LONGHORN FOOTBALL

Early (0-1) at Crawford (1-0)

7:30 p.m. Friday — Pirate Stadium

2006 Result: Crawford 21, Early 14

EARLY — The Early Longhorns were half the way to giving the defending Class 2A Division II state finalists and third-ranked Cisco Loboes a surprising season-opening loss last Friday at McDonald Field. As the Longhorns prepare for their first road trip of the season, they are hoping to seal the deal against another tough opponent in Crawford.

Friday’s 7:30 p.m. battle at Pirate Stadium marks the rematch of last year’s AP Top 10 showdown, which was won by Crawford, 21-14.

“We’ve got a chance to come back and show Crawford what we’re made of,” said Longhorns head coach Robbie Tindol. “The kids want a victory, no matter who it’s against. We’re 0-1 and the kids want to get back in the win column.”

Early led Cisco 3-0 at halftime last week — and was still within striking distance at 6-3 through three quarters — before the Loboes pulled away for a 20-9 victory.

Mitchell Bailey’s 28-yard field goal accounted for the only Longhorn points until Chase Reeves connected with Guy Henry on a 71-yard touchdown pass late in the fourth quarter.

Collin Rome and Bo Ross rushed for 43 and 35 yards, respectively, while Austin Cochran caught a team-high three passes for 73 yards. Still, Early finished with just 267 total yards — 185 passing and 82 rushing — and turned the ball over six times.

Tindol wants to see more points and fewer turnovers out of the offense this week, which could get a boost by Nick Lyle’s season debut at quarterback. Lyle sat out the Cisco game due to disciplinary reasons.

“The kids are excited about getting Nick back on the field and I know he’s more than ready to go,” Tindol said. “Nick was real good with what happened last week. He was on the sideline and was helping out anyway he could. He was talking and learning on his own and looking at things people we’re doing. We’re ready for him to be back in his role.”

Defensively, Cisco eventually wore down the Longhorns and posted 348 yards rushing and 406 yards of total offense. Crawford will run a similar offensive scheme, which provides a second chance for the Early run defense to leave its mark.

“They’re a lot like Cisco in that they’re a smash-mouth football team,” Tindol said. “They’re going to be a little more diverse and they like to throw the ball at times to keep you off-balance.

“Everything wasn’t going Cisco’s way in the first half and we had something to do with that. The defense kept us in the game in the first half, but we didn’t tackle as well in the second half. We’d have people in position and just didn’t get the guy down on the ground. We need to do a better job with the fundamentals this week.”

Crawford rolled to a 42-12 victory over Jarrell in new head coach Delbert Kelm’s debut.

Jordan Farmer and Brock Duncan combined for 161 yards rushing and three touchdowns to pace the Pirates’ ground attack. Chase Lynch also completed 6-of-10 passes for 95 yards with touchdowns of 8 and 17 yards to Logan Kendrick and Taylor Holmes, respectively.

“They kind of whipped up on Jarrell,” Tindol said. “They have a new coach, but he’s not new to the staff. He’s been there a lot of years with the old coach. Things aren’t going to change a lot with Crawford and the way they do things.”

Defensively, the Pirates shutout Jarrell in three of the four quarters, but did surrender a 60-yard touchdown pass and a 7-yard scoring run in the second period.

“Their defense is going to move people around and adjust to our different sets and the things we do,” Tindol said. “It’s going to come down to whether our offensive line can block for our running game and allow us to move the football and move the chains and get in the end zone.”

Despite last week’s loss, the Longhorns have plenty to build on, according to Tindol

“We came out and played like we know how to play,” Tindol said. “We had some big plays on both sides of ball and executed pretty well in our special teams. For an opener, it wasn’t bad. It was a good showing and our kids have something special, we just need to get better at the things we do.”

The Longhorns aren’t lacking in confidence either, nor should they be. Early dropped its opener to Cisco in 2005 and reeled off 13 straight wins en route to the 2A Division II state semifinals. While that is certainly not a guarantee this season, Tindol feels the parts are in the place to make another run at the postseason.

“They knew coming in (to the Cisco game) that this season didn’t hinge on the first game,” Tindol said. “I’m not worried about our team’s confidence after the final whistle. We gained a lot of confidence Friday because they know they can play. Our kids know where they need to get to and how we’re going to get there. I think we’re just going to get better and better from here on out.”