Early attempting to collect second district victory in three outings
EARLY — On the heels of a come-from-behind, one-point victory over Brady in their District 3-3A Division I opener, the Early Longhorns weren’t as fortunate in their second league outing, suffering a 56-13 road loss to Clyde last week.
Playing in their first district game at Longhorn Stadium, with kickoff slated for 7:30 p.m. Friday, Early (3-4, 1-1) will attempt to climb back over the .500 mark in district action as the Jim Ned Indians (5-2, 1-1) come calling.
“We had a lot of first downs and a lot of yardage, and we had opportunities to punch it in and we weren’t able to,” Early third-year head coach Blake Sandford said of the Clyde contest. “We had some three and outs, too. Clyde is pretty good, so what we have to do is get better at all the things that we do. The takeaway from the game for me was our kids worked hard, they competed hard, we just have to keep getting better.”
Jim Ned, meanwhile, regrouped from a 37-13 district-opening loss to Comanche by handing Brady a 39-21 defeat last week.
In the Indians’ win over Brady, Jim Ned led 13-7 after one quarter and 20-14 halftime, then pulled away in the second half, establishing a 33-21 advantage after three quarters.
The Indians produced 461 total yards behind a balanced attack of 251 rushing yards and 210 passing yards. Defensively, Jim Ned yielded 317 yards — 182 through the air and 135 on the ground.
Individual standouts for the Indians included Cooper Castro with 159 rushing yards and two trips to the end zone, while Coalby Rives completed 12 of 17 passes for 210 yards with a touchdown to Brady Montgomery, who finished with three grabs for 64 yards. Rives also scored on carries of 5, 2 and 19 yards.
“Offensively, Jim Ned moves the ball really well,” Sandford said. “They have a spread power run game along with a capable quarterback and receivers, so they can pass it around, too.
“Their defense is an odd front with a secondary that plays back so they’re not going to let you have anything deep. They try to keep everything in front of them. It’s going to take our best effort to stop them, and offensively we have to eliminate turnovers and put some points on the board.”
The Longhorns enter the contest averaging 22 points and 327 yards — 201 passing and 126 rushing — per game, with 11 giveaways.
Quarterback Ryan Trompler has completed 130 of 220 passes for 1,408 yards with eight touchdowns and six interceptions, while rushing for a team-best 363 yards and nine scores. Leading receivers include Ty Schafer (38-300, TD), Rowdy Elkins (32-428, 3 TDs), Jesson Tarrant (25- 226, TD), Jim Fowler (16-170) and Devyn Burns (13-209, 3 TDs). Additional threats out of the backfield include Tarrant (205 rushing yards, 2 TDs), Hayden Barker (187 rushing yards) and Jose Pesina (94 rushing yards, 2 TDs).
Defensively, Early is giving up 30 points and 379 yards — 241 rushing and 138 passing — per outing, with 12 turnovers forced.
Leading tacklers included Miguel Elizondo (101 tackles, 4 for loss, INT), Brandon Lombrano (53 tackles, 1 for loss), Burns (48 tackles, 1 FR, 1 INT), Jadyn Lehde (46 tackles, 1 for loss, 2 FRs), Teddy Ozuna (46 tackles, 2 for loss), Chase Keilers (43 tackles, 6 for loss, 1 sack, 4 FRs), Barker (36 tackles, 5 for loss, 1 sack), Mason Flippin (31 tackles), John Griffin (31 tackles, 6 for loss, 1 sack, 1 FR), Ethan Rhodes (26 tackles, INT), Pesina (25 tackles) and Elkins (22 tackles, INT).
“We caused four turnovers last week and had a lot less penalties, so we’d like to see that continue,” Sandford said. “When we do create turnovers, we have to be able to capitalize on them. But offensively and defensively we’ve been playing better than we have in quite a while. I’m pleased with the way we’re heading.”
Last season, Jim Ned defeated Early, 43-6.
According to Harris Ratings Weekly, Early is a 17-point underdog.