Longhorns force three turnovers, score once while yielding a pair of TDs

EARLY — Lightning halted Early's final dress rehearsal just prior to the start of two live quarters, but the Longhorns still got 44 offensive and defensive snaps under their belts in Thursday night's scrimmage against the Breckenridge Buckaroos.

The Longhorns produced one touchdown compared to the Buckaroos' pair, but Early's defense forced three turnovers, including two with Breckenridge driving inside the Early 5. Breckenridge also had a lengthy touchdown pass negated due to a holding penalty.

“I don't know if we're ever truly where we want to be, but we're heading in the right direction with a positive outlook and the kids are working very hard,” said Early third-year head coach Blake Sandford, whose squad opens the season at home against rival Bangs on Friday, Sept. 1. “Our kids are taking seriously what we're trying to do here and I'm proud of their commitment and effort. We're trying to get one percent better every time we step on field, and I thought we did that.”

Early's touchdown came at the conclusion of its first 22 snaps — 12 for the first-team offense and 10 for the second-team. A 46-yard option keeper by quarterback Jesson Tarrant moved the Longhorns from their own 35 yard line into the red zone. Two plays later, Hayden Barker capped the 70-yard march with a 15-yard gallop into the end zone.

The Longhorns' second-team produced 89 yards on its snaps after the first-team generated 38 yards over 12 plays. The bulk of the first-team yardage came on carries by Jose Pesina and short passes from Ryan Trompler to Ty Schafer.

“After a set number of plays you run out of time so to speak, so continuing drives was a little different,” Sandford said. “We didn't bust any assignments and I thought our offensive line did well, especially in pass protection giving us some time to step up in the pocket and get some yards. We moved the ball and even though we had some drops, we had a lot more catches. Our backs ran really hard, too. They're downhill runners, so I was pleased with that.”

Breckenridge's starters quickly advanced to the Early 27 in five plays, but Ethan Rhodes came away with an interception to thwart the Buckaroos' initial threat. But the Bucks evened the score at one touchdown each six plays later with a 59-yard touchdown pass on third and 10.

Three plays later, the Breckenridge back-ups went deep for a 69-yard touchdown, but that was waved off due to a holding penalty.

Neither team scored again until Breckenridge's first-team offense returned to the field, where a 56-yard middle screen pass down to the Early 14 set up an eventual 1-yard touchdown run — the second and final Buckaroo trip to the end zone.

On the next set of plays, the Early defense came away with a turnover as Tarrant picked off a pass near midfield. Breckenridge then drove deep into Early territory again following a 38-yard catch and run, but the Buckaroos coughed up at the ball at the 3 underneath a pile of Longhorns.

“We gave up some yards but we're not going to quit,” Stanford said. “We made some stops and got them off the field. It doesn't matter where, just get them off the field and don't give them the opportunity to score. We got caught on some screens, we were out of position and we need to get a little better at that, but we were flying around and getting a lot of kids in on the tackle. I was really happy with our effort on defense.”