EARLY — The Early Longhorns couldn’t have asked for much more in their 2018 season opener — especially on the offense side of the ball — as they routed the archrival Bangs Dragons, 60-20. Now, fourth-year head coach Blake Sandford looks to guide the Longhorns to their first 2-0 start since 2001 as Early is back on the road again at 7:30 p.m. Friday against the Coleman Bluecats.
While very little went against Early (1-0) in the opener, nothing went right for Coleman (0-1) as it dropped a 69-0 decision to Jim Ned. The Bluecats trailed 42-0 after one quarter and 55-0 at halftime, but Sandford and company are not overlooking this week’s competition.
“Coleman’s going to be big and I think they’re going to be a challenge just because they have some size,” Sandford said. “They offer a different look than what Bangs does. They’re going to try and run some iso and option stuff and utilize the size of the kids on their O-line. They’re going to present a little bit of a problem with that. They have some guys that can get down the field as well, so we have to prepare well again this week.”
In Coleman’s outing last week, the Bluecats were limited to just two first downs and 27 yards of total offense — 19 rushing on 27 carries and 8 passing, completing 3 of 8 attempts. Coleman also turned the ball over three times — all fumbles. Corbin Rosales did all the passing for the Bluecats, while Massio Sanchez rushed for 17 yards. Benny Wright caught a 9-yard pass to lead all Coleman receivers.
Defensively, the Bluecats yielded 474 total yards with 300 coming on the ground.
Early, meanwhile, is coming off a 716-yard performance — 419 through the air and 297 on the ground — behind the push of offensive linemen Logan Gillam, Patrick Valencia, Jadyn Lehde, John Griffin and Ethen Portillo, among others.
“Being able to run the offense and have success moving the chains, converting so many third downs, I really was pleased with that,” Sandford said.
Quarterback Ryan Trompler completed 23 of 33 passes for 419 yards with three touchdowns and just one interception, while also rushing for a team-best 89 yards and three more scores.
“With Ryan as our quarterback, he is able to operate the offense and really get the ball into our playmakers’ hands,” Sandford said. “One of the first things that stood out to me was how calm and under control he was and how he was able to distribute the ball in the passing game.
“Rushing the ball, we had several yards and several guys can do that well. But it all starts up front. Our pass protection was really good and allowed Ryan some time and the O-line was also able to open holes for the running game.”
Jesson Tarrant added 65 yards and a touchdown on the ground, Stephen Holt chipped in 47 yards and a score, Brent Grooms rushed for a 44-yard touchdown and Cale Wade contributed 44 yards as well.
Leading receivers included Ty Schafer with eight grabs for 185 yards and Timmy Smithson with seven receptions for 166 yards and two trips to the end zone. Tarrant also hauled in three passes for 33 yards and a score, while Jonathan Morales and David Shields each caught two passes and Wade tallied a 17-yard reception.
“They offer two different types of skill sets and are both really good at what they do,” Sandford said of Schafer and Smithson. “They were able to make some people miss and get down the field.
“We were able to hit Ty across the middle a couple of times and really let him turn loose and get gone. With Timmy out on the edge, he can do a lot of things, not only catch the deeper ball but also some quick screens. We’re able to do several different things with him.”
Defensively, the Longhorns surrendered 351 total yards, with 269 coming on the ground, but forced four turnovers as Smithson and Jeramiah Fowler recorded interceptions while Brandon Lombrano and Riley Richards recovered fumbles.
Leading tacklers against Bangs were Holt with eight, Smithson, Lombrano, Morales, Carlos Moreno with seven each and Jose Pesina with six.
“Bangs was able to get some yards and we had to make some adjustments, especially in the second quarter, and our kids really responded well,” Sandford said. “We caused four turnovers, two interceptions and two fumbles, so we were able to thwart some of the stuff Bangs was able to do. Even though they did get some yards on the ground, we were fortunate enough to be able to get the defense off the field and get the ball back in our offense’s hands.”
As for the keys to a victory against Coleman and a 2-0 start, Sandford said, “It’s going to be important for us to get out to another fast start. The confidence level of our kids is important. Being able to work hard in practice and have that come to fruition during the games on Friday night is important. Obviously we’d like to be 2-0, we’d like to win every game, but we want to be in control of the things we can control and be as hard working of a team as we can be.”
According to Harris Ratings Weekly, Early is a 10-point favorite.