The Early Longhorns dropped to 1-1 in district play after a 56-13 drubbing at the hands of the Clyde Bulldogs on the road on Friday night.
The Longhorns (3-4 overall) did generate four turnovers in the contest, including three interceptions, but were outgained on the night 436 yards to 284. Clyde (5-2, 2-0) senior Zach Wyatt led the Bulldogs with 121 rushing yards and three touchdowns. For Early, Hayden Barker led the way on the ground with 56 yards on 18 carries and quarterback Ryan Trompler went 17 of 38 for 182 yards passing, one touchdown and one interception.
Trailing by 21 with 2:28 to play in the second, Early took the ball from its own 38 yard line hoping to cut into Clyde’s lead before the half. Things started promisingly when the Bulldogs were whistled offside and then Early picked up a quick first down with a checkdown pass to sophomore Jesson Tarrant.
Plays later Jim Fowler put the Longhorns in the red zone with a 24-yard reception down to the Clyde 17. An apparent hard-fought touchdown was whistled back for holding from the 11, but the ‘Horns battled back to earn a first and goal as the half ticked away.
After a Tarrant two-yard run to the 1, Early called its final timeout with 3 seconds left in the half. The second quarter’s final play was a designed handoff for fullback Miguel Elizondo, his first rush of the game — but Clyde stuffed the big bruiser at the line of scrimmage, ending the Early scoring threat and taking a 28-7 lead into halftime. The Bulldogs never looked back.
Clyde won the coin toss to begin the game and deferred possession to Early, but the Longhorns went three-and-out on the night’s first drive. Clyde scored immediately, utilizing a spread attack to chip its way down the field with short passes. Though the Longhorns managed a big third-down sack in Early territory, forcing a daunting fourth and 19, Clyde quarterback Payton Burton beat the odds with a 23-yard touchdown pass to an uncovered Jax Roam in the end zone, putting the Bulldogs up 7-0 in the first.
Early knotted the score on its third possession of the game. After a long, intentional drive, Early also found itself facing a fourth down in the red zone and elected to go for it rather than kick. The result was a clutch 14-yard completion over the middle to Rowdy Elkins, overcoming the fourth and 7 to tie the game at 7.
But those would be Early’s final points of the half. The first quarter expired with the game still tied, but when Trompler threw an interception on the first play of a drive early in the second, Clyde capitalized right away with a 36-yard touchdown run from Wyatt.
Clyde threw a pick of its own at the beginning of its next drive, but the Longhorns couldn’t cash in and were forced to punt the ball away. Clyde began piling on, scoring touchdowns on back-to-back drives to close the second quarter and another to open the third.
With 3:10 to play in the second, Clyde was whistled for illegal procedure on a kickoff and Early elected to receive the kick again. But the decision proved costly — Bulldogs coach Rocky Smart opted for a surprise onside kick on the re-try, and Clyde recovered the ball all the way at the Early 38 to give it great field position for another touchdown drive.
Early’s final score in the game came on defense. With 3:56 to play in the third, Clyde took the ball at its own 44 to begin a new drive. Burton dropped back and threw a laser over the middle, but didn’t see Elizondo at linebacker and zipped the ball right to him. Elizondo calmly pulled the ball down and raced 45 yards for the score. Clyde, however, would tack on two more touchdowns to seal the victory while Early’s offense languished.
After the game, Early head coach Blake Sandford said his defense was “opportunistic” in generating turnovers all evening. “We try to have a nose for the football and be in the right position at the right time,” he said.
He said the Longhorns must improve each week if they hope to make a playoff push in district. “All the teams in our district are well-coached,” Sandford said, “but we believe in our kids and our coaches, and we think we’ve got a great team. We just have to keep working.”
The Longhorns return home next Friday at 7:30 p.m. for a clash with the Jim Ned Indians (5-2, 1-1).