A slow start sank the Early Longhorns on Friday night as they fell 68-26 to the Comanche Indians at home in their final game of the season.
Comanche (9-1, 5-0) outscored the Longhorns (3-7, 1-4) 42-12 through the game’s first half, effectively sealing the victory early. They were up 21-0 after the first quarter alone.
Early quarterback Ryan Trompler led the Longhorns’ offense with 325 passing yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions. Senior receivers Rowdy Elkins and Jim Fowler racked up 110 yards apiece, while senior Devyn Burns caught two touchdowns.
Comanche relied primarily on its ground game, led by Colton Roberts and Kade Mercer who both rushed for more than 120 yards.
Comanche won the opening coin toss and deferred to the Longhorns, but Early’s first drive resulted in a three-and-out. In fact, the Longhorns didn’t pick up a first down until their fifth possession of the game — running back Hayden Barker couldn’t make headway against the Indians front seven, and the short passing game failed to pick up yards after the catch.
The Indians, meanwhile, got straight to work. Using a bruising option attack with occasional short passes, Comanche began its first drive from its own 34 and scored in seven plays, six of them handoffs to either Roberts or Mercer. Roberts barreled the final two yards into the end zone to put Comanche up 7-0.
Comanche’s second drive was much shorter — Jeremy Bostick took the first handoff from the 22 and raced 78 yards for the score. Comanche kicked the ball back to Early just 13 seconds after they’d punted it away.
With 11:47 left in the second, Early took the ball at its own 37 trailing by 28. A 12-yard completion to Burns moved the chains for the first time all night, and Trompler followed that with an eight-yard completion to Elkins.
But when an up-the-middle rush was stuffed, Early faced another third down. Trompler dropped back, found Fowler over the middle and caught him perfectly on the slant. Fowler raced 47 yards to the Comanche 10 yard line, setting up a score one play later on a Burns catch.
Early tacked on another touchdown before the half, one possession after a Trompler pass tipped off receiver Ty Schafer’s outstretched arms and into Zach Foster’s for an interception. This time it was another long completion to Fowler — this one for 46 yards down the left sideline — that helped Early find the end zone. Fowler’s score made it 35-12.
With the game out of reach, Early receivers still made some big plays in the final two quarters. Elkins hauled down a contested 25-yard pass in the end zone for Early’s third touchdown, and Schafer finished the night’s scoring with a 12-yard touchdown catch with just under two minutes to play.
After the game Early head coach Blake Sandford said he was proud of the team’s fight. “They’re not going to quit,” Sandford said. “These guys are bought into the program, and they did a good job all year with that.”
He said this season as a whole represented a step forward for the Longhorns program. “We had a lot of offense and we had some great defensive stops along the way. You don’t build the program unless you start laying foundation, so I thought this year was a great year to start laying that foundation.”
Sandford counseled his seniors to enjoy their final night on the gridiron. “You need to enjoy these moments, because they’re fleeting. Don’t leave anything out on the field. You’ve got to play like your hair’s on fire.”