INGRAM — Maybe all it took was a wet field and pouring rain for the Longhorns to find their footing in 2012, if so, Longhorn fans will be praying that the monsoons come and stay through December.
Coaches say there are three football seasons — first comes non-district, then everyone starts even for district play no matter the pre-district record, then the goal is to make it to the playoff season and start fresh again. The Early Longhorns took a step in that direction by handing the previously unbeaten Ingram Moore Warriors a 42-6 loss on their home turf to begin District 3-2A play.
The Early defense again set the tone for the game by holding the Warriors on their opening possession and then stopping a fake-punt attempt to give the Horns a short field to get the offense going. It took only one play for the Horns to strike as quarterback Cameron Denison hit a streaking Chase Riker for 34 yards and a TD with 8:45 to play in the first quarter. Brownlee split the uprights on the PAT and the Horns had their first lead of 2012, 7-0.
Again, the defense held following the kickoff, but after Austin Isom returned a punt to the Ingram Moore 45, a fumble on second down gave the Warriors new life. In an attempt to show why they were 4-0 coming into the game, the Warriors drove the field and scored with 5:06 to play in the first. closing the gap 7-6.
Having a lead is one thing, keeping the lead is yet another. The Longhorns were determined not to let this one get away. On their next drive, Jake Fisher rushed for 12 yards, Denison hit Kellan Jackson for 7, then on a third and 15, Denison saw Isom on a post route and put the ball just on the outstretched fingertips of Isom’s right hand. Isom tipped it up once, then twice, then gathered it in and raced to the end zone for a 65 yard TD strike. The PAT was a fake with Brandon Brownlee on the receiving end and Brownlee powered his way across the goal line to give the Horns a 15-6 lead with 2:45 to play in the first quarter.
From there, the Longhorn defense would serve up ample opportunities for the offense on the strength of outstanding plays by Fidel Olade, Dylan Powell, Cody Morrison, and Junior Sanchez on the D-line and secondary coverage by Jake Fisher, Isom and others.
Early’s next drive stalled on the Ingram Moore 34 with a fourth down, 5 to go. Electing to go for the first down, Denison hit Colin Walker for 7 yards and a first down, and four plays later Denison took it to pay dirt himself on an 11 yard run and with the PAT, the Horns led 22-6 with 2 minutes gone in the second.
The teams would trade fumbles during the second period as the rain increased steadily, but the Longhorns were still able get back to the end zone one more time before the half. With a first and 10 at the Ingram Moore 20, the Longhorns were able to get down to the 13 with :31 left in the half, but a fumble and penalties pushed them back to the 18 with only 13 ticks left. Center Keith Clardy snapped the ball back to Denison, who bought time by scrambling, and found Austin Isom in the end zone for what appeared to be a score. But a motion penalty would bring the ball back to the 23 with only 3 seconds left in the half. Denison again bought time with his legs until Jake Fisher cleared and caught a bullet just across the goal line for six points. Brownlee added the PAT and the Horns went into the locker room with a 29-6 lead.
Staying true to form in previous games, the Longhorns took the opening kickoff and drove from their own 41 down to the 3-yard line of Ingram Moore. Chris Moreno kick started the drive with a 20-yard scamper, Denison added 11 on the ground and hit Charlie Tongate for 12 yards. With a first and goal at the 3, it was Moreno who would cap it off with strong running up the middle for the TD. Brownlee’s kick was true again and the Horns led 36-6 with 6:30 to play in the third.
The Warriors’ attempts to climb back in the game were stifled late in the third when Cody Morrison made a key tackle on fourth down to force Ingram Moore to give the ball back to the Longhorns. At the end of three quarters, Coach Brad Bowden and the Longhorns were on their way to their first win of the year.
The rain continued to pour throughout the remainder of the game, but it wasn’t enough to cloud the vision of Austin Isom, who picked off a pass late in the fourth period and returned it 70 yards for the Longhorns’ final score.
The Longhorns, 1-0 in district play, will host the Brady Bulldogs for homecoming at Longhorn Stadium next Friday night.