EARLY — Maybe next year.
In a game that saw two scoreless quarters Friday night, the Tolar Rattlers (1-2) stopped the Early Longhorns (2-1) from winning their first three games of the season for the first time in 20 years, leaving with a 16-7 victory.
Unlike the first two games in which the Longhorns combined for more than 100 total points, Early struggled offensively, only scoring one touchdown in the second quarter. The team’s leading rusher was junior Jesson Tarrant, who carried the ball 20 times for 48 yards. Tarrant also dove into the end zone early in the second quarter for the only Longhorn score of the game.
“We have always got to be able to click offensively,” Early head coach Blake Sanford said after the game. “It is never a question of effort with these players. I am proud that the effort is always there.”
Tolar’s only score in the first-half came courtesy of a Longhorn special teams miscue. Being forced to punt from deep in their own territory, the snap flew over the kicker’s head, giving the Rattlers a safety, putting two points on the board.
The second quarter also saw senior quarterback Ryan Trompler suffer an injury. Trompler could be seen limping on the sidelines, while junior Brent Grooms took the reins. Unable to get into a rhythm in the passing game, Grooms went 2-of-3 for 9 yards.
Both defenses refused to give an inch, and in the scoreless third quarter, the ball was turned over on downs several times. Tolar found its way to the red zone numerous times but was unable to capitalize.
That was not the case in the last 12 minutes of the game, as the Rattlers relied heavily on senior Mason King, who was not only rushing for 10 and 11 yard bursts play after play, but also taking big chunks off the game clock as well. With a little more than seven minutes left in the game, King found the end zone, giving Tolar an 8-7 lead. A two-point conversion attempt failed.
“We have got to be better in those crucial situations,” Sandford said.
On the ensuing kickoff, the Rattlers opted for an onside kick and were successful, setting them up on the Early 43-yard line. However, Tolar was unable to cash in, being forced to punt.
The Longhorns also had to punt on their next possession, but with a short kick, the Rattlers set up shop on the Early 32-yard line. Two plays later, Tolar quarterback Kannen Adams rushed 21 yards up the middle for another Rattler score. A second attempt at a two-point conversion was successful, giving Tolar a 16-7 lead and the victory.
In the loss, the Longhorns racked up just 171 yards of total offense.
Early will attempt to bounce back next week against the Hamilton Bulldogs (3-0), a 7:30 p.m. homecoming game at Longhorn Stadium. Hamilton defeated Moody, 48-6, Friday night.