CISCO - The No. 3 Early Longhorns looked like a team trying to find itself in the season opener. The No. 1 Cisco Loboes looked as if they are ready to fast forward to December.
The Loboes left little doubt about which team is the best in Class 2A - at least in August - as they dismantled Early, 47-22, in the state’s game of the week Friday night at Chelsey Stadium.
Cisco (1-0) finished with 555 yards of total offense, including 441 yards rushing on 49 carries. Four Loboes rushed for at least 60 yards in quarterback Josh Bridges (169 yards on 17 carries), running back Robert Medina (116 yards on 13 carries), receiver Tanner Garcia (78 yards on three carries) and running back Vegas Hastings (67 yards on nine carries).
Meanwhile, the Longhorns (0-1) piled up 311 yards of total offense, including 214 yards through the air, but quarterback Nick Lyle was picked off four times and completed just 16-of-35 pass attempts.
The Longhorns couldn’t have asked for a worse start as they allowed the first 27 points, committed three of their four turnovers before halftime and ran just 16 offensive plays to Cisco’s 40 in the opening half.
By the time Early picked up its initial first down of the game, Cisco had already churned out 215 yards of total offense, 13 first downs and three touchdowns.
“If you don’t like the way things are, you have to come back and play and change them,” said Early head coach Robbie Tindol. “That’s exactly what we intend to do. We’ve got to grow and get better every week. I know these kids are not going to turn tail and run, or change anything they do.”
In fact, Early began to turn things around on its first snap of the second half. After mustering just 54 yards of total offense in the first two quarters, Collin Rome rushed for a 68-yard touchdowns through the heart of the Cisco defense to cut the deficit to 27-6 just 22 seconds into the third quarter.
The Longhorns actually outscored the Loboes by two points in the second half, as Lyle connected with Seth Coolbaugh on a 10-yard touchdown at the 3:11 mark of the second half, which made the score 33-14.
Rome, who compiled 105 yards rushing on only nine carries, added another touchdown run - this one from 6 yards out - with 8:29 left. Lyle then hooked up with Cody Bullard - who led all receivers with seven catches for 109 yards - on the two-point conversion for the final 22-point margin.
“I was pleased with our effort in the second half,” Tindol said. “We told them at halftime if they were the same type of team we’ve had the last two or three years, they wouldn’t give up. Their pride was hurt, but the Longhorns don’t ever give up.”
The hole Early dug for itself in the opening half was just too deep to escape.
After Shane Morris halted Cisco’s opening 14-play, 7:09 drive with an interception at the Longhorn 19, Early’s vaunted offense took the field. But the first play ended in disaster as a distressed Lyle threw errant on a roll out, and Bridges picked off the pass and returned it 23 yards for a Cisco touchdown and 6-0 lead.
“The offense can’t put the defense at a disadvantage by throwing interceptions for touchdowns,” Tindol said.
Early’s next drive ended at the Lobo 8 when Garcia intercepted a deep pass intended for Coolbaugh, who grabbed five catches for 40 yards.
Cisco then turned around and marched 92 yards in nine plays before Bradley Toler scored on a 3-yard run 42 seconds into the second quarter. Medina’s 41-yard sprint helped set up the touchdown.
“We didn’t tackle well in the first half, then we came back in the second half and tackled real well,” Tindol said.
A Longhorn three-and-out set up Cisco at its own 23, and the Loboes covered 77 yards in nine plays before Hastings scored on a 5-yard run with 5:48 left before the half.
Cisco tacked on a final touchdown before intermission as Bridges capped a 67-yard, eight-play drive with a 1-yard dive. Bridges scrambled for 24 yards on third-and-17 to keep the drive alive, and Garcia rumbled 35 yards to move the ball into the red zone.
“They’ve got everything together,” said Tindol of the Loboes. “They play with a lot of confidence and execute really well.”
After the Longhorns closed the gap to 33-14 in the second half, a 53-yard touchdown pass from Bridges to Cory Pippen and an 82-yard interception return by Hastings for six points quashed Early’s second-half momentum.
Early will look to rebound at Wall next week, which lost to fellow District 8-2A playoff favorite Brady Friday night.
“We made some mistakes tonight and Cisco made very few,” Tindol said. “We’ll go into the Wall game with something to prove. Nobody ever gives you anything. We need to get better each week.”