The Early Longhorns failed to score in the second half and dropped a road contest 33-7 to the Tolar Rattlers on Friday night.
Early (2-2) dominated the game’s first half offensively, outgaining the Rattlers 201 yards to 79 and entering the locker room tied up at 7 despite two turnovers. But Tolar (2-2) flipped the script through the final 24 minutes, tacking on 279 yard of additional offense, two more turnovers and four more touchdowns to win going away.
Early quarterback Ryan Trompler finished 33 for 46 with 222 passing yards and two picks. Wideout Rowdy Elkins caught five passes for 50 yards, and Devyn Burns managed 66 yards on five catches on the night. Sophomore Jesson Tarrant led the Longhorns rushers with 25 yards and a touchdown, and had 30 receiving yards on five catches.
The Longhorns nearly broke through on the very first drive of the game, taking the opening kick at their 33 yard line and advancing into Tolar territory on a personal foul call. Early drove inside the Tolar 30, but turned the ball over on downs when a fourth-and-8 completion to big receiver Ty Schafer went for just seven yards over the middle.
The teams traded punts for the rest of the quarter, ending the first frame in a scoreless tie. The Rattlers appeared to have scored first on a 30-yard touchdown pass late in the quarter, but the play was called back for holding and Tolar ended up punting that drive away.
When the second quarter began, Early converted a third and 3 near midfield with a five-yard run from Miguel Elizondo, the Longhorns’ defensive standout and short-yardage back. The drive appeared over plays later when Trompler was flagged for intentional grounding, giving the ‘Horns a third and 20. Elkins bailed the team out with a 22-yard grab into Rattlers territory, but Early squandered its second chance and ended up punting the ball back to Tolar from midfield.
The field-position battle finally swung with eight minutes left in the quarter. On the first play of a a new Early drive, Trompler took the snap at the Longhorns 40 and held the ball out for a Hayden Barker rush. But Barker delayed, not expecting the handoff, and the miscommunication caused a fumble that Tolar’s Rhody Duncan hopped on for a first down at the Early 36.
Six plays later, the Rattlers punched it in with a slant pass over the middle to receiver Clayton Deaver. The extra point made it 7-0.
Early responded immediately. Picking up the tempo, the Longhorns used two quick completions to advance the ball into Tolar territory. Trompler then found Burns open on the right sideline for a 35-yard completion to the 12. Tarrant ran the ball in from that distance two plays later, and the extra point knotted the game at 7.
Early tried to add to its total before the half, but a last-second end zone heave from Trompler was picked off. It would be one of Early’s final scoring opportunities in the game.
Tolar zipped down the field for a go-ahead touchdown on the first possession of the third quarter, then added another minutes later to go up 19-7. Suddenly Rattlers rushers like Bryan Morgan and receivers like Derian Morphew were gashing the Longhorn defense for chunk plays, like a 38-yard Morphew grab that set up Tolar’s third touchdown.
Early did string together a long drive that bled into the fourth quarter, still trailing 19-7. With a short passing attack, the Longhorns dinked and dunked their way down the field and managed to drive inside the Tolar 10. But when a Trompler keeper stalled and brought up a fourth and goal from the 5, Early coach Blake Sandford decided his team needed a touchdown to stay in the game.
Trompler took the ball again but advanced only one yard and turned the ball back over to the Rattlers in the shadow of their own goal line. Tolar scored in less than two minutes to put the game out of reach.
Sandford said his team will have to come “ready to work” to put this loss behind them for next week. Despite some strong individual performances, he said the ‘Horns need to put it all together to be successful. “What we preach more than anything is it’s a team game — we team win and we team lose,” Sandford said.
The Longhorns return to Early next Friday for a final nonconference game against the Paradise Panters at 7:30 p.m.