Bulletin Staff Report
Quarterback Nick Lyle passed for 342 yards, connecting on 19-of-32 attempts with four touchdown passes and only one interception. But Early miscues helped keep the score close until late in the game.
“We turned the ball over too many times,” Early head coach Robbie Tindol said after the victory was in the books. “The running game opened up a lot of things for us.”
Early’s Sean Aly led Longhorn rushers with 75 yards on 11 carries.
The Longhorns, hungry for a victory three games into the district campaign, saw the Armadillos score first and weren’t able to even it up until quarterback Nick Lyle found receiver Seth Coolbaugh for a 55-yard scoring strike on the first play of the second period. And that came when Early was facing 3rd-and-36, 8 seconds into the quarter.
Early battled to break a 7-7 tie and go ahead in the third quarter, but the offense seemed to be its own worst enemy with four turnovers. Despite those gifts to the Armadillos, some of them in Early territory, the Longhorn defense repeatedly slammed the door, and San Saba came away with no points.
After one touchdown in the third, the Longhorns put the game away with 22 points in the fourth.
The Longhorns took the game’s opening kickoff at their own 35 and marched to the San Saba 11, but a field goal attempt failed 3:32 into the first quarter.
San Saba got its only points with 1:17 left in the first when Dustin Morgan ran 2 yards and Diego Gonzalez kicked the extra point. The Longhorns picked up two first downs after taking the kickoff, but as the first quarter ended, the Longhorns found themselves facing third-and-36 after a 15-yard blocking penalty, and incomplete pass and an 11-yard sack.
That’s when Lyle and Coolbaugh hooked up for their 55-yard scoring strike.
Neither team could score until the third quarter, when Cody Bullard collected a 17-yard pass for the go-ahead touchdown with 9:43 left. A two-point conversion attempt on a pass by Darden failed.
The Longhorns appeared on the verge of breaking the game open several times in the third quarter, but were repeatedly frustrated by turnovers - four of them. But the Early defense kept San Saba off the scoreboard each time.
The Longhorns found their rhythm in the fourth, scoring three times. Coolbaugh caught a 51-yard pass from Lyle with 8:49 left in the game, and Chase Reeves’ pass for 2 points was good.
Bullard caught a 36-yard pass from Lyle with 3:15 left, and Darden’s kick was good.
A 37-yard run by Riley Cason, and Darden’s kick, closed the scoring.
“Nothing’s a given, but this is Step One,” Tindol said, “getting a district win. The kids are getting better and better. We’re getting better at just the right time.”
Tindol said players pressed into service or playing in different positions due to team injuries “really showed they want to win. It’s fun for them to get a win.”
Early (1-2 in district and 3-3 for the year) travels to Comanche next Friday. A victory there could set up a Halloween match-up against Coleman in Early that could have important playoff implications. Bangs, a 9-7 winner Friday over Coleman, is undefeated in district, as is Brady. Brady beat Comanche Friday 56-21.
“We’re just going to have to get better because all the teams on out are going to be viable opponents,” Tindol said. “I know that Comanche is getting better at just the right time, too.”