EARLY — Taking to the road for the first time this season, the Early Longhorns seek their second victory as they visit the Bruceville-Eddy Eagles at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
After opening the season with a 45-6 victory over Bangs, Early (1-1) suffered a narrow 20-13 defeat at home to Class 2A Division II No. 9 Roscoe last week. Bruceville-Eddy (1-1), meanwhile, owns a 28-21 victory over Moody to its credit and was a dealt a 32-27 loss by Axtell last week.
In last week’s setback against Roscoe, the Longhorns gave up 429 yards — 218 passing and 211 rushing — while amassing 303 yards, with 242 coming through the air. Early also lost three more turnovers, resulting in six giveaways by the Longhorns in 2017 compared to no takeaways.
“The look on the kids’ faces after the game when I’m talking to them in the center of the field is that they felt like they should have won and were upset that they didn’t win, and that’s a step forward for us,” said Early third-year head coach Blake Sandford. “They’ve come out this week and worked hard preparing for Bruceville-Eddy.
“We had chances to win, we tried to get the ball in the end zone and just came up a little short. We got to the 2 yard line and were unable to put it in. It’s not for lack of trying. Our kids came off the ball hard, but the other team did a good job, too. “It comes down to little bits and pieces or plays, and you never know which plays you’ll win a game or lose a game with. You can break it down into a game of inches in some respects. I thought by and large our kids played well. Offensively and defensively there were a lot more positives than negatives, we just came up a few points short.”
Brucevillle-Eddy has scored four touchdowns in each of its first two outings while averaging 357 yards — 250 rushing and 107 passing. The driving force behind the Eagle offense is quarterback D.J. Weaver, who has rushed for 348 yards and five touchdowns in the first two games, while completing 14 of 23 passes for 214 yards with a 61-touchdown pass and one interception. Blake Weaver leads all receivers with six grabs for 58 yards, while Kyle Parsons rushed for 70 yards alone in the win over Moody.
“They’re physical,” Sandford said. “They won’t try and spread it out as much as Roscoe did, they’ll try and keep it close to the vest. They have a good quarterback who can run the ball. They do try and throw some quick screens, but Roscoe did such a good job getting it out there and blocking well on the perimeter and I don’t know if that’s Bruceville-Eddy’s forte. I think they like to get the ball in their back’s hands or let the quarterback run it.”
Defensively, along with allowing 26.5 points per contest, Bruceville-Eddy is also giving up 346.5 yards — 202.5 on the ground and 144 through the air — but has created four turnovers.
“Their defense will be another even front like we’ve been seeing, so we expect another defense like we’ve been working on for the last three weeks,” Sandford said. “They’ll be primed and ready to go. I don’t know if they’re as good as they were last year or not, but I think they’re comparable.”
Early, thus far, is generating 29 points and 357.5 yards — 233.5 passing and 124 rushing — per game. Quarterback Ryan Trompler has completed 36 of 60 passes for 467 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions, while also rushing for a team-best 123 yards and four scores. Jose Pesina has chipped in 62 yards and two touchdowns on the ground while Jesson Tarrant has rushed for 47 yards. Leading receivers include Ty Schafer (13-141), Tarrant (9-76), Rowdy Elkins (7-129, TD), C.J. Hanley (2-54) and Devyn Burns (2-45, TD).
Defensive standouts for the Longhorns have included Miguel Elizondo (31 tackles, 4 for loss), Teddy Ozuna (17 tackles, 2 for loss), Mason Flippin (16 tackles), Chase Keilers (15 tackles, 1 for loss), Jadyn Lehde (14 tackles, 1 for loss), Hayden Barker (13 tackles, 1 for loss) and Pesina (13 tackles).
“Two changes I’d like to see are getting more turnovers on defense and continuing to move the chains on offense, getting a little better at the blitz pick up,” Sandford said. “When we start getting pressure we have to beiable to better utilize what we have on offense and pick them apart or pick up the blitzers better. I’d also like to see better ball security, but that’s something you have to work on all that time anyway.
“Defensively we’re still making some plays. The defense was out there a lot of the game the other night but at the end of the game Roscoe was only averaging three yards a play. I thought that was a good positive. Id’ like to see us continue to the trend of trying to get some turnovers in our favor.”
Perhaps the biggest key Friday for the Longhorns, however, will be putting points on the board early and often, according to Sandford.
“We need to come out with the grease hot and playing like our hair’s on fire,” Sandford said. “We need to start off strong and fast and get some momentum early on. We’re the type of team that can keep capitalizing on that energy and momentum.”
Last year, Bruceville-Eddy rolled to a 44-0 win at Early.
According to Harris Ratings Weekly, Early is a 20-point favorite.