running back Adam Hollenbach said there isn't a better way to end a career than winning a state championship.
"It would mean a lot," Hollenbach said. "Especially our senior year. Going out the way we are supposed to."
NOTES• Hollenbach leads the Cardinals rushing attack with 1,920 yards and 36 touchdowns on 228 carries.
• Barton is St. Paul's top receiver with 480 yards and six touchdowns while senior wide receiver Jared Markham and senior running back Martin Kennedy have combined for 411 yards and three touchdowns on 28 receptions.
• Defensively, Barton leads the team with 131 tackles, senior linebacker Tyler Morgan has eight sacks and senior outside linebacker Mitchell Morgan has five interceptions, including one for a touchdown and one in the state semifinals.