BALLINGER — Early took on the Ballinger Bearcats Friday in the final pre-district game of the season desperately needing a win. They didn’t get it.
The Longhorns (0-4) dropped their fourth game of the season while the Ballinger Bearcats (2-2) gained momentum after falling to Cisco last week.
The ’Horns offense did not disappoint in the first half, churning out a total of 186 yards, split almost evenly with 97 on the ground and 89 through the air.
The Longhorns completed two of three drives in the first half for 13 points. The first scoring drive culminated with an 11-yard TD pass from Ethan Horton to Peyton Hiltibidal and a Blanton Bowen PAT.
The second scoring drive ended with a Horton run from the 17 yard-line on third and goal. A poorly snapped ball led to a miss on the ensuing PAT.
Before the game, Early head coach Robbie Tindol said the Longhorn offense needs to learn “it matters more about how we execute ourselves.”
But the second half ended up much worse for the Longhorns.
The Longhorns made only five first downs in a scoreless second half while the Bearcats produced 10 first downs and a 17-point run.
The Longhorns had a chance late in the fourth quarter to narrow the gap. After a Hiltibidal reception and a personal foul gave the Longhorns the ball inside the Bearcats' 10 yard-line, the ‘Horns turned the ball over on downs.
Early’s all-around offensive weapon Zac Fox was injured on the opening kickoff of the game and it showed in Ethan Horton’s success through the air. Horton and his receiving corps had difficulty getting the correct players on the field at times. Miscues between the quarterback and receivers plagued the offense off and on throughout the game.
The first half also showed the Longhorn defense hold the Bearcat offense to only 104 yards.
The Bearcats struggled to get their 14 first-half points. Their first touchdown coming off a Kevin Pena 4-yard run, with the second from an AJ Keesee pass to Spencer Ryan for 1 yard.
The Bearcats were able to rack up an additional 256 yards in the second half while adding 17 points to seal the contest.
AJ Keesee scored on a 10-yard run in the third quarter. Beau Gonzales drove a 25-yard field goal through the uprights in the fourth and Spencer Ryan caught his second touchdown of the night from AJ Keesee on a 56-yard completion.
The Longhorns lost the penalty yards battle 91-63. After the game Tindol noted that the Longhorns “Came out and got after it with emotion,” but added that Early “lost control with bad flags and personal fouls.”
The Longhorns (0-4) travel to Bangs (2-1) to take on the Dragons for their District 8-2A opener at Bangs Dragons Stadium at 7:30 p.m. next Friday.