The Early Longhorns dropped a tight second contest on Friday night at Longhorn Stadium, falling 20-13 to the Roscoe Cowboys and moving to 1-1 on the year.
Leading by a touchdown with less than two minutes to play, Roscoe punted the ball back to Early from midfield and pinned the Longhorns at their own nine yard line. With no timeouts remaining, Early quarterback Ryan Trompler was forced to hurl the ball downfield. He threw his first-down pass away on the left sideline, then fired a ball down the right side that hung in the air long enough for Cowboys DB Michael Wright to get under it and seal the contest for Roscoe.
Trompler had another solid outing, finishing 19 for 37 with 234 yards, two touchdown passes and the one late interception. Receiver Rowdy Elkins racked up 103 yards, and the Longhorns running backs combined for 88 yards rushing on the night.
Roscoe quarterback Jayden Gonzales likewise threw the ball around all evening, finishing with 187 yards on 15 for 34 passing and a touchdown of his own. Francisco Garcia shouldered the Cowboys’ load on the ground with 32 carries for 90 yards and a score.
Both the Cowboys and Longhorns drove effectively but were unable to score through the first quarter. Roscoe’s first three possessions ended in turnovers on downs, and all three occurred in Early territory — the first all the way at the Longhorns 12 yard line, suggesting a reluctance to attempt field goals from the visiting squad. Gonzales was stifled at the line of scrimmage on a keeper to end that drive.
Early’s first two possessions were far less promising three-and-outs, but when the defense held solid the Longhorns made more of their third drive. On a third-and-three play from the Early 43, Roscoe jumped offside at the snap. Gifted with a free play, Trompler dropped back and found senior receiver Rowdy Elkins streaking down the left sideline, dropping a 43-yard pass over his shoulder to the Roscoe 16.
But the Longhorns would be foiled again. After two ineffective rushes, Early faced a third and five play and Trompler took the snap looking to the end zone. Senior defensive lineman Tristan Brooks popped Trompler in the backfield just before he was able to release the ball, and Brooks recovered the resulting fumble himself to turn the Longhorns over. The scoreless first quarter ended just after Roscoe took possession.
The Cowboys finally broke the draw as the second quarter began. Garcia put the ball on the ground on a botched handoff in Longhorns territory, but fell on it to keep possession. On a third-and-11 play from the Early 23, Elkins broke up a Gonzales pass in the end zone to bring up another fourth down. But a blown coverage allowed Roscoe receiver Jose Ortega to get free on the next play, and he hauled in an 11-yard touchdown pass to put the Cowboys up, after a two-point conversion, 8-0.
Early and Roscoe traded punts before the Longhorns were able to respond. Senior receiver Devyn Burns caught a perfectly placed 25-yard pass in the right corner of the end zone, converting a third and 10 to pull Early within one after an extra point. One possession later, the Longhorns hit yet another long high-pressure pass, this time on fourth and two, for a 38-yard completion from Trompler to Elkins on the left sideline.
The Longhorns were unable to take their 13-8 advantage into halftime, however. Back-to-back screen passes to Brandon Lavalais on the left side netted Roscoe over 30 yards to push into Early territory, and Garcia rushes led the Cowboys inside the 10. The Early defense stiffened and was able to bring the Cowboys to a fourth and goal from the two with just 12.5 seconds left in the half, but Garcia muscled the ball in on a second-effort lunge to give the Cowboys a 14-13 advantage at the half.
The third quarter featured a pair of tough breaks for the home Longhorns. On his first carry of the game, Ortega took a third-down handoff from the Roscoe 15 yard line, broke free up the middle and took the ball 85 yards to the house for what would be the last score of the game. Early punted on its next drive but drove deep into Cowboys territory later in the quarter, threatening to knot the score at 20.
But Trompler lost the handle after a run to the Cowboys 14 yard line, and the officials, after discussion, determined he had fumbled the ball back to Roscoe. Early nearly drove as deep again in the fourth quarter when Trompler completed a last-ditch fourth and long pass over the middle to Ty Schafer, but the big wideout was tackled just one yard shy of the marker to give the ball back to Roscoe with just minutes left.
Early coach Blake Sandford said his players’ disappointment after the close loss showed they won’t settle for second, even against ranked opponents like Roscoe. “They were upset,” Sandford said. “They fully expected to come out on top, and when it didn’t happen like we wanted, it’s a letdown. But it’s a letdown we can build on.
“I thought our kids’ effort was tremendous today,” he said. “I thought they played their hearts out. They showed some character tonight.”
Early will play its first road contest of the season next Friday when it travels for a 7:30 p.m. showdown against the Bruceville-Eddy Eagles.