EARLY — Neither the Early Longhorns nor the Wall Hawks started their seasons the way they had intended last week, and each team is looking to scratch out its first victory at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Longhorn Stadium.
The Longhorns came up short in their bid to upend Cisco, 20-7, while Wall was thumped by the Brady Bulldogs, 41-9.
“The kids are hungry to get back on the field; they were ready to get back on the field as soon as last week’s game ended,” said Early head coach Robbie Tindol. “The kids want to get a win and they’re not going to be happy until they beat somebody and get on track. They saw that if they did some things a little bit better, we could have had things on our side. It’s a growing process and we’re trying to get a little bit better every week. We’ll eventually get where we’re trying to go.”
Despite allowing 334 yards and three touchdowns to Cisco, Tindol was pleased with the defensive effort for the most part. A blocked punt allowed the Loboes to set up shop deep inside Longhorn territory for their first score, but Early kept Cisco off the board again until the fourth quarter.
“We know we’re always going to have a chance to have a good year when we play good defense, and the defense did play good Friday,” Tindol said. “The first score they got, I think they were on the 2 or 3 when we gave them the ball. The rest of the time they had plenty of opportunities, I don’t know how many times they got inside the red zone, but the defense made them come away with nothing and kept us in the ball game.”
Offensively, the Longhorns struggled throughout most of the evening — especially on the ground. Early mustered just 11 yards rushing on 29 carries, with Chase Reeves rumbling for a team-high 22 yards on four rushes. Ty New added 15 yards on five carries.
“We’re wanting to run the ball better,” Tindol said. “We will spread the ball and we will throw it, but we want to run the football and stay around the 50-50 range. It’s frustrating when you don’t have a good running night. When we did have some good runs, we had penalties that negated the gain and forced us into second- and third-and-long situations.”
Through the air, sophomore quarterback Ethan Horton completed 10-of-19 passes for 139 yards with one touchdown and one interception in his first start. Reeves also led all Longhorns with three catches for 26 yards; Tucker King added two receptions for 51 yards, including a 16-yarder for Early’s only touchdown; Zac Fox grabbed two catches totaling 20 yards; and Hunter Stanford caught a 17-yard pass.
“At times we executed well and the plays were run like we intended,” Tindol said. “I saw some bright spots in that, and our passing game. We’re going to be good, but it’s going to take a while. It’s harder for the offense to come around, and we have to make fewer mistakes.”
Tindol is hoping the Longhorn offense can find its rhythm against a Wall defense that was shredded for 491 yards by Brady, including 415 rushing. The Hawks did record two of their nine points on a safety in the first half last week.
“Defensively, they base out of an odd front, they run some 3-3 stack and I don’t know what all they plan to do out of that,” Tindol said. “The 3-3 stack is tough to run the ball against, but we’re going to try and exploit some of their bubbles. I think we have a good game plan going in to have a successful ground attack.
“They usually play a cover three type of secondary, and we like to see that. I like that match up, but it’s going to be all about execution.”
Early is looking to build on last week’s solid defensive effort against a Wall offense that finished with 266 total yards — 135 rushing and 131 passing — and one touchdown in the fourth quarter, while and coughing up the ball three times.
Quarterback Kyle Conaway rushed for a 1-yard touchdown and led the team with 42 yards on the ground. He also completed 12-of-26 passes for 131 yards. Brandon Willman caught a team-high five receptions for 52 yards.
“Wall bases out of the flexbone and they’ll try to hit all the holes,” Tindol said. “They’re good at running the option, so we have to make sure we do the things we need to do to stop the option.
“They’ve also started throwing the ball a little bit more, and they want to incorporate the sprint out passes into their flexbone stuff. If you don’t take care of your business, they can make some big plays on you.”