BALLINGER — The Early Longhorns needed a positive showing and a win to close out the non-district schedule Friday night. Against the Ballinger Bearcats, they got half of what they needed but fell short on the scoreboard 30-12. Coach Brad Bowden has been pointing out the need to play hard for a full four quarters, and while the Longhorns did just that, they were unable to overcome early miscues and big plays.
“I was really proud of our kids, they fought hard and they got beat tonight by a better team,” Bowden said. “I told them that was the first time they’ve had a complete game of fight the whole time. We’ve shown elements of that, but I told them I couldn’t be prouder of them. I know it’s disappointing to get beat, but really we didn’t lose, but we got beat by a better team than us and we went out and fought hard but I can promise you, we got better. We got better as a team and that’s what it’s all about.”
The first quarter was where the Bearcats proved to be the better team. But it didn’t start that way as Austin Isom set the tone for the Longhorns by stopping Ballinger’s opening drive with an interception off Bearcat quarterback Rodriguez at the Ballinger 38-yard line. Early quarterback Kwinton “Bubba” Reno connected on passes to Colin Walker and Ricky Moreno picked up tough yards on the ground to get the Horns a first down at the Bearcats 24. From there the drive stalled and Reno’s pass attempt to Kellan Jackson fell incomplete on fourth down and the Bearcats took over.
The next three minutes were the Longhorns undoing. Ballinger scored on a 68-yard run from scrimmage with 4:11 to play in the first, then Reno’s fumble at the Early 6-yard line set up a second TD at the 2:58 mark. On the ensuing kickoff, Kellan Jackson was stripped of the ball by a Ballinger defender as he ran the kick back, and Ballinger returned the fumble 30 yards for their third TD in less than three minutes. All three PATs were run from the “swinging gate” set and all three were successful. Ballinger led 24-0 with 2:45 left in the first quarter.
In spite of the hole the Longhorns had dug for themselves, Early fought back. Reno began to find open receivers, hitting Charlie Tongate for 8 yards, Chase Riker for 27 and Jackson for 13. But each time the Longhorns began to move the ball, the Bearcat defense would stop them short of the goal line.
Defensively, Dylan Powell and Fidel Olade led the charge to stop the Bearcats’ running attack while Isom picked off the Ballinger quarterback in the Early end zone to stop another drive. The Horns drove down again to the Bearcat 26 late in the second but turned the ball over on downs on a throw from Reno to Riker that came up 1 yard short and the Longhorns went into the halftime locker room trailing 24 – 0.
The opening drive in the second half proved successful again for the Horns as they returned the kickoff to the 33. Strong running by Ricky Moreno moved the ball to the Ballinger 34 where the Horns faced a fourth and 3. Reno then hit Austin Isom with a 17-yard strike to set up first and 10 at the Ballinger 17. Again, the offense was stretched to the limit, facing a fourth down at the 12 when Reno connected with Cameron Denison for the touchdown. The Horns’ 2-point conversion attempt was unsuccessful, but the lead was cut to 18.
A turnover deep in Early territory resulted in six more points for the Bearcats in the third quarter. But throughout the remainder of the half, the Longhorns held the Ballinger offense in check, bending to the point of allowing the Bearcats two field goal attempts, but no more points.
After the second missed field goal by Ballinger, the Horns began to move again, this time with Denison back in at quarterback and Jake Fisher running the ball. Fisher picked up 21 yards, and then nine yards. A reception by Colin Walker set the Longhorns up in Bearcat territory with time running out. Rolling out to his right, Denison lobbed a pass for Austin Isom in the corner of the end zone from 27 yards out, putting the Longhorns on the scoreboard again at 30-12 with 23 seconds remaining.
The Longhorns ended the game outscoring the Bearcats 12-6 in the final three quarters.
Early (0-4) begins District 3-2A play next Friday as they travel south to face the Ingram Moore Warriors (3-1).
BALLINGER 30, EARLY 12
Early 0 0 6 6 — 12
Ballinger 24 0 6 0 — 30
B: Jacob Rodriguez 68 run (Worthington run), 9:14, 1st
B: Zach Perez 6 run (Ely Self pass from Rodriguez), 6:56, 1st
B: Ely Self 28 fumble return (Rodriguez run), 3:00, 1st
E: Cameron Denison 10 pass from Kwinton Reno (pass failed), 7:00, 3rd
B: Self 1 run (pass failed), 2:42, 3rd
E: Austin Isom 28 pass from Denison (pass failed), 1:32, 4th
First Downs 12 12 Total Offense 163 247 Rushes-Yards 24-22 41-247
Passing Yards 141 0
C-A-I 15-31-2 1-6-2
Fumbles Lost 2 0
Penalties 5-40 6-43
Punts 3-29.3 1-23.0
E: Chris Moreno 10-39, Jake Fisher 5-36, Cameron Denison 1-12, Charlie Tongate 2-5, Kwinton Reno 3-0
B: Jacob Rodriguez 7-111, Zach Perez 20-93, Ely Self 7-37
E: Kwinton Reno 11-24-2-100, Cameron Denison 4-7-0-41
B: Jacob Rodriguez 1-4-1-0, Ely Self 0-2-1-0
E: Chase Riker 4-44, Colin Walker 4-19, Austin Isom 3-45, Kellan Jackson 1-12, Cameron Denison 1-10, Charlie Tongate 1-7, Chris Moreno 1-4
B: Cory Johnson 1-0.